Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010
Mojave National Preserve experienced a "first" last Sunday when a private excursion train brought 260 passengers to the Kelso Depot Visitor Center.
Upon their arrival at Kelso, train riders enjoyed ranger talks on the front lawn, exhibits, and the park film. Lunch was served at Kelso Depot’s historic lunch counter. Dignitaries from Senator Feinstein's staff, the City of Barstow, County of San Bernardino, and the California State Assembly were special guests aboard this unique train.
For passengers from Los Angeles, the journey began on Saturday, October 16th, with a trip up the steep grade of the Cajon Pass and across the high desert to Barstow. Passengers arrived at the Casa del Desierto, a century-old Harvey House train station, for the annual Barstow Railfest. The Casa del Desierto is now home to the Western American Railroad Museum, Route 66 Museum, and Barstow Chamber of Commerce.
Train riders spent the night in Barstow, some in a sleeper car. On Sunday, Barstow area passengers joined the Los Angeles group for the second leg of the journey to Kelso. NPS rangers rode the train and provided on-board interpretation.
Formerly a Union Pacific Railroad facility, the Kelso Depot was renovated and reopened as Mojave National Preserve’s Visitor Center in 2006. Barstow city leaders, in cooperation with the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Park Service, are promoting the excursion train concept and are working to make the trip to Kelso Depot a regularly scheduled activity.