Borax Wagons

The 20-mule team borax ore wagons used in the late 1800s to transport borax from the mines in Death Valley, California, were quite large and had specific dimensions.

Here are the approximate dimensions for a typical 20-mule team borax ore wagon:

  1. Length: Approximately 30 feet (9 meters)
  2. Width: About 8 feet (2.4 meters)
  3. Height: Around 7 feet (2.1 meters)
  4. Weight: These wagons weighed approximately 7 tons when fully loaded with borax ore.

These massive wagons required a team of 18 mules and two horses to pull them across the harsh desert terrain. They were an iconic part of the borax mining industry in the late 19th century and were crucial in transporting borax to the nearest railroad for distribution.

  1. Two large ore wagons were used to transport the borax ore from the mines in Death Valley to the nearest railroad for shipment. They were massive and could carry a significant amount of borax.
  2. One water tank wagon: There was a specialized tank wagon in addition to the two ore wagons. This wagon carried water for the mules and horses that pulled the wagons. The desert environment of Death Valley was harsh, and providing water for the animals was crucial to their survival during the long and arduous journey.

So, the 20-mule team borax wagons actually consisted of 18 mules and 2 horses pulling two ore wagons and one water tank wagon. These wagons became an iconic symbol of the borax mining industry in the late 19th century.


20-Mule Teams


Barstow, California


  1. Early Inhabitants: The Barstow area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Mojave people, for centuries before European settlers arrived.
  2. Railroad History: Barstow’s modern history began with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad in the late 19th century. The railroad played a significant role in the city’s development, as it was a vital stop on the transcontinental rail line, connecting the eastern United States to the West Coast.
  3. Water Stop and Rail Depot: Barstow served as an important water stop for steam locomotives, providing a place for trains to refill their water tanks in the desert. The city also became a key rail depot and maintenance facility.
  4. Name Change: Originally known as Waterman Junction, the city’s name was changed to Barstow in 1886 in honor of William Barstow Strong, a president of the Santa Fe Railroad.
  5. Route 66: In the early 20th century, Barstow became an integral part of the iconic Route 66, the “Main Street of America,” connecting Chicago to Los Angeles. The city thrived as a popular stopping point for travelers on this historic route.
  6. Military Presence: During World War II, Barstow’s population grew due to the establishment of the Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow and the nearby Fort Irwin National Training Center, which continue to play significant roles in the local economy.
  7. Modern Times: Barstow remains a transportation center today, situated at the junction of Interstates 15 and 40. It continues to serve as a rest stop for travelers and a transportation and logistics hub for goods moving across the country.
  8. Historical Landmarks: The city has preserved its historical heritage, with several landmarks and museums, including the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and the Western America Railroad Museum, showcasing its rich transportation history.

Barstow’s history is deeply intertwined with the development of transportation networks, from the railroad to Route 66 and modern interstate highways. Today, it remains an essential point of access and commerce for those traveling through the Mojave Desert in Southern California.