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BNSF Needles Subdivision and Kingman Canyon 2012 Railfanning Trip

Western American Railroad Museum and Calico/Odessa Railroad Trip

by Chris Guenzler

1/2/2012 AC Adam and I decided to go out to the Needles Subidivision and Kingman Canyon, two places neither of us had ever been. We planned to stop in Barstow on the way and finally visit the Calico/Odessa Railroad before heading out on the Needles Subdivision.

AC Adam picked me up at 7:50 AM and we headed straight to Cajon Pass.

BNSF 7723 West rolled through Cajon. From here we drove to Summit.

BNSF 4909 West started the descent from Summit. Wee drove through the Summit Valley to Hesperia.

BNSF 7454 West at Hesperia. We continued on to Victorville then stopped at Oro Grande.

Webb Asset Management (WAMX) GP38-2 3845, ex. Southern Pacific 6602, nee Southern Pacific GP35 7705 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1964 at Oro Grande.

Further down Route 66 Highway, BNSF 6727 West came by us and from here we drove into Barstow.

At Barstow, Ferromex ES44AC 4617 built by General Electric in 2006, was with CSX ES44DC 5497, built by General Electric in 2007, before they reversed into the Barstow Yard.

Western American Railroad Museum

The sign for the Western American Railroad Museum. The museum collects, preserves and shares the history of railroading in the Pacific Southwest. It is located on the east side of the Harvey House Railroad Depot and is operated by a non-profit organization. It houses displays inside the depot such as railroad artifacts, artwork, timetables, uniforms, tools and various other types of memorabilia, as well as locomotives and passenger cars outside.

An old railroad telephone box.

Arizona and California Railroad Business Car 58, built by Pullman in 1924 as Santa Fe 38.

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe caboose 999728 built by International Car Company in 1978.

Union Pacific caboose 25599, built International Car Company in 1964.

Santa Fe maintenance truck 39217.

This is a 1968 Cline Wheel truck bought by Santa Fe to replace wheel cars used to repair cars that were set out along the mainline.

Museum scenes.

Santa Fe three door baggage car 199860 built by Pullman as a horse-express car.

An observation car of unknown origin and number.

Union Pacific caboose 25472 built by the railroad in 1959 and after retirement in 1987, donated to the Kelso Depot Organization in Kelso, California then between 2006 and 2009, moved to Western America Railroad Museum at the former Fred Harvey restaurant at Barstow.

United States Marine Corps 44 ton switcher 268236 built by General Electric in 1943 and was stationed at the Marine Corps base at Nebo, California.

Santa Fe FP45 95, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1967 as Santa Fe 105.

Union Pacific SD40-2 9950, nee Missouri Pacific 3320, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1980.

Santa Fe SWBLW 1460 known as the "Beep". It was built by Baldwin in 1943 as Santa Fe V0-1000 2220 and rebuilt into Baldwin-Geep hybrid in 1970. The two of us left the Museum and filled the car with petrol before leaving Barstow and making our way to Calico.

With the map in hand we walked to the railroad station.

Calico/Odessa Railroad Trip History of Calico

In 1881 four prospectors were leaving Grapevine Station (present day Barstow, California) for a mountain peak to the northeast. Describing the peak as "calico-colored", the peak, the mountain range to which it belonged, and the town that followed were all called Calico. The four prospectors discovered silver in the mountain and opened the Silver King Mine, which was California's largest silver producer in the mid-1880s. A post office was established in early 1882, and the Calico Print, a weekly newspaper, started publishing. The town soon supported three hotels, five general stores, a meat market, bars, brothels and three restaurants and boarding houses. The county established a school district and a voting precinct. The town also had a deputy sheriff and two constables, two lawyers and a justice of the peace, five commissioners and two doctors. There was also a Wells Fargo office and a telephone and telegraph service. At its height of silver production during 1883 and 1885, Calico had over 500 mines and a population of 1,200 people. Local badmen were buried in the Boot Hill cemetery.

The discovery of the borate mineral colemanite in the Calico mountains a few years after the settlement of the town also helped Calico's fortunes, and in 1890 the estimated population of the town was 3,500, with nationals of China, England, Ireland, Greece, France and the Netherlands, as well as Americans living there. In the same year, the Silver Purchase Act was enacted and drove down the price of silver. By 1896, its value had decreased to $0.57 per troy ounce, and Calico's silver mines were no longer economically viable. The post office was discontinued in 1898 and the school closed not long after. By the turn of the century, Calico was all but a ghost town and with the end of borax mining in the region in 1907, the town was completely abandoned. Many of the original buildings were moved to Barstow, Daggett and Yermo. An attempt to revive the town was made in about 1915, when a cyanide plant was built to recover silver from the unprocessed Silver King Mine's deposits. Walter Knott and his wife Cordelia, founders of Knott's Berry Farm, were homesteaded at Newberry Springs around this time, and Knott helped build the redwood cyanide tanks for the plant. The last owner of Calico as a mine was Zenda Mining Company. In 1951, Knott purchased the town from Zenda Mining Company. Knott began restoring it to its original condition, referencing old photographs. He installed a longtime employee named "Calico Fred" Noller as resident caretaker and official greeter. In 1966, Knott donated the town to San Bernardino County, and Calico became a County Regional Park.

I had ridden this little railroad years ago when I worked at Camp Viejo in the 1990's but did not take my camera on the overnight trip we did back then. AC Adam and I paid our three dollars a person then boarded the caboose on the rear of the train. AC bought some water when the operator saw him huffing and puffing which took care of that problem.

The view of our train for our trip.

Here is the gasoline-powered steam engine.

The view of our train at the Calico station.

The trestle we would cross at the end of our trip.

Our engineer mounted the locomotive, started it up and we were now ready to depart.

We started the trip by running by the train robbers' shack.

Taking the first curve on the line.

The view of that trestle we would cross later.

The train taking the curve to reach the tunnel on this rail line.

The view looking around those curves the train had taken.

Going through the tunnel.

View of Calico Mountain.

Approaching a mine car.

The mine car.

Views looking behind.

The view ahead.

This area is where the Calico housing was located.

View looking north.

Views behind the train.

Two views of Calico Mountain.

An ore loader.

The engine took another of the curves on this railroad.

The ore grinder which was operated by a horse.

A mine on top of the hill.

Another ore loader.

Curving towards the water tower.

The view of that trestle ahead of the train.

Our train crossed the trestle back into the station.

The ore loader beyond the trestle.

View of the water tower.

Our train returned to the station, we thanked the operator and started back to the car.

Ore cars on the station platform.

More ore cars.

The Calico Bottle House.

A Christmas train display. From here we drove to Yermo then Daggett where we would restart our railfanning on this trip.

Click here for Part 2 of this story