Road Trip Journal: Goldfield, Nevada – A CC Goldmine

(first posted 1/16/2018)        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.

A ’64 Fairlane wagon.

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 vehicles 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 (former) 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!


Related reading:
Road Trip Journal: Busted – For 130 MPH (60 Over the Limit)