Rhyolite Train Depot

The town of Rhyolite boasted three train services using the Rhyolite Train Depot which is completed in June, 1908. The depot services the Las Vegas & Tonopah, the Tonopah & Tidewater and the Bullfrog-Goldfield train services. The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad started its push to Rhyolite by laying one mile of track per day. Later, the railroad redoubled its efforts and pushed two miles per day its its bid to connect the booming two of Rhyolite with the outside world.

Rhyolite Train Depot is located at the north end of town in Rhyolite, Nye County, Nevada.  - Photo by James L Rathbun
Rhyolite Train Depot is located at the north end of town in Rhyolite, Nye County, Nevada. – Photo by James L Rathbun

The first train entered Rhyolite at 7:00 pm on December 14th, 1906 bringing another 100 people into the town. Train service to the booming mining town was a big deal. The fact that Rhyolite could lure three train services all but ensured the future of the largest mining town in the state.

In 1907, the Las Vegas & Tidewater line alone hauled 50 freight cars per day into Rhyolite. This volume required a large depot to handle the load. In September 1907, the construction of the depot started by the Las Vegas & Tidewater Railroad. The Mission Revival styled building in constructed with concrete blocks built upon a solid concrete foundation. A gentlemen’s waiting area is located in the east end and a separate ladies waiting room is located in the west end. The ticket office is located in the center of the building and the ticket agents office is located on the second floor.

The train depot takes up an entire city block on Golden Street. The cost on construction was $130,000, or about $3.8 million in 2021.

The train depot in Rhyolite is complete in June 1908. The timing of the complete is ironic in that it coincided with the beginning on the decline of Rhyolite. Within months of completion of the depot, more people were leaving town using the station than arriving. In the first year of operation, the railroad generated a small profit. Between 1909 and 1919 the railroads lost money each year. By 1919, the railroads cut their losses and salvaged the tracks for other projects.

Rhyolite Ghost Casino

The 1920’s offered a brief revival to the town on Rhyolite. Wes Moreland purchase the train depot in 1935 and opened the Rhyolite Ghost Casino in 1937. Drinking and gambling are available on the first floor. The second floor operates as a brothel. The star of World Ware 2 halts the brief rebirth of Rhyolite. The fuel rationing almost completely drained the economy in the area.

In the 1960’s Moreland sister inherited the train depot. Mrs. Herschel Heiser operated a museum and gift shop out of the old station.

At the time it was built, the train depit is claimed to be “The finest in the state.” Today, the train station is one of the best preserved.

Rhyolite Trail Depot Map

Kelso Depot

The story of the westward expansion is the story of the railroads.  Beginning in 1862, the Union Pacific Railroad sought expansion opportunities along the western coast of the United States.  To secure a foothold into California the railroads must cross the Mojave Desert and the depot in Kelso was crucial to accomplish this goal.  Located at the junction of Kelbaker Road and the Kelso Cima Road, the Kelso Depot stands in testimony of the technological progress of the nations trains.

Kelso Depot, Mojave CA
Kelso Depot, Mojave CA

August of 1900, Montana Senator William A. Clark invested in a small Los Angeles based railway which would become the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad.  In 1902, in mine owner made a deal to sell half of the stock to the Union Pacific even before the railway was completed.

William A Clark
William A Clark

In 1905, after 235 miles of track are laid, three warehouse men placed their names in a hat and drew out the winner John Kelso, for whom track siding #16 of the Salt Lake route was named.    Later in 1905, Kelso was just one depot along the Salt Lake Route which now stretched from San Pedro, CA to Salt Lake City Utah.  This new route opened southern California to the Union Pacific Railroad.  In 1921, Union Pacific convinced Senator Clark to sell his remaining shares.

Additionally, in 1905 Senator Clark divested himself of some land in southern Nevada along another rail stop.  This auction is considered the birth of Las Vegas, and Clark Country was named for the man.

San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad locomotive #32, early 1900s
San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad locomotive #32, early 1900s

Built in 1921, The Kelso Depot is architecturally styled as a Mission Revival and just one of several depots along the route which were designated as division points and provided facilities for operations and maintenance purposes.   The buildings original design included a telegraph office, conductor’s room, baggage room, staff dormitories, a billiard room, library and locker. The spring water in the nearby Providence mountains allowed the location to service the steam engines.  Additionally, the relatively steep 2% 2000 foot grade necessitated the use of helper engines by the steam locomotives of the day to crest the Kessler Summit.

Other depot locations included:

  • Lynndyl, Utah
  • Milford, Utah
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Caliente, Nevada
  • Yermo, California
  • San Bernardino, California

Union Pacific continued to operate the depot from 1921 to 1985.  The depot provided much need infrastructure during World War 2, at which point the facility started a long decline in utility.  Diesel engines improved efficiency and duration allowed the Union Pacific railroad to reduce their personnel requirements.  The 1960’s introduced the second generation of more powerful and efficient diesel engines which eliminated the need for the helper engines.  Combined with the cessation of passenger travel in August, 1964 the Kelso depot is destined to languish on the back roads of history.  The Kelso Depot ceased operations as a train depot in 1962.

The Kelso Depot is currently in use as a Visitors Center of the Mojave National Preserve.

Kelso Depot Trail Map

References