The reason we took a longer but scenic route from Eugene to Joshua Tree via Western Nevada was not just for the opportunity to drive fast (and suffer the consequences). Goldfield, Nevada has been on my radar for years, and posting a few shots by Curtis Perry taken there only whetted my desire further. So after an overnight stay in Tonopah some 40 miles north, we pulled into Goldfield and just started driving up and down the dusty half-empty streets, shooting from the car, and stopping at a few key places too. So I’m going to just post my shots in the order that they were taken, which will hopefully give a representative look at this remarkable CC paradise.
Goldfield was once the biggest city in Nevada, after gold was discovered nearby in 1902. At its peak just four years later, it had over 20,000 residents. But by 1910, that had already dropped to 4,838, due to the high cost of pumping brine out of the diggings, making gold extraction unprofitable. Then in 1923 a moonshine still caused a fire that devastated most of the town’s wood buildings. A few brick and stone buildings survived, but most of the wood houses didn’t leaving the streets with an assortment of little shacks and a few half-way decent houses presumably built shortly thereafter. But only a fraction of the city’s original platted lots are actually built upon, leaving something of a gap-toothed appearance. More like a a few stumps of teeth in mostly empty gums. But there are cars everywhere, vastly outnumbering the remaining houses.
And of course there a trailers and some newer buildings, mostly very modest. The 2010 population was 268. It’s been in that range since 1950. Those living here are the hard core; folks either here for a long time already, or those attracted to its unique qualities.
Those include the opportunity to accumulate cars and trucks with impunity. No neighbors here are going to complain.
Even if that includes a 1956 or so vintage GMC tractor and trailer.
No, Goldfield didn’t have a subway in its heyday. But just how these came to be here is…well, actually, not surprising. It’s just that kind of town.
There’s lots of structures that are still slowly falling apart.
That’s the fire station in the background, and one of their former trucks is sitting out here.
Looks to be an early Ford V8.
Glass bottles play a major role in this wall.
One of the nicer houses in town. It appears likely that some Burning Man attendees may have decided to not go back to civilization and make goldfield their home. If I had to guess, the town’s population is on the upswing; cheap real estate will do that, even as far away as Goldfield.
The 70’s revisited.
I’ve been looking for one of these RR-grilled VWs for years. And here it is.
Someone’s stocking up on old police cars.
I don’t know what to make of these. Midget-class demolition derby?
Some sort of racing car, or remnants of one.
I suspect there may well be no building codes in Goldfield. Or nobody cares.
More signs of new construction-renovation.
At this corner, several 1920’s vintage cars and trucks have become fixtures.
This house has been preserved, inside and out, including one of its occupants.
A particularly fine vintage trailer.
There’s a little machinery museum of sorts, all outdoors. Here’s the remnants of an old steam traction engine.
Here’s a real gem, a Four Wheel Drive (FWD) truck from its early days. FWD was a pioneer in what has become so common in trucks nowadays.
This gem of a FWD truck deserves a CC of its own, but I’m so backlogged on vehicle to write up.
An air compressor, always an important piece of machinery in mining.
It’s got a big Cat diesel engine. And how did one start a big diesel engine back then?
With a little gasoline engine. Seriously; that’s how all those old Cat dozers had back in the day.
Folks couldn’t rely on several batteries and such. They just crank-started the magneto-ignition gas engine, which was then engaged to turn over the big high-compression diesel.
The Esmeralda County court house is one of the survivors downtown. This is where I would need to go if I decide to contest my ticket. A good excuse to come back.
As is the fire station, which has another old truck on its other side, a long hook and ladder unit.
The Goldfield High School, built during the heydays in 1906-1908, was finally shut in 1955. It has suffered severe structural damage, which is in the process of being repaired thanks to a federal grant. I asked someone if the damage was form an earthquake, as these two walls came down. Nope, it was a bad foundation, in the haste to get the building up quickly.
Another graphic example of stone and wood construction.
These art cars are veterans from Burning Man.
The Goldfield Hotel is notable, and we stopped and looked around after a local gave us a bit of history.
Built in 1907 and 1908, the four story hotel was the largest and finest in the state of Nevada. But it’s been unoccupied since the end of WW2, when military families stationed at Tonopah Air Base were housed there. The rooms were lavish, with fine carpeting and crystal chandeliers.
There have been several efforts to renovate and re-open it, all unsuccessful. The current owner bought it at auction in 2003, and claimed that he would renovate the lower two floors, but little has been done. A Model A sits on the main floor.
Just outside of town is the International Car Forest. We paid a visit:
This is my favorite: a ’68 Chrysler eight-door limousine on top of an old milk truck. I suspect the Chrysler was likely used for transport between the distant towns of Nevada back in its day. or maybe it just ended up in Gold field in unusual circumstances.
That’s a school bus off in the distance.
That’s it for Goldfield, which sits at an elevation of 5,690 feet. From there, the highway heads south on a long straight gentle incline, the kind of stretch one can easily find oneself going faster than the speed limit. Careful!
That’s the kind of place that gives me the fantasies of how neat it would be to take over one of the homes that’s still fixable, and restore it to it’s old glory.
I’d also like to do something with one or two of the Twenties cars.
Yes, I’m delusional.
“Midget-class demolition derby?”
Look like compact dirt track cars. Escort and Festiva.
Hornet class racers. We have them up here at the dirt tracks. The Modified class race car was the final clue.
Paul – What was the car with independent suspension sticking out of the ground? Usually when I get to see that suspension I’m laying flat on my back.
Also loved the huge Cat Diesel Air compressor with the separate starting engine. I remember seeing those at threshing bees in my home state of Minnesota when I was a kid.
I’m actually going to turn a work trip into a fun trip in February. I’ll be in San Fran & Reno for work, then hope to take a rental car to visit friends in LA & Palm Springs. I’m going to take the desert route down through Nevada and northern Arizona then head east. I’ll try to take some pics and post them here.
IIRC It was an AWD version of a popular FWD sedan; Toyota perhaps? I can’t remember exactly. But it caught my eye for that reason; never looked at one of those AWD sedans underneath from that era when these were popular and a number of manufacturers made AWD optional.
You can see here how that the pony motor routes its exhaust through the intake manifold, warming up the diesel motor in order to get it ready to fire. I always thought that that was a clever use of the available energy.
Nice to see the grand old high school being restored. There is an old brick elementary school on US 32 between Crawfordville and Lebanon Indiana (the “short cut” to the north side of Indianapolis) that has been gradually returning to earth during the years I have been taking that route to go home. I imagine the sound of children on the playground when I pass it and wonder if it still gets lonely for them.
That is a 1st gen Maxima.
Went through there a few years ago, I could of spent a few days in Goldfield unfortunately the person I was driving with was on a tight schedule and we only stopped for an hour.
Yes, we only had an hour or so too. There was plenty more to see and shoot; next time.
OK so what is the car in the 3rd and 2nd-to-last pictures? A RWD sedan with rear discs and independent rear suspension, with a very widely-spaced 4-bolt lug pattern.
It was an AWD version of a popular FWD sedan; Toyota perhaps? I can’t remember exactly. But it caught my eye for that reason; never looked at one of those AWD sedans underneath from that era when these were popular and a number of manufacturers made AWD optionally.
I’d didn’t see anyone post this, but because I love that town and have visited many times:
I remember sightseeing on several Goldfield back streets quite a few years ago. Change comes slowly there.
Once quite a few years ago when the Test Site at Mercury was still active we happened to pass by there during the afternoon rush hour on the way to Las Vegas. Quite a few various types of minibuses and stretch limos were in use, the most notable being a stretched Oldsmobile Toronado. I’d suspect that the stretched Chrysler may have been in that service back in the day.
i may have found the v8 firetruck’s cousin in the catskills last summer.
Fascinating set of pictures – I’m sure those cars and buildings would have amazing stories to tell.
Wow, what a tour. That Pinto looks like a horror movie, erupting from the ground to devour passers by. RAAAAHHHHRRRR!!!!
I sat on a plane once next to a young fellow who told me all about burning man. I decided I wasn’t near hip enough to go. I wonder how much of that art winds up as debris somewhere else?
The “race cars” appear to be a Daewoo based Pontiac Lemans and a first gen Escort. These would probably race at Tonopah Speedway. The Korean built LeMans should be a CC somewhere….
Ahh that’s it, I knew the ‘compact race car’ on left was Korean!
Is it a LeMans or a Ford Aspire?
I think you may be right. The Aspire has the better match on the B and C pillar than the LeMans. Either way, a Korean captive import.
There are days when one of those little shacks (made weathertight) and an internet connection would be just what I need. OK, and at least one of those old cars returned to some kind of functionality.
Wow! Just wow.?
Did you get a chance to check out the Hidden Treasure Trading Company? It seems to me most of the treasures were hidden in plain sight 🙂
The faded olive drab paint on the Caterpillar air compressor would seem to indicate it possibly being WWII-era. The D13000 engine (indicated on the plate below the Caterpillar trademark on the radiator side support) was in production from 1935-1955 or so and was used in Caterpillar D8 Track Type Tractors. If this naturally-aspirated industrial engine was manufactured during the war, it made 128-132hp. An uprated version was introduced along with the D8 RU Series tractors after the war, making 144hp. The radiator guard design would seem to indicate this being a wartime unit.
Here’s a link to a D8 RU being started using the pony / donkey engine:
Great pics Paul .I ‘appeared’ in court there back in ’11. We were driving through and spend an enjoyable hour exploring the town. Since there was no one to be seen in the courthouse wejust wandered through it. I was tempted to try the judge’s chair for size, but I dismissed that idea.
Was the Packard based motorhome still behind the Fire Station?
Paul, this is amazing! Totally adding this to my dream CA/NV road trip route! This is exactly the kind of place I could spend so much time exploring.
I went to an old town here in QLD a while ago which was a fascinating but utterly different depiction of abandonment but there was a grand total of one other car there so I couldn’t really do a CC Road Trips piece. But Goldfield is just a haven of CCs!
I came thru there in April 2017 on my move to California. I intended to stop, but the movers and the weather were closing in on me, so I drove thru. Later in Tonopah I saw a place that said “greatest beer in Nevada” So when the passes open up I’ll go check out the beer and Goldfield.
Fantastic. I love old ruins. The “Man in the High Castle” featured a bulldog GMC COE like that in the first season. Pretty ominous in that context. That FWD easily could be from the ’20’s, maybe even WWI. Amazing condition, considering.
That FWD is indeed interesting. When I was a kid, I remember one of the 4WD magazines wrote up a similar unit. These trucks were put to use when Gen. Pershing and the U.S Army chased Pancho Villa into Mexico following his raid on Columbus, NM. There’s a FWD truck on display at Pancho Villa State Park.
I’d live in a place like that. Just wonderful.
There’s a place in Jerome, AZ Gold King Mine, I believe. I was there 15 (?) years ago. The guy liked Studebaker trucks, rocket ships, donkeys and sly jokes. He drove a ’52 blue Dodge Pickup.
I had walked in the 3-4 miles from center of town. He was nice enough to give me a lift back in his Dodge.
Somebody ought to do a chemical analysis on those rubber shod wheels on the 4WD. Amazing they have lasted so long.
Great stuff, Paul
Those subway entrances have really got me curious. My Google-fu has revealed only theories, that they came from London (the use of “subway” makes this unlikely in my eyes), Las Vegas (hmm…) or Hollywood. I’m sure I’ll end up Googling this further as I’m fascinated.
It certainly isn’t a London tube entrance – looks more like NYC to my eyes. Reminds me of Buster Keaton travelling to the end of the line in the movie Frozen North.
This looks like an expanded Manson family compound. I bet a night spent broken down would be memorable.
What a sad and haunting place.
The Pinto is in surprising condition with an original hub cap and pretty nice red paint.
The other one that really catches my eye is the International 1210 looks like there was no rust in that cab corner or lower fender as well as being one of the fenders with the fuel filler. The Jr West Coast mirrors would be nice and I just shudder to think if there is a rust free tailgate that wasn’t bent up at least before it was buried.
As far as the cars that weren’t in the forest the collection of Crown Vics is interesting since they are all 95-97s. I’m really liking the 72 Ranchero that looks like its in pretty good condition. That Falcon wagon looks pretty good too.
The F600 looks like it might still be in use.
As far as the art cars go they seemed to have a bit of a formula that they didn’t seem comfortable straying too far from.
I do love the old Hotel too, I wonder what amenities it originally had. I’d love to have a classic hotel like that with a grand ball room, lounge, coffee shop, beauty salon and barber shop with a grand ornate lobby multi story lobby.
Fascinating pictorial! The only place like this where I have been is St. Elmo, CO in the Gunnison National Range; it’s an abandoned mine town too. I was there in ’84 and it was very quiet, little to no life though there were a few residents. Unfortunately, no old cars as I recall.
If the high school is falling down due to shoddy construction shouldn’t it just be torn down?
Thank you for these photos and I have to say, humans sure leave a lot of interesting items lying around.
The first couple of 20’s rusty gems are Dodge Brothers. I could use some of those parts…
One thing that strikes me as odd is the two-story buildings with second floor balconies on all sides. Must have been a reason for the fashion at some point. Not flooding or dampness! Avoiding snakes and scorpions?
A lot of the odd stuff is likely to be left from TV and movie shoots.
Here’s a 1956 TV show located in Goldfield, mainly inside the hotel:
Super Soul was broadcasting from Goldfiled in Vanishing Point. They had a few shots of the town in the movie.
These are some great pics.
Looks like a neat place, would like to visit.