Route 66 #1

Route 66 #1
Route 66 Museum

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dagget Nabbet

Last week I had the privilege of guest blogging for The Boron Sun. The piece I wrote was about the 1940 film 20 Mule Team, a forgetten film I had seen some years back, and that had some relevance to the town of Boron's history. In the process of doing research on the film, so I could dot all my I's and cross all my T's, I discovered the film was actually suppose to be set in the town of Dagget, CA

Now, being a Route 66 enthusiast and amateur historian my mind suddenly clicked in with the question, "Dagget? Isn't that a town off 66?". 30 seconds later and with the help of Google maps I had my answer, yes Dagget is off of old 66 directly East of Barstow. Then I began to see Dagget in my mind with its hodgepodge of desert abodes, and it's creepy looking experimental solar power plant with that weird tower. If you didn't know any better you would mistake Dagget for being nothing more then Barstows outskirts which in all reality it is.


In the process of doing my research though I actually found some information about the town that was actually somewhat astonishing. Turns out Dagget at one time was very much the place to be, and a lucrative one at that. This small now nearly forgotten town was a hub for silver and boron mining in the 1880's and believe it or not it is actually the latter element and not the former that bought the town most of its wealth. 

No considering Dagget saw its good times in the 1880's and 90's we can rule out Route 66 being part of that sort of. If we figure that 66 was preceded by a number of previous trails we could think of it that way. But it's safe to say more then likely Dagget was the hub of silver and boron mining operations do to its access to the Santa Fe Railway whose tracks ran through Dagget on the way into Barstow and Santa Fe's yards and Harvey House there. 

Calico, a town to the North of Dagget was actually where most of the silver mines where. But Calico was not serviced by and major rail links, meaning silver was transported to Dagget for rail shipment, and in the process a lot of money exchange hands in this town making it a boomtown. 

But, at the same time borates where almost as lucrative, since borates much like now days had many uses and attracted buyers. Boron of course had to be mined in bulk throughout Death Valley, and was carried into Dagget via the famous "20 Mule Team". But the 20 Mule Team where slow, and could only carry so much, and it was only a matter of time till a railway the Borate and Dagget, was established as a spur line to carry borates out of Death Valley and into Dagget as the name implies. 

The Borate and Dagget Railway became highly lucrative and spurred the creation of the Pacific Borax Corporation, later called US Borax, maker of the famed Boraxo soap product and modern miner and distributor of borates. But Pacific Borax would eventually move to Mojave, California 78 miles to the West, due to the fact that it served both Santa Fe and Southern Pacific trains and lines to San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

Dagget wouldn't decline though until after World War 2 since the towns airport would enter defense contractor service during and for briefly after the war. 

The town would also see a lot of traffic from Route 66, since Route 66 ran directly through town. This also helped associate Dagget with one of Route 66's most famous movies derived from one of its most famous literary works. The film version of Grapes of Wrath would be filmed on Route 66 in Dagget in 1940 coincidentally the same year 20 Mule Team was made about Dagget but not filmed there. 

More then likely Daggets final decline happened after I-40 moved traffic south of town. Meaning Dagget was another victim of the Route 66's decommissioning. Dagget is another town whose identity existed long before Route 66, but whose fate became intertwined with Route 66 as time wore on. 

If your following Route 66 you will pass through Dagget between Newberry Springs and Barstow. Make sure you look for it and any signs of what once was. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Route 66 and the Big Chain Restaurant

There's this general consensus among Route 66 devotees that chain restaurants, motels, and stores where part of what killed Route 66. The basic theory behind that thought is that Route 66 equals Mom & Pop joints, and "chain joints" equal the interstates and super slabs. 

In a way that thought process isn't all that wrong. Chain business's are near many interstate exits, and passers by are more inclined to stop at one of these places, like Walmart, McDonalds, or Comfort Inns, then they are to head deeper into town for that Mom & Pop place. In many circumstances the Mom & Pop places, places that fronted on Route 66, have succumbed to these chain influences. 

What I think a lot of old time Route 66er's don't think about is that one of those chain monsters is actually a Route 66 child. That's right McDonalds was originally founded by the McDonald Brothers in San Bernadino, CA. The original restaurant at North E St, and West 14th stands only about a mile or so East of Route 66. One could only imagine that Route 66 travelers would probably take the side trip down 14th to visit the unusual burger joint locals guided them to.

But that's not the whole story. It was a Chicago businessman (that's right Chicago another Route 66 town) Ray Kroc who saw the potential of the burger joint and encouraged the McDonald Brothers to expand, while investing his own money to make it happen and becoming the first franchisee. 

In 1955 Kroc opened the first of the franchise stores in Des Plains, IL. The town of Des Plains, is a suburb of Chicago in Northwestern Cook County, the same county as Chicago. Des Plains itself is not on Route 66 but it's less then 20 miles from it, making it still relatively close. 

Both the first McDonalds Brothers, and Ray Kroc stores are museums now. You can visit them on either end of Route 66 to see how far the restaurant has come since being a little burger joint in San Bernardino, CA. 

The thing is though that "McDonalds" is probably considered to be the king of franchise/chain restaurants. That's right McD's is suppose to be this faceless corporation dishing out homogenous food coast to coast along interstates, and killing Mom & Pop diners. Yet this faceless corporation has its roots in Route 66, and started as a Mom & Pop, or should I say Brother & Brother itself in San Bernardino, CA. 

So the next time you read or hear someone criticizing "Big Chains" on Route 66, don't forget to think that Route 66 itself gave birth to one of them. That says something about 66 itself helping the US grow in the post-war 1940's. 

Route 66 Movies - Route 66: The Marathon Tour

My guess is that your not getting ready to head down Route 66 within the next few months. As matter of fact this being a blog about family Route 66 travel, I'm guessing it's going to be late Spring till you begin to think about it again. All I have to say is why wait? Why not plan now? Which is why I have a documentary that you need to check out.

This is Route 66: The Marathon Tour. It's a boxed set of 5 DVD's that cover the route from Chicago to LA, in a lighthearted way. The series includes segments about famous sites on the way, interviews with owners of landmarks and historians, and is just generally fun to watch.  

The reason I think this set is a good planning tool, especially for the first time Route 66 traveler, is because you get to see the route in motion. Not only that but the series helps capture the spirit of Route 66 as the interviews give you insight into life along the route, and what it's like to explore it. It may not be a bad idea to watch the series with a notebook in hand, or a tablet computer so you can look deeper into some of the sights mentioned. 

The only problem I have with this set is that it is a bit cheesy at times. That and most of the funding to put the series together came from Hampton Inn's and Cheverolet so at times it does feel like a bit of a commercial. 

Overall though, this is a great "Winter Watch". It's a excellent tool for planning, and just getting you tuned into and ready to travel the Route.

If you interested you can find this set on Amazon, in the green collectors tin for $10 or less. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Model Railroading Reveals History

Welcome to Fall a time for slowing down and relaxing. The Summer travel rush is behind us, and we are starting to close in on the holiday travel season, but we have time yet. As we get deeper into Fall those of us who love trains begin to move from watching trains and getting out to the sights they once haunted, to keeping inside in a train related world of our own. That’s right it’s the time of year for serious railfan’s to turn to model railroading.


The world of model railroading has a lot of interesting stories that connect it to the real world of railroading. It’s not uncommon to hear stories about model railroaders researching detail for their lines and uncovering some forgotten piece of history about the railways and areas they base their layouts on.  I don’t have a layout myself but I do have a nice O-gauge collection, as you can guess my collection has a lot of Santa Fe pieces in it. My dream layout would be an abbreviated version of Route 66 from Chicago to LA, and focus on Santa Fe and the other railways that paralleled much of the route. Of course every time I put it down on paper I realize even abbreviated by landmarks the layout would still be huge, especially in O-gauge. But my dream layout has already had me doing a lot of research on the trains, terrain, sidings, and consists I want to have on it, and that research has taught me a lot about both the Santa Fe and Route 66.


Of course my obsession with the Super Chief and some of Santa Fe’s other passenger trains has aimed me towards a lot of unique data. For instance one thing I was always curious about are the locomotives Santa Fe used to pull its famous passenger trains. In the world of O-gauge we see Santa Fe’s trains being pulled by E-Units, F-Units, Alco FA’s, PA’s, DL’s, Shark Noses, Centipedes, and other locomotives. So I had to get down to brass tacks and find out what Santa Fe really used to pull its legendary trains. Then I found a piece of information I thought I never would find or expect.


You see in the world of model railroading there are legends as well, and Super Chief is one of them here too. But the most iconic of all of them is Lionel’s pulled by F3’s. The F3 was first modeled and sold by Lionel in 1948 in the Warbonnet livery, and within a few short years after that it began to sell aluminum streamlined cars to complete the Super Chief's look. In 1959 Lionel would release one of its best complete versions of the Super Chief, but it would fall short in comparison to the complete Super Chief A-B-B-A Lionel Centennial Super Chief set it would release in 2000, a set still highly sought after and that you would be lucky to get your hands on for $1500.

 But here is the thing about Lionel and the Super Chief, Santa Fe didn’t use F3’s for pulling its passenger trains. I mean don’t get me wrong Santa Fe did use the F3, but usually for its freight operations. The F3 wouldn’t have been uncommon to see in the blue and yellow livery colors, or in the “Yellow” bonnet colors, but it never appeared in the regular Warbonnet colors, or at the head of Santa Fe’s passenger trains.




No, I am openly willing to admit I could be wrong, since Santa Fe used a variety of locomotives to pull its trains like, E1’s, FT’s, PA’s, DL-109’s, and F7’s, but from what I’ve read and researched it doesn’t look as if the Electric Train King and icon actually pulled the train it is associated with the most in real life. Somewhat ironic! But if you can prove me wrong send those pictures my way I would love to see them.