Monday, September 2, 2013

Goffs, California -- Route 66 Ghost Town

I'm sorry about the weird formatting on this post. I have no idea why the background is not all the same color.
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Goffs was established in 1883 to support the Railroad. Its primary function was to house and support "helper" locomotives that helped pull trains up the steep grade from Needles. As the years passed, railroad traffic in the area expanded. The same basic line of travel used by the railroad was also used for wagon travel. These wagon routes were eventually used by early automobile traffic and became the National Old Trails Road. This road was used so much by people driving towards the west coast that it became part of the original U.S. National highway system and renamed Route 66 in 1926. This of course brought more traffic through Goffs.

When combined with the hefty number of railroad employees in the area, Goffs was a busy little town. By 1911 there were enough children in the area, to justify a school house. Before the very busy I-15 was built through the Mojave desert, people driving
to Las Vegas from the coast had to pass through Goffs to reach the dirt Arrowhead Highway that would take them north to Las Vegas and Searchlight.

Things were great in Goffs until the 1930's. That is when the old triple whammy of progress hit them:
  • Whammy 1 took place on December 4, 1931, when Route 66 was re-aligned to bypass Goffs by about 5 miles. The town suffered greatly, but was able to hold on because of the steady presence of the railroad. 
  • Whammy 2 took place a few years later when the railroads starting using more efficient steam locomotives that didn't need to stop for water as often. This greatly reduced their reliance on Goffs.
  • Whammy 3 took place at the end of the decade when the railroads started to abandon steam locomotives completely, because of the advent of the diesel locomotive.

The Goffs school stayed open until 1937 when the kids remaining in the area were transitioned into the Needles School District.  

The school house sat there deteriorating for decades until an an amazing couple bought the property, rehabilitated the building and established the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association.  They turned it into a museum, research center and storage facility for thousands of documents and relics from the past. There is so much on the property, that it would be easy to spend most of a day there.  If you are ever in the area, I recommend that you do just that.

Okay, I'm done talking...



The only place that survived the 1930's in Goffs was the general store. During World War II, it was VERY busy. The reason for this will be the subject of a future post. It involves one of the most interesting and little known facts about the Mojave Desert.


 If you need a project, it's for sale...

One of the many relics on the property. Yes, it is what you think it is. Has anybody reading this ever lived in a place where one of these was your main bathroom? I have.


 This photo and rest are all relics from the past.



 An original National Old Trails Road sign


 There are so many amazing pieces of history just laying around the area.






 The original wagon road heading west.




Yes, it is a Volkswagen Beetle. 
Yes, it has been beaten flat and nailed to a couple of poles. 
Yes, this is the kind of fantastic sight you will only see in our amazing deserts!

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47 comments:

Stewart M said...

I thought I was getting used to the desert junk shots - then I saw the last one! That really is some form of madness!

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Bil Sot said...

Truly AMAZING photos and story !!!

Shelly said...

Loved this post! What good news about the couple buying and then creating the museum. If only there were more like minded people. I used to drive a Bug in college- I wonder if it is pounded flat anywhere...

Sally in WA said...

Fabulous post, Pat! Great photos, interesting history...the kind that makes you want to hop into the car and go there!

Bouncin Barb said...

Hi Pat...

What a great post. Very interesting how trains becoming more modern made this little town suffer and eventually die. We don't often think about that stuff. Loved the pictures...as always!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And I'd really like to know the story behind that flattened Beetle on the posts. Things to do that would just never cross my mind...

sage said...

The VW is great, it adds color... There are so many neat places in the desert. Have you been to Goler Gulch, near Randsburg?

http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com/2010/06/goler-gulch-travel-tip-thursday-post.html

TexWisGirl said...

thanks for sharing such a cool part of america's history. the relics are just amazing.

Sylvia K said...

You do find the best old places, Pat, and I do so enjoy your photos!! And, yes, when I was a little girl and visited an aunt and uncle on their farm, they had once of those old bathrooms! Back then I thought it was kind of fun -- glad I don't have to depend on one of them today!!!

Brian said...

I enjoyed the photos Pat! Hey, that poor Beetle has send some better days!

Ms. A said...

What a wonderful series of photos! I love the three seater, even if I prefer a little more privacy than to have someone sitting beside me while I do my business. The trucks, the beetle... oh, my!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Seems like each post on your desert finds outdoes the one before..this is fabulous. Caught a glimpse of your first comment as I was scrolling down and 'desert madness' is a good way to describe a lot about the Mojave don't you think? We have Oregon Coast madness here (people say you are either neurotic when you go to live on the beach or else living on the beach makes you neurotic) .. but it's a different kind of nuttiness! (I like both kinds!)

I'm off to visit the link about the museum and look forward to your post about the general store ... I might have an idea about it, can't wait to see if I'm right.

Kay said...

Love the 3-holer.

Wayne (Woody), whatever said...

So how does one beat a bug flat? IMWTK. The yellow does really pop. What a neat place, just avoid using the bathrooms ;-)

California Girl said...

Love it. Just sent this to my N.H. friends, the Goffs.

Pat Tillett said...

Stewart - I cracked up when I saw that VW.

Bil Sot - Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate it.

Shelly - I've owned a few myself and one of them got steam rolled by a huge old Lincoln Continental. It wasn't flat, but it sure was "flatter!" The husband half of that couple was a legend in the Mojave Desert even before the school.

Sally - Thanks Sally! It sure makes me want to hop in the car. There are still a ton of things to see out there.

Bouncin Barb - Thanks Barb! Progress is a great thing if it doesn't destroy you. Thanks for stopping by Barb.

Alex - I would also like to know that. I'll ask about it next time we are there.

sage - I do believe I've been there, but it was when I was a kid. I have it on my "do and see" list.

TexWisGirl - It is my pleasure! We are always on the hunt for this stuff.

Pat Tillett said...

Sylvia - I try Sylvia! Thanks so much. When my granny did a bathroom in the house, she wouldn't let us use it unless it was an emergency or it was storming outside. Of course, she let her guests use it.

Brian - Thanks Brian! It sure has!

Ms. A - Why thank you madame! I know what you mean, it reminded me of boot camp where there were about 20 lined up all in a row with very little elbow room between.

Sallie - Nice of you to say that Sallie. The heat can make you do funny things. Mad dogs and Englishmen (as they say). I'd like to say that they are just eccentric.

Kay - I loved see that thing. The splinters might be hard to deal with though.

Wayne - With a big hammer! Yep, it was the brightest color I'd seen in days.

California Girl - Thanks for sharing it! Hope your friends like it.

Icy BC said...

Wow..another cool place that I get to know through your post! I agree with every one here, the relics are just amazing..

Margaret Benbow said...

What powerful pictures, Pat. I try to figure out why they're so moving, and I think it's because you record these objects as archeological artifacts--and they're of our own time! There's something subversive and yet thrilling about them.

James said...

Great shots I love seeing these relics and old buildings. It's like an open air museum.

I've never lived in a place with wooden toilets, but I lived in a $70 a week crash-pad on Main Street in Huntington Beach where everyone in the building shared one bathroom down the hall. That was a long time ago. :-)

robin andrea said...

You breathe new life into these old towns. You find such grand sights. The old rusted vehicles come alive with stories we can almost hear. Truly wonderful stuff.

Al Penwasser said...

Wow, wow, and wow.
I know I've said it before, but I love learning about the history of what happened when Route 66 went the way of the nickel cigar.
Okay, I'll say it one more time.
Wow.

Stickup Artist said...

What a fantastic find! If you made a book of your desert locations and commentary, I'm sure many, many photographers (me included), would love to retrace your steps. A great deal of effort (though clearly a labor of love), has gone into scouting out these locations, and your writing and photography make such a journey appear so fascinating! You would be an amazing photo-tour guide!

Rosemary Nickerson said...

Cool! Love the old cars and trucks here. Some things never die--they just rust away over time.

Bossy Betty said...

I love the way you find such beauty in odd places. I would love to hang around with you for an afternoon in a place like this just shootin' and talking!

Pat Tillett said...

Icy BC - Thanks! There are hundreds of awesome things at this place. Maybe thousands.

Margaret - Hey there! Thanks so much Margaret. I truly do believe that they are artifacts. From our time, but a different world.

James - Thanks James. It is like a museum. The crash pad on Main st in HB is funny, because I used to live in an old flea bag motel right on PCH where the new houses are now. Long time ago for me as well.

Robin - Thanks Robin! They do tell a lot of stories and I wish I knew them all. Those rusted things are probably going to get even more rusty. That area has been getting hammered by major storms and flash floods for a couple of weeks.



Pat Tillett said...

Al P - It' really interesting to me also. If ONLY I had all my granny's photos and notes on the area. Thanks so much Al!

Stickup Artist - You don't live too far from the area, so I'm sure you will be out there soon enough. I really do appreciate the nice words.
I still have the Amboy to Barstow towns to cover and hope to do so soon.

Rosemary - Me too! That's right and rust never sleeps...

Bossy Betty - Thanks Betty! Anytime! We'll be back out there as soon as it cools off a bit.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Unbelievable! It really is a sad tale Pat.. I wonder if the longevity of these little towns would have been sustained anyway, even if the road and rail hadn't bypassed them. The photos are fabulous, I could almost image a wagon train heading off down that trail. This really is a wonderful series and I'm looking forward to hearing the WW11 story!

altadenahiker said...

Have you ever seen "Once Upon a Time in the West?" Trust an Italian to tell the best story about early American railroad life and the birth of railroad towns.

Goff is now on my to-do list.

Chuck said...

A bug smashed flat nailed to poles to warn other bugs to steer clear!! I like it.

Another amazing place, Pat. The photo ops look great every where you turn. Love the Century 21 sign!!

Looks like another fun trip. Thanks for the desert education!!

solfine said...

The beauty of your work and philosophy roar with defiance at the
waste and the Wasted.
I see and feel it too.
Keep hammering away at the obstructions.
Solomon

Pat Tillett said...

PerthDailyPhoto - Thanks so much Grace! I'm sure the towns would have survived because there weren't any other options. I won't say prosper, because many people wouldn't brave the long desert drives because the cars back then couldn't handle the heat. I was up so late doing research on that WW2 post, that I forgot to do my usual Monday post. Speaking of wagon trains. If you follow those old wagon trails via hiking or jeeping, it is not unusual to run across old graves of people who perished on those wagon train journeys.

altadenhiker - I have seen it! Sergio Leone and his Spaghetti Westerns. I'll be back in Goffs as as soon as I can to finish looking around. People around the desert send them relics that they want preserved. There is so much to see there.

Chuck - I like it also! Thanks Chuck! If my granny was alive, these posts would be a lot better because she knew the Mojave like the back of her hand. She also people in these places.

solfine - Hello Sol! I do my best. I'm so happy to see your comment. I'll be over...

Ebie said...

Hi Pat, have not been blogging for months, and I am stopping by to check out what travels you have!

Honestly, we have not been in this area, I have heard of it. We had been planning to camp in the Mojave but did not get a chance and now the heat, we can't anymore.

Nice to see this type of urban decay.

mshatch said...

Cool place. I love the old bottles. We used to go digging for them in our woods.

Carly said...

What a fun location! It reminds me of the movie cars. I can't imagine that an abandoned location in the middle of nowhere would sell. It's neat to look at, but living there would be a different story. Sad to hear of the end of the town.

Baby Sister said...

Well, at least they've done something cool with the place. :) I love old bottles. They look so cool!!

Jenny said...

this is a neat place!

Leovi said...

Yes, some nice pictures! I like the remains of civilization! Pure poetry!

EG CameraGirl said...

Love the stuff you find in these abandoned desert places! Very cool!

TheChieftess said...

Those white blocks have occurred on my blog occasionally...that and the wording not centered the way I want it...I can't do anything to change it except to go above or below it in "uncharted" space and re-type whatever it is...then delete what was blocked...it works...but is a pain in the &*$!!!

I've never lived anywhere with that potty set up, but I have build houses in Tecate, Mexico with similar arrangements!!!

I've always been quite perplexed as to why a person would simply abandon a car in such places...we see that up here more frequently than you'd think...it is just sooooo....what...irresponsible??? It certainly mucks up the area...except for providing interesting photography and perhaps a habitat for a rodent or two...

Al said...

That is an amazing place. But I don't need that kind of project!

Gingerspark said...

These pictures are amazing! I really want to do RT 66 - it's a "for sure" bucket-lister.

The cave painting are so wonderful.

Pat Tillett said...

Ebie - Hey there! I know you haven't and I've missed your posts! I'm actually a little behind on the posts. It's been a couple months since we've been to the desert. We've been in cooler places lately. The mountains and the central coast. It will be cooling off in the desert pretty soon!

mshatch - There is a lot of old glass (and everything else) in the desert.

Carly - Some of the old places on Route 66 were the inspiration for parts of that movie.

Baby Sister - It's a great place! The school house is now a museum. And there is so much history (including bottles) covering an area of a few acres outside. It would be easy to spend several hours there.

Jenny! Yes it is! The couple who bought the place are really nice. The husband is a Mojave desert legend.

Pat Tillett said...

Leovi - Thanks Leovi! Much history there.

EG CameraGirl - Thanks! I love it out there. I'd be there a lot more, but my wife isn't as good with heat as I am.

TheChieftess - That's what I usually do, but I think I figured it out. Sometimes I type the narrative in a word document first. Black characters on a white back ground. I think when I copy it to my blog, it overpowers the default of my template. Maybe that's it, maybe not! The thing that bugs me even worse is when photo comes up rotated onto it's side.

Al - I hear you! Me neither, but I'm glad they love it. To them, it's not even work. they are dedicated and maybe even obsessed with the history of it all.

Gingerspark - Thanks so much! I hope you do it! The California/Arizona desert parts are the longest remaining continuous portions of it.

TheChieftess said...

I've never had a pic come up sideways!!!

Pat Tillett said...

TheChieftess - It sometimes happens with photos that I changed the orientation on in my computer. For some reason, blogger sometimes ignores it and posts it the original way.

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