1-30-99 DEATH VALLEY
RAILROAD MOTOR CAR GETS A GARAGE
A railroad motor car, originally built for the Death Valley
has a garage to call its own after sitting in the sun for 71
Laws (CA) Railroad Museum is in the finishing stages of construction
barn to house the old piece of history in splendor and protection.
railroad museum, a small but popular stop for railfans, expects
complete the car barn in about two months.
The motor car, manufactured by Brill, was originally purchased
Death Valley Railroad, which operated between January 1914 and
1931. The Death Valley Railroad operated between Death Valley
CA and its borax mines at two locations over the years
west in the
Funeral Range that border Death Valley. The final terminus in
years was at the town of Ryan, located near the ghost town of
By 1928, the parent company of the Death Valley Railroad,
Borax, was moving primary borax mining operations to a new and
accessible location in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles.
tourism was beginning to boom in the Death Valley region, and
adventurous tourists were coming to see the wonders of Death
region that instilled fear in their parents and grandparents.
Pacific Coast Borax Company began to build tourists facilities
Creek and at Ryan, all of which are still in use today. To serve
facilities, the company utilized the already existing Death Valley
Railroad and its Tonopah & Tidewater Railroads.
In 1928, the Death Valley Railroad ordered a motor car
transportation needs. The motor car is a Brill Model 55, which
popular model of rail motor car at the time. It is 42½
feet long and 10
4 high and is of wood and steel construction. A Midwest
4-cylinder gasoline engine rated at 71.3 horsepower and 248.2
of torque powered the car. Its top speed was limited to 35mph.
The motor car served the tourist trade between Death Valley
Ryan until the end of operations on the Death Valley Railroad.
was used to haul supplies and mail between the two sites. After
abandonment of the railroad, the Pacific Coast Borax Company
of the locomotives and the motor car to Carlsbad, New Mexico,
were put into use by their affiliate, US Potash. The motor car
until the early 1960s, where it was given to Inyo County
by the company,
and placed at the Laws museum.
The motor car has been undergoing a continuous restoration
over the past
decade and has often been completely sheathed in plastic tarps.
been re-roofed, the interior and exterior refurbished and repainted.
There have been new window frames, sashes and glass installed.
projects include reupholstering the seats, overhauling the trucks,
and driveline, and other minor details. The museum would like
to see the
motor car placed into operable condition.
The new car barn at Laws measures 40x60 and
is 20 high. It will have
two large doors to allow the car and other railroad rolling stock
enter and exit. Tracks are being put in to facilitate this and
display. Much of the ties and rails are being obtained from those
salvaged from the old Lone Pine Branch of the Southern Pacific
located about 75 miles south of Laws and has been chronicled
this news page.
The Laws Railroad Museum is still seeking financial help
project, and has an Adopt-A-Tie program. For further
the motor car, garage construction or any other railroad history
item, call the Laws Railroad Museum at 873-5950.
Reference Sources: Inyo Register (Bishop, CA), January
Railroads of Nevada & Eastern California, Vol. 2 by David
United States Department of the Interior Heritage and Conservation
Recreation Service National Register of Historic Places
Inventory-Nomination Form, November 1978 (w/data supplied by
David A. Wright
Great Basin Research