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Arizona \ Mohave & Milltown

Mohave & Milltown.

By Randy Hees

T he owners in the San Francisco Mining district had previously tried to interest the Santa Fe (Atlantic and Pacific Railway) into building a branch to the area. The Santa Fe surveyed a possible route in late 1902, and while that railroad's engineers found the route feasible and local managers believed there was sufficient business to support it, it was not built.

When the Santa Fe declined to build a railroad, the Mohave Gold Mining Company decided to built their own railroad to support their mining efforts. The railroad was separately organized and incorporated but associated with the Mohave Gold Mining Company, a Delaware corporation controlled by O. A. Turner and “the Bullitt Building Crowd.” This group was also associated with the group that controlled much of the Tonopah mining district and built the Tonopah Railroad.

The Mohave Gold Mining Company’s main property was the Leland Mine, sometimes known as the Leland/Mitchell mine. The Vivian, Snowball and Swiss American mines are also mentioned as being adjacent to the railroad, but were not part of the Mohave Gold Mining Company’s properties. Water for milling was an issue near the mine site, so the company built a 40 stamp mill, at the foot of the Black Mountains, with pumping plant along the Colorado River and a 8" pipe line to supply water to the mill. The railroad was to carry ore from the mine down to the mill for processing, but also served as a common carrier for the mining district.

The railroad was initially well funded, construction started about July 1903. By August it was reported that several hundred men were at work. By mid November the railroad was "complete except for two or three large trestles near the mine" (Mohave Miner, Nov. 14, 1903) The railroad (and mill) were completed about December 19th, with regular service starting on Monday December 28th.

With the railroad and mill operating, all seemed wonderful, with the local papers reporting the shipment or arrival of two additional locomotives, other independent mines in development, and extensions of the railroad being planned. In Mid January the first clean-up at the mill produced $40,000 in gold.

In reality, the Mill at Milltown was not very successful, and it is reported that a significant portion of the gold was lost in processing. A cyanide plant was soon added with little additional success, and by November of 1904 the Leland mine and mill at Milltown were shut down, and the sheriff had published a notice that the Mohave Mining & Milling Company properties will be sold at auction.

The railroad ran from a terminal Riverside (alternately reported as Glenwood) elevation, 470' on the east side of the Colorado River, opposite Needles California, with a cable ferry connection to that town, where they had a wye and a 10 acre station site, then across the "bottoms" or flood plain of the Colorado, around the south end of Sprears Lake were a 20 acre station site was found. Between Riverside and Sprear Lake, the grade of the line was an earth berm, 5-8 feet above the bottoms. trestles crossed the sloughs and the outlet of the lake. Ten miles from Riverside it reached the company mill at Milltown at just under 800 feet elevations. The railroad had a wye here, with a short branch to the mill. By now the railroad was climbing, on the way to the mine at 1,700.' Near the mine it crossed several high trestles.

The railroad was plagued by floods and or seasonal high water on the Colorado River. A flood inundated much of the track between Milltown and the landing in September and October 1904. (this has lead to reports that the railroad was abandoned at this time) In November 1904 Mohave Gold Mining Company is in receivership resulting in the mill at Milltown and Leland mine being shutdown. By February 1905 the railroad is reported as being in receivership, under court supervision, possibly under the control of the Los Angeles Board of Trade.

The railroad was continued to operate but badly affected by high water again in 1905 and 1906. During this period, it was surviving on local traffic, much associated with the Vivian Mine, controlled by Col. Ewing.

By the spring of 1906, the line was operated between the Vivian (mining district) and the flood line, near Spear’s Lake. The railroad was no longer operating its own ferry service, contracting that to others. The line apparently ceased operations in July of 1906, after the courts refused to fund repairs to that years flood damage.1 The last mention found of the line in operation are two articles in the Needles Eye on July 7th 1906, one discussing the ferry service being operated by C. S Hall and the second, a hand car accident, in which a Mrs. Sweeny, the wife of an engineer on the railroad breaks her wrist.

The next time we hear about the railroad, in October of 1906 there are reports that O. A. Turner has settled the railroad’s “issues” and is back in control but the line is shut down.

The line was scrapped circa 1910.

Revised: September 1, 2015.

Hilton, George W. (1990). American Narrow Gauge Railroads. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2369-9.
Myrick, David F. Railroads Of Nevada and Eastern California: Volume II. Berkeley: Howell-North Books, 1962. ISBN 978-0874171938.

Reference Material Available Online:


Collected Mohave & Milltown Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.

Equipment Rosters.

Mohave & Milltown Equipment Roster compiled by Randy Hees.

Arizona \ Mohave & Milltown
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