The Death Valley Railroad (1914-1931)

The Death Valley Railroad connected Ryan, CA to the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad at Death Valley Junction. The line followed a path that ran just south of present-day CA-190 from the Junction. (Right of way)

Death Valley Railroad Steam Train. National Park Service via DesertFog. Side note, with just a few alterations, this picture would make an incredible death metal album cover.

In the early 1910's, the ore industry was in decline, and the numerous railroads that were built to tap into this industry required a change in business operations if they were to survive. To that end, in 1914, the Pacific Coast Borax Company began attempting to scout the area around Furnace Creek, CA for richer borax deposits. 

Once they found some a bit west of their existing mines, plans were put forward to build a narrow gauge railroad from the new mines to connect with the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad at Death Valley Junction to ship the borax away for processing and packaging. By the end of 1914, the line was built and known as the Death Valley Railroad.

Death Valley Railroad Map (1947 USGS Historic Topo Map)

Using equipment from the earlier Borate & Daggett Railroad, the Pacific Coast Borax Company constructed the narrow gauge 20 mile line to tap into the ore and borax deposits near Ryan, CA.

One train ran in the morning to send supplies, food and water to the workers, while the evening train collected the ore and minerals mined from that day. Amid declining profitability, late in its life, the railroad attempted to cater to tourists by purchasing a Brill railcar in the hopes that tourists would want to visit the area less than thirty miles from the spot where the hottest temperature ever on earth was recorded.

The line was abandoned in 1931, and much like its predecessor, its equipment was used to create the United States Potash Railroad near Loving, NM, itself now abandoned.

DVRR no. 2 was preserved and remains as a static locomotive on display at the Borax Museum at Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park.

Image: Plazak (Wikipedia Commons)

Thanks as always for reading!


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