Digital-Desert : Mojave Desert
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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - comments
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Ghost Towns:
Mojave National Preserve

Kelso Ghost Town

Kelso Depot seems like a quiet anomaly in the middle of the desert--but for the Union Pacific Railroad, it was a thriving necessity. Since its inception in 1862, the Union Pacific (UP) wanted a foothold on the west coast. After reaching Portland, Oregon, UP turned its attention to the rich California markets and the ports around Los Angeles. To get there, it needed to construct a railroad across the Mojave Desert.

The steep two percent grade from Kelso to Kessler Summit (later renamed Cima) meant that "helper engines" would need to be stationed nearby to assist locomotives up the 2,078 foot ascent. Additionally, steam locomotives of the era desperately needed water. Kelso had a reliable water source from a spring in the Providence Mountains, so it became the site of the "helper engine" station.

The first depot at Kelso opened in 1905, followed a few months later by a post office, an engine house, and an "eating house" to serve railroad employees and passengers on trains without dining cars. Over time, the town grew as more workers were needed and their families moved to Kelso to join them. Kelso was crucial to reaching that goal.

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Kelso Depot

Interactive floorplan & historical virtual tour

Kelso, Ca.

Outbuilding and ghost town tour

Kelso Depot

Pre-restoration exterior photo tour
ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - comments
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