Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad

Explorers of the Mojave Desert in southern California are bound to have heard the stories of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. The Tonopah and Tidewater flanks the western edge of the Mohave National Preserve as travels south to north from Ludlow, California to Beatty, Nevada and up to Tonopah, Nevada utilizing the Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad. Many of the off ramps, sites and historic monuments along Interstate 15 are associated with the standard gauge railroad.

More details
Tonopah & Tidewater #1 was a Baldwin 4-6-0 steam locomotive, originally built for the Wisconsin and Michigan Railroad, later going to the Randsburg Railway on the Santa Fe as their #1 (later #260). Went to the T&T in 1904 and used in passenger and shunting service. It was scrapped in 1941, and the bell was saved by the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society at Pomona, CA.
More details Tonopah & Tidewater #1 was a Baldwin 4-6-0 steam locomotive, originally built for the Wisconsin and Michigan Railroad, later going to the Randsburg Railway on the Santa Fe as their #1 (later #260). Went to the T&T in 1904 and used in passenger and shunting service. It was scrapped in 1941, and the bell was saved by the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society at Pomona, CA.

History

Francis “Borax” Marion Smith
Francis “Borax” Marion Smith

In the early 1900’s, owner of the Pacific Coast Borax Works, Francis Marion Smith owned the largest Borax mine in the world, which is located in Borate, CA. Corporate expansion found him looking into old Borax claims located in the Black Mountains, east of Death Valley. Originally, “Borax” smith used a steam tractor to haul the ore one hundred and thirty seven miles into Ivanpah, CA. The harsh desert proved too much and the plan is soon abandoned.

In 1904, Smith conceived a plan to connect a railroad from his mines to the nearest points of the Santa Fe. He hoped to connect up north to Tonopah to exploit a mining boom in the region, which include Rhyolite, Goldfield and Beatty Nevada. On July 19, 1904, Francis Marion Smith had incorporated the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad Company in New Jersey. Smith served as president, and associates DeWitt Van Buskirk as vice-president with C.B. Zabriskie as secretary-treasurer, and John Ryan as superintendent and general manager.

Originally, Smith worked with William A. Clark who was a Senator from Montana. Clark headed the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad and proposed that Smith build the Tonopah and Tidewater out of Las Vegas as a cost effective solution to haul his Borax. In 1905, Smith sent personnel and soon discovered that he would not be allow to connect to the Los Angles and Salt Lake Railroad. This right of way is probably due to the fact that Clark is planning his own rail to Beatty, which would become the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad.

Following this disappoint, Borax Smith sold his assets and holdings after negotiating with Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and settings up a terminus is Ludlow, CA.

Tonopah and Tidewater Route

The Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad covered a distance of approximately 230 miles, traversing the challenging terrain of the Mojave Desert.. Many stops along the railroad were named for associates of Borax Businessman Francis Marion Smith. Sections of the route runs through the Death Valley National Park, and certain sections of it have been made into hiking trails for tourists. Other parts of the route are easily accessible to back road explorers, and much of the former railroad bed parallels California State Route 127 between Baker and Death Valley Junction, California.

Tonopah and Tidewater Stops

More details
Originally a Deleware, Lackwanna & Western locomotive numbered #671, was sold to the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad around 1906, and supposedly became either their #2 or #3. Later sold to the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Co.in 1910 and became their #2.
More details Originally a Deleware, Lackwanna & Western locomotive numbered #671, was sold to the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad around 1906, and supposedly became either their #2 or #3. Later sold to the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Co.in 1910 and became their #2.
  • Ludlow
  • Broadwell
  • Mesquite
  • Crucero
  • Rasor
  • Soda Lake ( ZZYZX )
  • Talc
  • Riggs
  • Lore
  • Valjean
  • Dumont
  • Spretty
  • Acme
  • Tecopa
  • Zabriskie
  • Shoshone
  • Fitrol Supr
  • Gerstley
  • Jay
  • Death Valley Junction
  • Bradford
  • Muck
  • Jenifer
  • Carrara
  • Post
  • Gold Center
  • Beatty Junction
  • Beatty

Railroad Summary

NameTonopah and Tidewater Railroad
LocationSan Bernardino, California
Nye County, Nevada
GaugeStandard
Operational1904 – 1940

References

Grand Canyon Railroad

The Grand Canyon Railroad is a 64 miles railroad which connects Williams Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The original 64 mile route was built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway company in order to construct and promote the Grand Canyon Village. The railroad was completed on September 17th, 1901. in 1901 a ticket could be purchase for the sum of $3.95.

First Train to Carry Passengers all the way to Grand Canyon Village. 
SEPT. 17, 1901. Photo By G.L. ROSE.
First Train to Carry Passengers all the way to Grand Canyon Village. SEPT. 17, 1901. Photo By G.L. ROSE.

The El Tovar Hotel is completed in Janurary, 1905. The hotel is constructed by the Santa Fe Railway to accommodate train passengers and uniquely located just 20 feet from the Canyon Rim. The initial success of this railroad is diminished with the widespread adaptation of the automobile and the highway system. Passenger Service is halted in July 1968 and later freight service is halted in 1974.

In 1988, the line is purchased by Max and Thelma Biegert, who restored the railroad and started operations in 1989. The Biegerts made their fortune in Nevada, operated the line until 2006 when the railroad was again sold to Xanterra Travel Collection. Today, the railroad offers both diesel and steam engine service and operates as a Heritage Railway and gives the passenger a brief means of enjoying a by gone era.

The Polar Express

Every winter, following the release of the Christmas classic movie the Polar Express, the Grand Canyon Railway’s offers a special train serice, the Polar Express. The Polar Express is a 90 minute journey from the nighttime wilderness of Williams, Arizona, to “the North Pole”. During the journey, passengers are encouraged to sing and treated with hot chocolate and a reindeer bell.

Our son, nephew and niece poising with The Grand Canyons Railroad's engine number 29 - The Polar Express
Our son, nephew and niece poising with The Grand Canyons Railroad’s engine number 29 – The Polar Express

Grand Canyon Railroad Map

Grand Canyon Railroad Summary

Name Grand Canyon Railroad
LocationCoconino County, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park
Years of OperationSeptember 17th, 1901 – Current
GaugeStandard Gauge
National Register of Historic Places00000319

References

Bodie and Benton Railway

The Bodie and Benton Railway operated for about thirty eights years, supplying the town of Bodie, California. The narrow gauge railroad travelled north, from the forests south of Lake Mead up to the townsite of Bodie.

Bodie Railroad Station, Bodie State Historic Park, Bodie, Mono County, CA.  Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress) - DeHaas, John N, Jr, photographer
Bodie Railroad Station, Bodie State Historic Park, Bodie, Mono County, CA. Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress) – DeHaas, John N, Jr, photographer

The Bodie Railway and Lumber Company was founded on February 19th, 1881. The business plan called for supplying the town is lumber for building and firewood for heat against the harsh high altitude winters. Steam Engines, which powered the town, also burnt this valuable supply of fuel.

The lumber was collected from the Inyo National Forest south of Mono Lake. At the Mono Mills, the lumber is loaded onto flat cars before being hauled up to Bodie and Warm Springs and Line Kiln. The Mono Mills are capable of processing 80,000 board-feet of lumber in every 10 hours of operation.

Bodie Railway and Lumber Company Locomotive. Photo courtesy of McDonnell sisters.
Bodie Railway and Lumber Company Locomotive. Photo courtesy of McDonnell sisters.

The thirty one mile route up to Bodie also featured a two thousand foot elevation gain. The allow the rail to climb this grade, two switch backs are included in the route. The Bodie and Benton Railway is closed on September 7th, 1918. The need for a ready supply of fuel is diminished the a Hydroelectric Power Plant is constructed in Green Creek. The rail is abandoned and sold for scrap.

Today, there is little evidence of the railroad. An abandoned railcar was discovered and is now on display at the June Lake Marina.

“The Mono,” the Bodie to Benton railroad locomotive. Photo courtesy of the Mono Basin Historical Society.
“The Mono,” the Bodie to Benton railroad locomotive. Photo courtesy of the Mono Basin Historical Society.

Bodie and Benton Railway Map

Bodie and Benton Railway Summary

NameBodie and Benton Railway
Also Known AsMono Railway
LocationMono County, California
Length31 miles
GageNarrow
OperationsFebruary 19th, 1881 – September 7th, 1918

References

Old Spanish Trail (Garces Expedition)

Old Spanish Trail (Garces Expedition) is a Nevada State Historic Marker Number 140 located in Clark County, Nevada. This marker is one of several which tell the history of the Old Spanish Trail in Nevada.

The Old Spanish Trail is a 700 mile long historical trade route that connected the northern New Mexico settlements near Santa Fe, New Mexico with those of Los Angeles, California. The trail’s rugged terrain discouraged the use of wagons. It was always a pack route, mainly used by men and mules.

The routes and trails link California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The Old Spanish Trail consists of a series and different trails and routes some of which are in service today.

Francisco Hermenegildo Tomás Garcés O.F.M. (April 12, 1738 – July 18, 1781)
Francisco Hermenegildo Tomás Garcés O.F.M. (April 12, 1738 – July 18, 1781)

Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. These roadside markers bring attention to the places, people, and events that make up Nevada’s heritage. They are as diverse as the counties they are located within and range from the typical mining boom and bust town to the largest and most accessible petroglyph sites in Northern Nevada Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost or damaged

Nevada State Historic Marker 140 Text

Seeking to open a land route between the missions of Sonora and California, Fray Francisco Hermenegildo Garcés, OFM, a Franciscan missionary priest and explorer, was the first European to enter the present boundaries of Nevada.  He departed mission San Xavier Del Bac near Tucson in October of 1775, and by late February of 1776, the Spanish Franciscan friar had reached the Mohave villages located just south of this location on the banks of the Colorado river.  Garcés was now traveling in areas never before seen by a non-native American.

Relying on Native American guides, he walked from village to village.  The Mohave agreed to lead him to the pacific coast along a route used for trade purposes.  It was from this general location, on March 4, 1776, accompanied by four natives, that Garcés left the banks of the Colorado and set out across the Mojave Desert; he reached Mission San Gabriel Arcángel 20 days later.  Upon his return, he again visited the Mohave villages in this vicinity in May of 1776.  His route followed a much older prehistoric trail used to bring shells and other trade goods to the tribes of the desert and mountain west.  On July 19, 1781, in a Quechan revolt against Spanish forces, Father Garcés was killed at La Purisima Concepción Mission near the Yuma crossing.  Padre Garcés’ body was later interred in the Franciscan church of the Colegio De La Santa Cruz, Querétaro, Mexico.

“Greater love hath no man than this – that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

                                                         Excerpts from Father Garcés’ diary

“I proceeded three leagues on the course northwest with some turns to the west-northwest.  I observed this locality to be in 35° 01′, and I named it San Pedro De Los Jamajabs.  In this situation and that below there are good mesas for the foundation of missions, and though they are near the river, they are free from inundation”.

      Father Garcés’ Entrance into Nevada (March 3, 1776)

“March 4, on which was made the observation noted on the 3rd day.  I departed, accompanied by three Jamajab Indians and by Sevastian, on a course southwest, and at two leagues and a half arrived at some wells [which I named Pozos De San Casimiro].  There is some grass”.

      Father Garcés’ Departure from Nevada (March 4, 1776)

STATE HISTORICAL MARKER NO.  140
STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE
SAINT THOMAS MORE SOCIETY OF NEVADA

Nevada State Historic Marker 140 Trail Map

Nevada State Historic Marker 140 Summary

NameOld Spanish Trail (Garces Expedition)
LocationClark County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude35.0975, -114.6495
Nevada Stage Historic Marker140

References

Old Spanish Trail (Journey of the Dead Man)

Old Spanish Trail (Journey of the Dead Man) is a Nevada State Historic Marker Number 139 located in Clark County, Nevada. This marker is one of several which tell the history of the Old Spanish Trail in Nevada.

The Old Spanish Trail is a 700 mile long historical trade route that connected the northern New Mexico settlements near Santa Fe, New Mexico with those of Los Angeles, California. The trail’s rugged terrain discouraged the use of wagons. It was always a pack route, mainly used by men and mules.

The routes and trails link California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The Old Spanish Trail consists of a series and different trails and routes some of which are in service today.

Captain John C. Frémont, explorer first mapped Diamond Valley Nevada
Captain John C. Frémont, explorer first mapped Diamond Valley Nevada

Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. These roadside markers bring attention to the places, people, and events that make up Nevada’s heritage. They are as diverse as the counties they are located within and range from the typical mining boom and bust town to the largest and most accessible petroglyph sites in Northern Nevada Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost or damaged.

Nevada State Historic Marker 139 Text

Early Spanish traders named the fifty-five dry miles separating Las Vegas and the Muddy River the Journada Del Muerto (Journey of The Dead Man).  This longest stretch without water along the Old Spanish Trail was littered with the skeletons of animals and parts of wagons abandoned along the sandy desert.  Most experienced travelers made the trip at night.

John C. Frémont crossed the Journada in 1844 and commented: “We ate the barrel cactus and moistened our mouths with the acid of the sour dock. Hourly expecting to find water, we continued to press on to midnight, when after a hard and uninterrupted march of 16 hours, our wild mules began running ahead; and in a mile or two we came to a bold running stream (the Muddy River).” 

STATE HISTORICAL MARKER No. 139
STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE

Nevada State Historic Marker 139 Map

Nevada State Historic Marker Number 139 is located off Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas. The marker is located about 1/4 mile south of the I-15 in Nevada State Route 169.

Nevada State Historic Marker 139 Summary

NameOld Spanish Trail (Journey of the Dead Man)
LocationClark County, Nevada
Nevada State Historic Marker138
Latitude, Longitude36.5010, -114.7605

References