Just why it is called "Tonopah & Tidewater", might perplex a person looking at the map. The new railroad neither reaches Tonopah nor comes anywhere near any tidewater. But it ekes out a passage to Tonopah, with the assistance of the "Brock" road [Bulfrog Goldfield - Ed.], and has a business acquaintance with the Pacific Ocean at San Pedro, by grace of the Santa Fe Railroad. Moreover, "T&T" affords fine alliteration.
Prejudiced persons, disposed to sneer at the "T&T", might term it a toy. Such a slur would be rank injustice. It is no plaything. In addition to shipping out borax, it has before it the tremendous task of making useful this land of too much heat and too little rain.
And there is little that is toy-like about the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad. It is not difficult, doubtless, to point to greater engineering feats; but at that, the "T&T" is no achievement to be scoffed at. To bring a roadbed through the thirteen miles of Amargossa caņon required deep cuts, steep hills, and scores of dizzy trestles, which lift the new railway out of the land of toys; and it cost $50,000 a mile to do it. The world's interest in the "T&T" road, however, is not in the engineering achievement, but in the economic significance that the new railroad affords an entrance to ten thousand, yes, twenty thousand, square miles which three years ago might very well have been on the planet Mars.
But Death Valley's greatest contribution to the world's wealth is likely to come from mineral deposits other than precious or useful metals. The soil complexion and rock formation, different from that of any other region in the Great American Desert, point to another class of minerals. Boron it has in unlimited quantities. Soda can be added, and what is of far more moment, nitre. Soda Lake, down near the ruined Mojave Fort, on the old Salt Lake stage-line, was once worth working for its soda, and is again worthy of business consideration now that a railroad touches its very edge.
Climbing along the jutting east walls of Amargossa caņon, a prospector noted the brick-red soil and carried away a specimen. Analysis of this sample brought forth a good showing of nitre. Further investigation disclosed that the east walls of the caņon and the adjoining foothills were immense nitrate beds, acres upon acres of them. True, it is a low-grade nitrate, but nitre is there just the same, the only deposits of it in this country.
Had a prospector been asked three years ago what was the most sinister, inaccessible spot in the Great American Desert, he would without hesitation have named Death Valley. To-day a tenderfoot tourist can penetrate its once forbidding mysteries with as little bother as a trip to Lake Tahoe and with less travel than a jaunt to the Adirondacks. He can bunk in Los Angeles one night and sleep the next at the foot of Skeleton Peak.