Monday, July 1, 2013

Danby California - Route 66 Ghost Towns

Like many other towns in the Mojave desert, Danby was originally a water stop for steam locomotives owned by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company.  Route 66 was built many years later and like many of the other towns you've seen here, it was soon followed by a gas station, cafe and garage.  Also, like many other towns along Route 66, it died when the new Interstate Highway (I-40) bypassed the area. 

Other than the building below, there is really nothing left of the original town of Danby. I've been told that the old town dump is close by, so maybe next time we'll look for it.

 The long and lonesome Route 66 cutting across the mighty Mojave Desert.

The remaining building looks like an auto repair garage. At some point in this building's history, some wise person decided that it was worth saving. At first glance, a passerby would wonder why. If you enlarge the photo, you can see a train crossing the desert in the  right background.

Here is the reason! This mural was supposedly painted on the building in about 1915. It is easy to see what it is, but I can't find a single clue as to who painted it and why.  I was also unable to find any vintage photos of Danby. 

 There was so little to look at, that my wife decided to stay in the jeep and enjoy the A/C. 

There aren't many structures for graffiti out here, so people have taken to leaving messages made of rocks along the roads.   During World War II, there was an Army training airfield very near Danby. It was called Camp Danby and was one of the nine airfields that made up the sprawling Desert Warfare Training Center under the command of General George Patton. To this day, it still holds the record of the largest military base ever. One of these days, I'll do a post on it. It is pretty interesting.
I still have many posts to do on these ghost towns and other desert oddities.  I also have MANY other photo and written posts piling up and I really should start working them in again. 



  1. That mural is a treasure and I'm so glad they saved it. There are probably some treasures in that old town dump, although I wouldn't want to go digging through it!

  2. I love that there is art in the middle of nowhere like this.
    A little surprised it is still there and no one has souvenired it.

  3. Eventually that building will fall. Maybe they should remove the mural and stick it in a museum somewhere.
    Largest base ever? Yes, please do a post on it soon!

  4. I will be like your wife sitting in the comfort of the car! Such a deserted area!

  5. I love the desert in spring, before it becomes too unbearable. I remember an older guy I once knew, who was a teenager in the early 20s when his parents took him and his siblings on a 10 week around the USA road trip. He spoke of the trains and how he always wished it was riding on it instead of in a hot car that constantly had flats (which they had to fix themselves)

  6. I wonder how many undiscovered ghost towns there. And why didn't the person sign their mural?

  7. I'm curious about the name Pat. In England, the suffix -by is found in the names of villages founded by the Vikings, so I'm bound to ask whether there's a Viking connection here.

  8. Looks like the rock messages replaced smoke signals Pat!

  9. i can imagine doing some metal detecting if you ever found the old dump site, and that mural could be priceless if it indeed does date to the early 20th century!

  10. Thanks, Pat... I'll bet that Danby needed an auto repair show back in the day!!!!!! ha

    Love your Route 66/desert photos --and I 'heart' your jeep... I always wanted one!!!


  11. Oh wow, that painting is pretty impressive. And it's preserved pretty well. I would have probably stayed in the Jeep with your wife too. Haha.

  12. Love the mural! Although it didn't enlarge really big, it looks like there is writing on the bottom. Am I only imagining that's what I see? Surely if it is, it might give you a clue?

  13. Neat mural. Leaving messages and art with rocks seems to be the thing to do in the west.

  14. I always enjoy the shots of your travels through the Ghost Towns, Pat! I've been on that route numerous times, but not in many years and it's amazing how little things have changed! I love the mural and the messages on the rocks!! Hope you have a great week!

  15. The mural is pretty great. I do love these touring posts but if you've got more written you should post those too. Keyword being "too" as in also. I don't want you to stop with these ghost town posts. They're just really cool.

  16. Wow. So iconic looking, like an old movie set!

  17. What a treasure.. yes, now I'd like to know more about the artist.. It's amazing what one can find if they just slow down a bit!!
    snazzy jeep there Pat!!

  18. Love your ghost town posts. It's too bad that there is no information about the mural; seems worth saving. We didn't do much touring on this cross-country trip, but did see one ghost town in Idaho which I'll post about soon.

  19. Your photos of the desert have been the only sunshine I've seen in two weeks! I guess I'm on the wrong coast this summer. Send some bright sunshine our way, okay, Pat? The fog is getting me down.

  20. It's amazing that the mural is still intact and vivid, almost 100 years later.

    I like your wife's big smile as she sits in a cool vehicle while you capture photos for us.


  21. This is a strange landscape - I can see why you have a lot of pictures.

    The small lake in the link on my blog is pretty much the first place I think of if I am asked about England.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  22. very interesting, pat!

    such a deserted area.
    great-looking's amazing that it is still distinctive.

    totally enjoyed your photos.

  23. the pics are great, Pat, but I have to say that I love your car too :)

  24. Very nice the first picture with the road! Yes, we should see some of that city!

  25. I'm enjoying this tour across ghost land. Wonder if they film movies out there?

  26. AC in the Mojave is a just as marvelous as your photos. Loved the glimpse of the mural.

  27. I understand what you mean about posts in the que (I have several that are years old that I've never put up.)

    About the mural - why 1915? although color holds up to some degree, if in the shade, between the visitors and the sun I think it's been painted later. By the content, perhaps the 60's.

    Just an observation - I've been wrong before

  28. ghost towns are awesome you can create your own story

  29. Shelly - I was told (or read) that it was the only reason they saved the building. Who knows? There is interesting stuff in those old town dumps. Anything yucky, should be long gone.

    Mynx - Although it doesn't much appeal to me, I'm also surprised.

    Alex - The mural might be all that is holding it up! I'll do some more work on that base post. It will also involve a trip just for it, because it thousands of square miles and very little is left.

    Icy BC - If there had been more to look at, she would have been right there with me. Probably giving me a boost over the fence. (jk)

    sage - I agree with you! Spring is best. Even the cactus blooms then! It was serious business crossing the desert back then. Even when I was a kid (50's) and even into the 60's, cars just couldn't take the heat without overheating or getting vapor lock. Everybody had those canvas desert bags full of water attached to the grill in front of their radiator.

    mshatch - I'm going to try even harder to find out more about the mural. I think most of the ghost towns are known, but there are tons of smaller abandoned places. Especially in very remote places.

    dennis - Before the road was built, a guy named Lewis Kingman, a Location Engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, created all of these towns (now ghost towns) across this part of the Mojave Desert as watering stops for their steam locomotives. For some reason he decided to name them in alphabetical order. I have no idea why he picked the individual names, but I’m not giving up yet! The names of the towns are Amboy, Bristol, Cadiz, Danby, Essex, Fenner, Goffs, Homer, Ibis and Java.

  30. Brian - They sure did! This string of rock messages went on for a couple of miles. I should have posted more photos of them.

    Gregory - I have a feeling that the owner must know that it isn't that valuable. If it was, it seems like it would either be locked up, or somebody would have stolen it by now. Who knows?

    Betsy - Thanks Betsy! Every one of these little communities seemed to have at least a cafe and auto repair business. We really like the jeep. It's not the most comfortable or practical vehicle for daily driving, but for us it is great!

    Amanda - It seems a bit too well preserved. Maybe not! It wasn't very hot that day and I think she stayed in Jeep because there wasn't much to see there. At least not at first glance.

    Ms. A - What looks like white writing at the bottom is actually cracks in the wood that it's painted on.

    M Pax - You are so right! Also, let's not forget about shoe trees!

    Sylvia - Thanks Sylvia! Things really do deteriorate slowly in super dry climates. I also remember them from my childhood, when they were all open and doing just fine.

    TS Henrik - Thanks Tim! I think I agree with you and I'm going to start working some other things in (like the old days).

  31. Lola - Yep! Many movies and TV shows have filmed out there.

    sixdegreesphotography - Thanks Lynne! Yep, Very few people even use this road and many that do just cruise right through. I guess that makes it all a little more special for those of us who do.

    Sallie - Thanks Sallie! Can't wait to see your post about that. I know there are quite a few mining related ghost towns in the North West.

    Rosemary - I'm sorry you are still all dreary and wet back there Rosemary. Hang in there, I'm sending some SoCal sunshine your way.

    Robyn - Yeah, my wife always makes me do the heavy lifting! I can't give her much of a hard time because she is actually pretty rough and tumble.

    Stewart - Very strange! Desolate, isolated, blow torch hot and strange.

    Betty M - Thanks Betty! It almost seems a bit too "distinctive." Maybe the owner is touching it up as the years go by.

    DEZMOND - Thanks Dezmond, I appreciate that.

  32. Leovi - Thanks! When you get over that rise in the far horizon, there is another stretch just as long. After that, there is another...

    Karen - Thanks Karen! They used to film quite a bit out there, but I'm not aware of anything lately.

    Kelly - Oh yeah! Can you imagine crossing the Mojave in a Model A or even later model, before AC? Wow!

    Pasadena Adjacent - I'm going to work on the post back here. I have no idea where who dated this thing that far back. If i was a betting man, I'd say it was much later than 1915. However, I'm pretty sure it was there in the 50's or 60's because I think I remember it. Or maybe it's not a memory, but only an LSD flashback! Either way, I'm still digging for more info on this place. You are probably right.

    becca - A lot of people did just that. They go out there for various reasons.

  33. I like Danby - looks peaceful! The rock messages people leave behind are always interesting to me -reminiscent of a message in a bottle - it's not only a message, but a whole story is connected to it.

  34. All agog about your mural discovery. And your big sky photo.

  35. Jesh - It's all pretty peaceful out there. I'm trying to remember where there was a stretch of about five miles of rock messages. It wasn't along Rt. 66. Oh well...

    altadenahiker - Yep, there is a lot of big sky out that way. Unfortunately, it makes for some pretty harsh lighting and not too good for photos. I'm always agog....

  36. How interesting! That building is haunting... I love the photos.

  37. I love the alternative graffiti message!

    We're hoping to see some sights over the next few days, too.

    Heading out in a few minutes to Truth or Consequences and Silver City, NM!

    Hopefully it will be 10 degrees cooler there!

    Happy 4th Pat!

  38. I agree w/ 1st comment. The mural is worth capturing. Ghost towns are a fascinating POV for the camera. You seem to have found a niche.

  39. You found life in a place that, on the surface, seemingly has none. Fortunately we have you, as you continually prove otherwise - that vibrancy can be found in the unlikeliest places.

    Makes me want to get in the car and drive. Hmm...

  40. Really enjoying this series. A "Route 66" road trip is on my bucket list. Muralism is a fascinating art form; I went to the Art Institute in Chicago and read somebody's graduate dissertation on it years ago. By nature, it has a lot of topical and political content, so I'm drawn to it.

  41. You know, you have an adorable wife, I love her picture! And the first composition is splendid, so beautiful blue background and amazing perspective!

  42. I've heard stories about the faded towns of Route 66 - so sad. Lovely shots though.

  43. poor old towns of ruin.

    (i'm so glad i went back to your blog links as i realized i was not getting your feed. you're back in my feedly list now!)

  44. I think you've got yourself a smart wife!!!

  45. So many things to see out there! And you know how much I appreciate these posts. Seems like venturing out there one day will be like Mecca to me!

  46. Talli - Thanks! I wish there were more of the old buildings still standing.

    Betty M - Thanks Betty! I hope you had a good one.

    Jenny - You've seen rocks used for this out in AZ, right?

    California Girl - It's about time I found a niche!

    Carmi - I agree Carmi. Most places have a lot more going on than first meets the eye. I can't wait for the deserts to cool off, so we can continue on our quest.

  47. Johnny Yen - Hey! We really enjoy our time in the desert. Can't wait until it cools off out there. I totally agree with you about murals. I especially like them in urban settings.

    Cezar and Leia - Thank you so much Leia! I agree and will tell my wife you said that. If I would have turned 180 degrees after taking that first photo, the view would have been almost exactly the same.

    ladyfi - Thanks! It is sad though.

    TexWisGirl - Yep! I wish I knew more stories about the people that lived in these little places. I'm really glad you found my link again and thanks for still coming here even though you didn't have it on your reader.

    TheChieftess - HA! Smart and snarky!

    Kato - There sure is! Of all the folks who follow my blog, I know that you relate to these places the most. I hope you do make it to these places. As time goes on, little bits and pieces vanish.

  48. Both my uncle and my dad grew up there. My grandpa lived there until his passing. I believe he was the last member of the community. Wonderfully fascinating man. (An interesting story ..he lost his eye from a roofing nail on the day my dad was born.) My grandpa was a migrant worker so my dad was raised more by his aunt. My great uncle both pumped the gas at the station and was the county judge. (That was their station in the picture). My great aunt lived in Danby until her passing and was the school teacher in a one room schoolhouse.

    You can feel the history. It is amazing to think all that has passed there.

    1. Anonymous - Thanks so much for the information. It is both historic and interesting. It is nice to get a personal feel for these places. I agree about feeling the history also. I really appreciate that you took the time to read the article and leaving a comment. Thanks again!


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