Somewhere in the middle of nowhere between Las Vegas and Ely - the nearly straight north route to get to Bonneville when coming from So Cal - is a small town named Caliente
Anyone passing through Caliente can’t help but notice the beautiful train depot. Built by the Union Pacific in 1905, the depot was built in the style of Spanish Mission architecture. For many years, the train depot served as an Amtrak stop. However, when Amtrak stopped running the route between Los Angeles/Las Vegas/Salt Lake City, the depot was donated to the City of Caliente and then restored. The depot now serves as a museum and holds a few other offices, too.
The area around the junction of Meadow Valley Wash and Clover Creek was originally settled in the early 1860’s by Ike and Dow Barton, two former slaves who had escaped from Arkansas. In the early 1870’s the Jackman Ranch was established. In 1874, ranchers Charles and William Culverwell purchased the Jackman Ranch and renamed it as Culverwell Ranch.
A dispute between two major railroad companies began when Harriman of the Union Pacific pushed track from Utah to the site of Culverwell. Even as Harriman’s crews worked on the line, the newly formed San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad owned by Senator Clark claimed the same territory.
These rivals had sought the right-of-way in a canyon only big enough only for a single set of tracks. The UP had grade stakes set all the way into Culverwell and on toward Pioche, but their rival group gobbled up enough of the narrow canyon to set a road block them
In 1901 Culverwell ended the Harriman-Clark battle with his shotgun. As owner of the land, Culverwell allowed one railroad grade to be built through his property. The two factions eventually reconciled, UP assumed control of the project.
Culverwell became “Caliente” (Spanish for hot) after hot springs were found in a cave in the nearby mountains. The town was surveyed, and on August 3, 1901, a post office opened the railroad line was completed, and by 1910 Caliente was the largest town in the county with 1,755 residents.
In 1923, the impressive Caliente Train Depot was built, including the railroad station, private offices and a community center on the first floor, while the second level featured a hotel.
Within a few years, Caliente grew to more than 5,000 residents, and was one of the major division points on the railroad line for 40 years. When steam engines were replaced by diesel locomotives in the 1940’s, the division point moved to Las Vegas. Without the depot as a main railroad stop, the town’s growth dwindled but not its spirit.
A town steeped in history, Caliente was one of the favorite writing spots for western novelist Zane Grey.
Makes me wonder how many buildings of this size the UP (and other railroad companies too of course) built, and abandoned.