While returning from the Western Prototype Modelers meet, my wife and I detoured to visit locations related to my personal modeling interests, the Meadow Valley Wash and the town of Pioche, Nevada.
The Meadow Valley Wash is remarkable. It is a narrowing into which over 5,000 square miles of desert drain. In the early years of the railroad, a flood-embattled Union Pacific concluded that there is no safe passage insofar as there were rails in Meadow Valley Wash, and in December of 1909, railroad officers demanded that a new route be surveyed through the desert. However, two months later, it was determined that there was nowhere else to go. With few options, the railroad retaliated in the only way possible--by barricading itself further up the canyon walls of the wash.
In 2011, the evidence that these challenges are ongoing was strewn throughout Rainbow Canyon. While on the road from Elgin, NV. to Caliente, NV., our car barely forded recent floodwaters, debris was strewn on even high ground, and riprap was displaced far into the stream banks. And, after 100 years, the railroad manages on.
© Photo Courtesy of Blaine Hadfield
Poiche, NV. is an interesting place. Notorious for being one of the most dangerous western towns of its era, 72 people were killed in Pioche before a single person died of natural causes. For a three month period in the 1870s, the death rate was nearly equivalent to a person murdered each day. However, in addition to lawlessness, Pioche was also center to a number of mining railroads. Pictured below is ex-CNW mogul, No. 279, operating for the Pioche Transportation Company. This train is on the 15 mile, former Pioche and Bullionville line with cars from the Bristol Silver Mines, circa. 1938. Although the 1957 decline of metal prices closed many of the mines surrounding Pioche, perlite traffic kept the Pioche branch until 1984--late for a branch of its kind--when it was officially abandoned by the Union Pacific.