The World's Work: A History of Our Time
Volume XV: Pages 10144-10150
Article Page 3

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.

 
Though the worth of this reclaimed region can be narrowed down almost to its mineral wealth, nevertheless one cannot fix a just valuation of its ash-heap hills and blistered washes. Hitherto, they have been so inaccessible as to defy careful investigation. Where other desert districts are considering such urban enterprises as irrigation, the land of chuck-a-wallas has just begun to look at itself. Prospectors, it is true, have been "scratching" over the ground for decades but their scratching can be judged for what it signifies in mining parlance.
Death Valley territory is, in fact, a Land of Promise. Great expectations are its chief assets, expectations that should not be doubted despite the fall from grace of the much-exploited Greenwater district. Unquestionably, gold, silver, copper, and perhaps iron ore are hidden beneath the volcanic ash of this desert. More careful prospecting, now possible through the arrival of the new railroad, will bring them to light.
 

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.

 
The commercial value of the discovery must be determined by the future.
 
Years may be needed to show the true worth of this desert Land of Promise. Still, the time may not be long. Most desert growth is rapid. A hillside as baldly bare as a city pavement will, after a night's rain, stand transfigured in the morning into a garden field of kaleidoscopic flowers, more exquisitely formed and delicately hued than the exotics of a conservatory. Ludlow, headquarters of the "T&T", is typical of the magic of desert life. The sun-grilled desert station, comprising a telegraph and ticket office, and a little later Mother Preston's general store and lodging house, was in a day transformed into a railroad division point. In a year it had complete railroad shops, a large freight yard, and a hundred frame houses.

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.

 

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03/21/2010