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Roads & Trails

Kelso-Cima Road

Dates of Construction: 1904-1905.

Architect/Engineer/Builder: San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad Original Owner and Use: The road was first used to access the Kelso Depot and Union Pacific Railroad construction site, and then to provide access to and from the Kelso Depot.



Kelso-Cima Road was built around 1905 by the Union Pacific Railroad to facilitate railroad construction and maintenance. Construction of a railway line between Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles began in 1901 when by Senator William Andrews Clark created the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad Company. In 1902 the Union Pacific Railroad, which had hoped to build a line from Ogden, Utah to the Los Angeles area, obtained half of the railroad's stock. The San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad reached the site of Kelso Depot from the west in April 1904. The railroad built a construction camp at the site, along the new road, with tent housing for workers and three warehouses. The camp was first known as Siding No. 16 (a siding refers to a separate section of track used for loading), and it later became the site of Kelso Depot. The road was used to transport construction supplies and workers to the railroad line under construction. The road was unpaved when it was built, and was likely paved sometime in the mid-20th century. The railroad line was completed by and first used in May of 1905.

Cima station

Kelso-Cima Road continued to serve the Kelso Depot site as it grew from a construction camp into a “helper station” for the railroad. The helper station designation referred to the fact that the depot was used as a location for train engineers to obtain a second locomotive to help the train scale the 2,078’ Cima Grade, the steepest part of the rail line, to the east. The Kelso Depot site was a natural choice for a siding also since nearby wells provided a plentiful source of water for refueling steam locomotives. By 1906 the Union Pacific added an engine house, a lunch room (for workers and train passengers traveling on trains without dining cars), sleeping rooms, a post office, and a small wood frame depot to the site.

In 1921 the Union Pacific bought the remainder of the railroad's stock from Senator Clark, and so was sole owner of the line. Hoping to compete with the Santa Fe Railroad’s Harvey House train stations, the company built the Spanish Mission Revival-style Kelso Clubhouse and Restaurant (now called Kelso Depot) in 1924. At its height in the 1940s, when the nearby Vulcan Mine operated, the town of Kelso had over 2,000 inhabitants. The KelsoCima Road served employees of the railroad, Vulcan Mine and residents of the booming town.

Kelso 1905

Throughout subsequent decades, the road continued to be utilized by miners with claims in the areas and by area ranchers. It is now one of two main roads that cross Mojave National Preserve; the other is Kelbaker Road. Kelso Depot is now a visitor center, and the road is used by tourists.

Kelso-Cima Road

Kelso-Cima Road is one of the two main roads in the preserve. It runs northeast from Kelso Depot for about 19 miles to the ghost town of Cima; the road ends at a junction with Cima Road and Morning Star Mine Road. Cima Road continues to Interstate 15 at the preserve’s northern boundary. Most of Kelso-Cima Road parallels the railroad tracks; the alignment has remained the same since 1921. The road is asphalt, approximately 20 feet wide, and paved with gravel shoulders. It cuts through the rear of the Kelso Depot property and intersects with Kelbaker Road northwest of the depot. Kelbaker Road runs northwest from the depot. Kelbaker Road extends from Interstate Highway 15 at Baker to its north terminus to Interstate Highway 40 to the south.

Sources: Chappell, Gordon. Kelso Depot Historic Structures Report. National Park Service, 1998.

Senator William A. Clark

Kelso Station

Kelso, Ca.

Cima, Ca.

Union Pacific

S.P. L.A. & Salt Lake RR


Ivanpah Valley

Silurian Valley

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