PacificNG Header
PacificNG Header 
Printer-Friendly Format
California \ Calico Railroad
Reference Data.
Corporate Ownership.
Daggett & Calico Railroad Co.
(Incorporated, not built)
Oro Grande Mining Co. Railroad 1888 - 1889
Waterloo Mining Co Railroad 1889 - c.1903

Last Updated: July 15, 2015

Calico Railroad.

By Randy Hees.

C alico was the site of California’s only “Nevada style” silver district. Mines producing gold, silver, borax, and limestone were distributed across a wide area of northern San Bernardino County, with a concentration of successful silver mines along the face of the Calico Mountains, in the Grape Vine Mining District, due north of the town of Daggett. The history of mining in the area is complicated, and confused, driven by the mining companies which controlled the various mines and mills in the area. Within the district, to the immediate east, also in the Calico Mountains were the borax deposits up Mule Canyon at what would become known as Borate, with their own railroad, discussed on this site under the Borate and Daggett Railroad. To the Northwest was the Borax mine of the American Borax company, with its own railroad which would eventually share one mile of track with the Calico Railroad.

The town of Daggett was located along the Mojave River, on the line of the Santa Fe (originally built by the Southern Pacific) railroad. It was the commercial supply center, serving the mining and ranching efforts in the area, but was also at one time the end of the 20 mule team borax wagon route from Death Valley. Eventually, Daggett was both the railroad connection for Calico, but also a center for mills, which needed water, found in the Mojave River bed, as well as the center of Borax mining in California.

The Calico railroad was first projected and organized in March 1885 as the Daggett & Calico Railroad, a common carrier, proposing a 10 mile long railroad from the Oro Grande Co. Mill to Calico with a branch to the Snow Bird Mine. That project faltered in 1886 without starting construction. The railroad was ultimately built as a private tramway as the Oro Grande Mining Company Railroad in 1888. By 1889 after building the railroad and a new larger mill the Oro Grande Mining Co sold its Calico mines, mills and the railroad to the Waterloo Mining Company of Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Some reports say the railroad was built to 38” gauge, but Porter records report 36” gauge for the two locomotives. The line initially connected the Waterloo Mine ore bin, east of the town of Calico with the companies two stamps mills, at Dagget Mountain (sometimes called Elephant Mountain) on the north side of the Mojave river, across the river from the town of Daggett (The Calico Railroad never crossed the Mojave River or laid tracks into the town of Daggett).

The railroad built a branch to serve the Silver King mine, at the near the mouth of Wall Street Canyon, below the town of Calico.

The Waterloo mines and the railroad were shut down in the spring 1892, following the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase act which in turn led to the 1893 silver panic. The last of the big mining companies, the Silver King mine closed in 1896.

One or both locomotives were rented to the Borate & Daggett for use during construction of their railroad in 1897-1898. At least one photo shows Sanger in use in Mule Canyon.

In 1899, mining recommenced with the mines and railroad being leased to D. D. Connell and Marcus Pluth. Eventually they reopened the railroad, using Sanger as their only locomotive. By now the the American Borax company had leased the 0-4-0t, and arraigned to use one mile of the railroad Calico and Daggett as part of its line.

The line was abandoned in 1903, possibly as a result of an accident where by the Calico RR locomotive and the ABC locomotive collided at the north junction in the rain. Local reports suggest that D. D. Connell might have been at the throttle, and speed and alcohol may have been involved. In any case the Calico and Daggett railroad, except for the shared trackage was removed that year.

Revised: July 17, 2015
David Myrick, Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, Vol 2, (Howell North Books, Berkeley, 1963)
Lucy Bell Lane, (edited by Phyllis Kolby, Patricia Schoffstall, and Alan “Lefty” Baltazar) Calico Memories, (Mojave River Valley Museum, Barstow, 1993)
Dix Van Dyke (edited by Peter Wild) Daggett, Life in a Mojave Frontier Town, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore & London, 1997)
Vredenburg, Larry History of Mojave Desert Mining.
Vredenburgh, Larry, M., 2005, An overview of mining in the California Desert in Robert E. Reynolds editor, Old Ores, Mining History in the Eastern Mojave Desert: California State Uiversity, Desert Studies Consortium and LSA Associates, Inc. pages 22-27
Palmer, Leroy. The Calico District, California, The Mining and Scientific Press, June 1, 1918.

Reference Material Available Online:

Equipment Rosters.

Equipment of the Calico Railroad.


Collected Calico Railroad. Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.

California \ Calico Railroad
[ Back ]