Barstow & the National Old Trails Road

Barstow, California, has a significant historical connection to the National Old Trails Road, which was key in developing the American road transportation system. The National Old Trails Road, also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, was established in the early 20th century and stretched from Baltimore, Maryland, to California, ending in Los Angeles. This road was one of the earliest transcontinental highways and was instrumental in promoting automotive travel and the development of roadside infrastructure across the United States.

Barstow’s Role

Barstow emerged as an essential stop along the National Old Trails Road due to its strategic location at the junction of several key routes. It lies at the crossroads of the Mojave River Valley, where the Salt Lake Trail, the Mojave Road, the Old Spanish Trail, and later, the railroad routes converge. This made Barstow a crucial hub for transportation and logistics, connecting the eastern parts of the country with the West Coast.

Development and Impact

With the rise of the automobile, Barstow became a popular stopover for travelers traveling across the country. The town provided essential services such as lodging, fuel, and vehicle repairs, which helped support its local economy. The presence of the National Old Trails Road also encouraged the development of other infrastructure, including the famed Route 66, which was aligned with parts of the Old Trails Road.

Route 66 and Beyond

In 1926, with the establishment of the U.S. Highway System, much of the National Old Trails Road was incorporated into U.S. Route 66. Barstow continued to thrive as a key stop along Route 66, attracting tourists and travelers with its diners, motels, and other attractions tailored to the road-tripping public.

Today, Barstow celebrates its rich transportation history through museums and cultural sites that highlight its role in the era of cross-country travel. The town serves as a gateway to regional attractions and continues to honor the legacy of the National Old Trails Road and Route 66.

Southern Pacific Railroad Pages

Southern Pacific Railroad › mining-history › overview

The Southern Pacific. The Southern Pacific began construction at Mojave in February 1882 of a new line to Needles, on the Colorado River. The destination was …

Southern Pacific Railroad › railroads › southern-pacific-railroad

Historic RR Chronology … That railroad was never built, but the Southern Pacific constructed a line through the desert in 1882-83 from Mojave to Needles, …

The Southern Pacific and later Santa Fe transcontinental route › railroads › railroads-021

In taking over this Southern Pacific line, especially the part between Needles and Barstow, the Santa Fe System achieved ownership of a transcontinental …

Southern Pacific Railroad – Jawbone › railroads › jawbone

Jawbone branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad of the Mojave Desert.

Lancaster California › lancaster-ca

Lancaster, California. The Beginning. The Southern Pacific Railroad built a line from San Francisco to Los Angeles which was completed in 1876. Along the line …

Chronology/Timeline of Railroads of the Mojave Desert › railroads › chronology

Mojave Desert Historic Railroad Chronology · 1876 – 1915 · 1881 Southern Pacific – Mojave – Calico Station (Daggett) · 1883 Atlantic & Pacific builds to Kingman

California Southern Railway › railroads › california-southern

Notes asnd links regarding the California Southern Railway in the Cajon Pass to Barstow in 1887 – Mojave Desert.

Railroads in the Mojave (San Bernardino County) › railroads › railroad-history03

The First Railroads. The Southern Pacific. The first western railroad project was put forth in 1835, when a line starting from Lake Michigan and extending …

Railroads of the Mojave Desert › railroads

Atlantic & Pacific Railroad · Bullfrog Goldfield · Barnwell Searchlight · California Eastern Railroad/Railway · California Southern Railway · Carson and Colorado …

Carson & Colorado Railroad › railroads › carson-and-colorado

… Southern Pacific’s narrow gauge subsidiary, the Nevada and California Railroad. … In the early 20th century, it o

Casa Del Desierto


History of Casa del Desierto, Harvey House, Barstow, California

Casa del Desierto

The Casa del Desierto in Barstow, California, is a significant landmark with a rich history, symbolizing the Harvey Houses’ bygone era. In partnership with the Santa Fe Railway, Fred Harvey established a chain of Harvey Houses along the railroad in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These establishments provided high-quality food and lodging to travelers, revolutionizing railway dining and accommodation in the United States.

The Casa del Desierto, meaning “House of the Desert,” was built in 1911 and is one of the finest examples of the Harvey House establishments. Designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, it reflects the architectural elegance and grandeur intended to attract and serve passengers of the Santa Fe Railway. This particular Harvey House played a crucial role in the development of the American Southwest by providing a luxurious stopover for travelers traversing the vast and arid Mojave Desert.

Throughout its operational years, the Casa del Desierto served as a restaurant and hotel and housed the Barstow railroad depot, a Harvey Company retail store, and a telegraph office. It was a vital part of the community and a hub of activity, embodying the spirit of hospitality and the cultural exchange between the East and West.

However, with the decline of railway travel and the rise of automobile transportation, the demand for Harvey House services diminished. The Casa del Desierto closed its doors in the late 20th century and fell into disrepair. Recognizing its historical and architectural significance, efforts were made to preserve and restore the building.

Today, the Casa del Desierto has been repurposed and houses the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce, the Western America Railroad Museum, and the Route 66 “Mother Road” Museum. It stands as a testament to the vision of Fred Harvey and the importance of the Harvey Houses in American history. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, ensuring its preservation for future generations to appreciate the legacy of the Harvey Houses and their impact on travel and culture in the American Southwest.

Rainbow Basin Geology


Rainbow Basin

Rainbow Basin is a geological formation in the Mojave Desert of California. It is known for its unique and colorful rock formations, which provide valuable insights into the region’s geological history. Here are some key aspects of the geology of Rainbow Basin:

  1. Sedimentary Rocks: Rainbow Basin primarily comprises sedimentary rocks accumulated over millions of years. These rocks include sandstones, shales, and mudstones. The different layers of sedimentary rocks represent different periods of geological history.
  2. Fossilized Marine Life: Within the sedimentary rocks of Rainbow Basin, fossils of marine life from the Miocene epoch (approximately 15-20 million years ago) have been found. These fossils include shells, bones, and other remnants of ancient sea creatures. This suggests that a shallow sea once covered the area.
  3. Faulting and Uplift: The geology of Rainbow Basin has been influenced by tectonic forces. The region is situated near the intersection of several fault lines, including the Garlock Fault. These fault movements have caused the uplift of the rocks, exposing them to erosion and creating the unique landscape seen today.
  4. Erosion and Weathering: Over time, erosion and weathering have shaped the colorful rock formations in Rainbow Basin. These processes have created intricate patterns and exposed layers of colored sediments, giving the area its name.
  5. Geological Time Scale: The rocks at Rainbow Basin span a significant portion of the geological time scale, providing geologists with valuable information about the changing environments and life forms that existed in the area millions of years ago.
  6. Geological Tours: Rainbow Basin is a popular destination for geological enthusiasts and tourists interested in its unique geology. There are guided tours and interpretive exhibits that provide insights into the geological history of the area.
Rainbow Basin photo
Rainbow Basin, Barstow, Ca.

In summary, Rainbow Basin is a geological wonder in the Mojave Desert, characterized by its sedimentary rocks, fossils, faulting, erosion, and vibrant colors. It offers a glimpse into the geological history of California and the forces that have shaped its landscape over millions of years.


Barstow Railroad History

Barstow, California, has a rich history related to railroads. Here is an overview of the railroad history in Barstow:

Harvey House – Casa Del Desierto
  1. Early Railroad Development: Barstow’s history as a railroad town dates back to the late 19th century when the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) and the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) played significant roles in its development. The AT&SF arrived in Barstow in 1883, and the SP followed shortly after.
  2. Railroad Facilities: Barstow became a strategic location for both railroads due to its position as a junction point. It was a division point on the AT&SF line, meaning it had extensive locomotive maintenance and repair facilities. Additionally, it served as a crew change and refueling station.
  3. Harvey House: The historic Casa del Desierto, also known as the Harvey House, was a prominent feature of the Barstow railroad history. It was a luxurious hotel and restaurant built by the Fred Harvey Company in 1911 to serve passengers traveling on the AT&SF railway. The Harvey House has been beautifully restored and now houses a museum.
  4. Railroad Growth: Barstow continued growing as a railroad town over the years. It had a large rail yard, roundhouse, and various support facilities to handle the extensive railroad traffic passing through the area.
  5. Importance as a Railroad Junction: Barstow’s strategic location made it a crucial junction for freight and passenger trains. It was a hub for transferring goods and passengers between different rail lines, making it a bustling activity center.
  6. Modern Times: While the significance of railroads has declined in recent years, Barstow still maintains its historical ties to the railroad industry. The Barstow Rail Museum and the Harvey House Museum are popular attractions for visitors interested in learning about the town’s railroad history.

Barstow’s history as a railroad town is an integral part of its identity, and the legacy of the railroads can still be seen and appreciated in the town today.

Bagdad Cafe


Sidewinder Cafe - Bagdad Cafe, Newberry Springs, Route 66
Bagdad Cafe (formerly Sidewinder Cafe) Newberry Springs, Ca.

“Bagdad Cafe” refers to a 1987 film and a subsequent television series. The film, originally titled “Out of Rosenheim,” was directed by Percy Adlon. The story revolves around a German tourist named Jasmin Münchgstettner, played by Marianne Sägebrecht, who finds herself stranded in the Mojave Desert. She ends up at a run-down motel and café called the Bagdad Cafe, where she forms an unlikely friendship with the cafe’s owner, played by CCH Pounder.

The film explores themes of isolation, friendship, and cultural differences, and it gained acclaim for its unique characters and quirky charm. The original German title, “Out of Rosenheim,” refers to the character’s departure from her mundane life in Rosenheim, Germany.

The film’s success led to creating a television series titled “Bagdad Cafe,” which aired from 1990 to 1991. The TV series continued the film’s story, featuring some original characters and expanding on the adventures at the Bagdad Cafe.

The film and the TV series have garnered a cult following for their offbeat and heartwarming storytelling. The Bagdad Cafe, located in Newberry Springs, California, along Historic Route 66, has become a popular tourist attraction.