Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 9, 2016

Caliente, Nevada; Train Depot, Library!

Because we’re adventurous types, let’s drive north out of Las Vegas, Nevada on U.S. Route 93. We’re heading into the rugged, arid Great Basin Desert. There are wide, stony flatlands, and line after line of parallel mountain ranges that run north-south.

Here’s the map. Las Vegas is at the bottom left corner.

Caliente NV highlight

It’s rocky, scrub-covered land. But for those of you who’ve never traveled in desert lands, I can’t say enough about the beauty that you can find in every mile, even on an overcast day.

Great Basin bluffs Willard Nixon 0055 (640x385)

At Crystal Springs, 93 turns east. About 15 miles before we reach the Utah border, we descend into a valley, the confluence of Clover Creek and Meadow Valley Wash. There, 150 miles from Las Vegas, we find Caliente, so named — as are numerous places in the West — because of thermal springs present in the valley.

In 1905, the Union Pacific Railroad completed their transcontinental route, which comes from Salt Lake City to the northeast, and at Caliente bears southward to follow the valley of Meadow Valley Wash. Caliente was a major maintenance point and base for helper engines to pull heavily loaded freight trains across the mountains. In 1923, U-P constructed a two-story Spanish Revival style depot there . The building still stands.

Caliente NV Willard Nixon 0018 (640x394)

The building housed Union Pacific administrative offices and the second floor was a hotel.  It boasted a grand style for this remote outpost of the transportation juggernaut.

Caliente Depot Willard Nixon 0034 (640x480)

On the ground floor was the passenger station, with a waiting room and ticket window.

Caliente waiting room Willard Nixon 0035 (640x480)

This story will sound familiar to regular Under Western Skies readers, because the fate of the Caliente depot is almost identical to the one I wrote about in Kelso, California. Read about Kelso’s depot HERE.

As diesel locomotives replaced steam-powered ones, and as passenger traffic dwindled, the need for the Caliente operation declined and Union Pacific abandoned the building, giving it to the city of Caliente. As many as 5,000 people once lived in Caliente, but the 2010 U.S. Census lists 1,130 inhabitants.

In order to preserve the large and historically significant structure, the city relocated its municipal offices there. There’s also a museum/art gallery, and — here’s the BEST part — it also houses the local library, a branch of the Lincoln County, Nevada library system!

Caliente Library Willard Nixon 0036 (525x640)

Sorry, on the day our intrepid traveler, Willard Nixon, passed through Caliente, he wasn’t there during the library’s open hours (T-W-F 10:00 – 3:00, and Thursday 12:00 – 5:00).

There’s no better proof that libraries are important, everywhere. They don’t only serve mighty metropolises, as does the immense Los Angeles Central Library we visited last week. They matter just as much in remote Caliente, Nevada, and countless other towns.

Another perfect day under western skies: wild terrain, mountains and desert, an old rail depot and a library. You simply have to get out there and look around you.

© Brad Nixon and Willard Nixon 2016, 2017. Map copyright Google Maps.


  1. Great post


  2. I’d love to see the inside of this library and what’s on the shelves.


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