Monday, January 28, 2013

Calico Ghost Town, April 1966

I have another small group of photos (circa April 1966) featuring the old silver mining town of Calico, located out in the Mojave Desert. For about 15 years, Walter Knott, who had purchased the town in 1951, had been restoring Calico and created a sort of museum/tourist attraction. This neat sign tells us what Walter was thinking when he embarked on such an unusual enterprise. Notice that the woman is dressed for cold weather in spite of how hot the place looks!

I'm pretty sure we've arrived! My "spidey senses" are never wrong. It's amazing to see what kind of harsh living conditions people were willing to endure in the hopes of striking it rich. In 1966, Walter Knott donated Calico to San Bernardino County, and it is now a County Regional Park.

Imagine crossing that vast desert with wagons and mules or oxen, and one of those early wooden iPads. I wonder if that is smog? San Bernardino can get pretty darn smoggy. I choose to believe that it is a cheerful alkali dust storm.


If it wasn't for the few man-made structures, this could pass for a photo from the Mars rover. That is some serious desolation. The little Calico and Odessa Railway used to actually haul silver ore. Now visitors can take a short ride and see what it feels like to be a nugget! Admit it, you've always wondered.

I'll have a few more photos from Calico coming up.


Nanook said...


I wouldn't be too concerned about the apparent carpet of "smog" blanketing the skyline. It's merely a gathering of pixie dust, that simply lost its way.

Melissa said...


keeline said...

A few years back we visited Calico and it looks very much like what is shown in these images. We went in December, right around Christmas, and it was rather cold then as well.

It is interesting to see the parallels with the Calico Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm. The Bottle House and Mystery Shack (now gone from KBF) come to mind.

The train uses parts from C.M. Lovsted, the company from which Disney imagineers bought parts for the Disneyland Railroad and the Mine Train. The Calico train may have once been steam though it is now powered by a gasoline engine and a chain drive. The open ore cars have shades on them now, I believe.

Anonymous said...

In case there's any confusion: Calico is the Official State Silver Rush Ghost Town, and Bodie is the Official State Gold Rush Ghost Town. So sayeth Arnold in 2005.

And a great thing about wooden Ipads: they float!

Bill in Denver

Anonymous said...

Great pictures, Major. Calico never changes over the years.

Knott's restorations were not museum-quality, but without him, it would be gone by now.

I love this place. Going again in March on the way to the Grand Canyon. We will camp in the nearby campground and tour the town before heading on.


MRaymond said...

Love Calico. A favorite place for me while in the Scouts. My Dad loved the history and my Mom painted some lovely landscapes. If I can find some of the old family photos from the 60's and 70's, I'll send a few scans.

K. Martinez said...

These images have that simliar rich color pallet like the pics you posted of Virginia City last week. Incredibly beautiful!

I like the cool looking caboose in the first and last pics. I wonder what scale the mine train is.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it's toxic pixie dust!

Melissa, I wondered if you would mention the babushka!

keeline, do they still have a Haunted Shack at Calico? Funny, I was under the impression that the train was an actual antique, not a gas powered chain drive thing. Booo!

Bill, what is the Official State Molybdenum Rush Ghost Town?

JG, "Calico never changes"... wait until you read my next post! Sounds like March would be a good time to go to Calico and the Grand Canyon.

MRaymond, I'd love to see your scans.

K. Martinez, I love the desert, even though I have nightmares about being stranded out there. Just imagine!

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