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Goldfield Visitor Center

This is the visitor center for Goldfield, Nevada.

Some of the historic markers/plaques here:

Goldfield’s Railroads

Goldfield, being the largest city in Nevada in 1907, established three railroad lines to accommodate the growing population: the Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad, the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, and the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad.

The Las Vegas and Tonopah line was built from Las Vegas through Beatty and Rhyolite to Goldfield and ran from 1907 to February 1918. The Nevada Department of Highways purchased the railroad rights-of-way for Highway 95 and the rails were torn up in 1919.

The Bullfrog Goldfield line was built south from Goldfield to Beatty and Rhyolite beginning in May 1906. The line closed in January 1928 but went through five management changes in its short life.

The Tonopah and Tidewater was built north from Ludlow, California to Gold Center and used the Bullfrog and Goldfield tracks to reach the then booming mining town. Construction began on the T&T in 1905 with an opening in October 1907. This line ran until June 14, 1940.

In all Goldfield had 5 railroads the 5th one was Goldfield Cons. Mining Co. RR and it ran from the mines to construction mill on Columbia mountain. The Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad has the longest run surviving until October 1947. It was preceded in its inception by separate lines for each city. The Tonopah line began in 1903, with the Goldfield line opening in 1904. The two lines consolidated November 1, 1905. In all the line serviced about 100 miles of tracks and about a dozen shops.

The railroad boom was fueled by gold production, with more than $90 million mined between 1901 and 1940. That’s $2 billion by today’s standards.

The Tonopah and Goldfield’s northern reach to Mina served as a junction point with the Nevada and California Railroad, and affiliate line of the Southern Pacific. This enables passengers from the East or West coasts to travel to the northern end of Nevada and California spur line by fast Pullman service. The final leg of the journey from Mina to Goldfield took about 5 hours.

Decline in ore production, the Great Depression, floods, and devastating fires were the beginning of the end of the railroad boom in the region. The end of World War II in 1945 and the loss of Tonopah Army Air Field traffic loosened the last spike holding the operation together.

Where’s Gran Pah?

If you’re looking for Grandpa you found him – about 26 miles south of Tonopah on US 95 – where you’re standing right now.

Gran Pah, in Shoshone, means “great water,” and was the first name given to the mining district founded by two native Nevadans who staked three claims – the Sandstorm, May Queen and Kruger – on the ridge of Columbia Mountain in 1902.

Harry Stimler and William Marsh were sent out to stake mining claims for Jim Butler and Tom Kendall. Butler and Kendall originally paid Thomas Fisherman $10 to stake the claim after he showed them a specimen of ore, however Fisherman drank up the money and all they could get from him was that the specimen came from an area 30 miles south of Tonopah. The Tonopah district was booming with miners who found more silver than gold. Stimler and Marsh, at Gran Pah, staked claims where the ratio of gold to silver turned out to be three ounces of gold to every one ounce of silver. Gran Pah would be aptly renamed Goldfield on October 20, 1903.

Gran – Spanish for “grand” meaning “large.”
Pah – likely derived from the Shoshone word “baa” meaning “water.”

Goldfield Visitor Center
Dedicated to Jack and Delores (Dee) Honeycutt,
Whose love of Goldfield and its history inspired this facility.

A Generation of Boom and Bust

Goldfield came to be, and nearly vanished back into the sagebrush of the desert, an almost a decade. From its humble beginnings in 1902 of only three small mining claims, also known as grubstakes, the town exploded and was the largest city in the state by 1907.

The biggest spike in population came between the spring of 1905 and the fall of 1906 when the population rose from 8,000 to 15,000. By 1907, Goldfield was home to 20,000 and spanned more than 50 city blocks.

The original tent camp, name Gran Pah, disappeared and was replaced with 49 saloons, 27 restaurants, 15 barbershops, 6 bakeries, 54 assayers, 84 attorneys, 162 brokers, 14 cigar stores, 21 grocers, 22 hotels, 17 laundries, 40 doctors, 2 undertakers, 4 schools, 3 railroads, 2 daily and 3 weekly newspapers.

More than $90 million in gold was produces here from 1901 through 1940, or about $2 billion at today’s prices.

By 1910, mining production was declining and many property owners were dismantling their buildings and moving on or leaving the structures to the ravages of the desert. The city of 20,000 was no more, and a thriving community of about 5,000 remained. By 1920, the 5,000 dwindled to 1,500.

Bad things come in threes and so it was with Goldfield – production fell, and a flood struck the town in 1913. In 1923, a fire, caused by a bootlegger’s exploding still, leveled 25 blocks. Goldfield couldn’t bounce back, but it didn’t completely disappear either. Today’s population is hardly 270 residents.

This bottle house is next door: