If they hadn't been in a such a hurry and decided to make a detour to Phoenix in 1872, they wouldn't have seen much, but Phoenix was there, and had been for two years. The townsite, which had been laid out in 1870, went from Van Buren to Harrison (where the railroad tracks are now) and from 7th Avenue to 7th Street. A few buildings had been built, mostly of adobe. Lumber had to come from northern Arizona, so it was wildly expensive. The same with bricks, although some were made locally. The railroad arrived in Phoenix in 1887.
I've been re-reading Around the World in 80 Days, and it must have been amazing to see all of that technology that was suddenly appearing at the time: trains, steamships, that sort of thing. Phoenix had some catching up to do, which it did!
Image above: Looking east on Washington from Central in 1872, Phoenix, Arizona.
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