Kelso is a ghost town and defunct railroad depot in the Mojave National Preserve in California. It was named after a railroad worker who won a contest to have the town named after him. The town was built specifically as a railroad station because of its location and nearby springs that provided abundant water.
Starting off as what was a simple train depot in the 1920's, the town of Kelso boomed briefly to as many as 2000 residents in the 1940s, when borax and iron mines opened nearby. Gold and silver were also discovered in the nearby hills of what became known as the Kelso district. The town shrank again when the mines closed after about a decade.
Kelso was the meeting point of the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroads (the rail is now owned by Union Pacific). Here, trains were watered and "helper" locomotives were attached to assist the regular trains in climbing the steep Cima Hill. The distance between Las Vegas and the connection with the Santa Fe line at Daggett was too far for trains without a meal car, so Kelso was a convenient spot for a restaurant stop.
The depot building itself was built in 1923 using a Spanish "California mission" building style. It contained boarding rooms for railroad employees and a restaurant for both employees and passengers. It also had a telegraph office and waiting room. Later, a restaurant nicknamed the "Beanery," that served home-style meals was housed in the building. The large rooms in the basement also served as a community center for local residents.
The depot remained in operation until 1986. It is currently being renovated to become a park visitor center. Renovation is expected to be completed in early 2005.
The famous Kelso Dunes are located north of Kelso, and the entire area lies within the boundary of the Mojave National Preserve.
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