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.
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
- Soda Lake ( ZZYZX )
- Fitrol Supr
- Death Valley Junction
- Gold Center
- Beatty Junction
|Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad
|San Bernardino, California
Nye County, Nevada
|1904 – 1940