Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Ghost Town(?) Of Coaldale, Nevada

Highway 95 runs north to south along the western side of Nevada and is the only road between Reno and Las Vegas. Route 6 is a historic pre-interstate highway running from the tip of Cape Cod to Bishop, California, in the High Sierras. Below is a photo I took of its western terminus at Bishop:

Highway 95 and Route 6 intersect in Nevada at a point about 30 miles west of Tonopah. About a mile before the intersection is the site of Coaldale (also known as Coaldale Junction). As far as ghost towns go, it's clearly of recent vintage and it's also very mysterious. It was obviously a functioning "town" until a few years ago. But now everybody is gone.

The main structure left in Coaldale is a combination gasoline station and restaurant, as you can see below:

I went inside the restaurant and was surprised to see quite a few items-----cooking ranges and ovens, a vacuum cleaner, even a credit card reader-----still in there. There was a lot of broken glass scattered around, but there seemed to be enough to make it worthwhile for a scavenger with a pickup truck to spend an afternoon poking through what's left:

Adjacent to the gas station/restaurant is the remains of a motel. Looking inside the buildings below, I saw small rooms with bathrooms and bed frames; one even had a junky looking mattress. Any carpeting had been removed, leaving only concrete slab floors:

I'm guessing the dwellings below were for employees of the gas station, restaurant, and motel since there are no towns or other places for workers to live within reasonable driving distance (Tonopah would be closest). All of the below were empty, although the window-mounted air conditioning units remain:

The houses below were more substantial, each having three bedrooms and two baths. I'm not sure who these were for-----did entire families work at the gas station, restaurant, and motel? I can't imagine them being rental units for travelers, for Coaldale is definitely a place you pass through and not a destination in itself:

I am not sure of the purpose of the building below. It looks like a house for a very large family, but I suppose it could also have been a store or shop of some type. Unfortunately the windows had been boarded over and I couldn't see inside. That was a puzzler; the other building at Coaldale had open windows and doors and were unlocked; why did someone go to the trouble of securing this building and not the others?

Visiting Coaldale reminded me of one of those 1950s science fiction movies (or an episode of The Twilight Zone) in which an isolated desert town has been attacked by radioactive giant ants and everyone is missing; I felt like the professor in the skinny black tie in those movies who surveys the scene and says, "It can't be! It's not possible! But. . . . . . but. . . . . . . there's only one thing that could've caused this!!" Okay, I'm not saying radioactive giant ants wiped out Coaldale. But something sure caused everyone to get out of town quickly. What was it? I took these photos back in 2002 and haven't been back since. I'd love to hear from anyone with more recent information about this place.