Route 66 in the News

Ludlow: The Town That Traveled

2010-03-03 20:51:12

LUDLOW, Calif. - The gas stations, eateries and minimarket of the Route 66 town of Ludlow are located just a hair off I-40, some 36 miles east of Barstow and about 149 miles from the San Gabriel Valley.

The town serves travelers today just as it did in the 1940s, and this is no accident. When I-40 swallowed up the Route 66 traffic, Ludlowians, if I may dub them us such, picked up town and moved it closer to the offending highway, thereby guaranteeing continued success.

For that reason, it remains a busy little "town" where travelers may gas up, use the restroom and buy munchies for the trip ahead.

Ludlow was named for William C. Ludlow, railroad master car-repairer. In the early 1880s it served as a water stop for steam engines. In the 1900s Ludlow was served by three railroads: the Santa Fe, the Tonopah & Tidewater and the Ludlow-Southern Railroad, which carried ore from the Bagdad-Chase mine 10 miles south of town. The mine superintendent, it is said, declared it a "closed camp," banning liquor and women, which only encouraged the vice-intentioned clientele to set up shop in nearby Ludlow.

The town was by all accounts a lively one and was looking at a rosy future.

However, success can be elusive, and when the steam engines were replaced by diesel, and the ore deposits petered out, hope for growth and prosperity waned. The final hit came when I-40 replaced Route 66 and tourism practically ceased, leaving the town high and dry.

In 1913 Ludlow consisted of two blocks of business, two general stores, three cafes, a pool hall, barber shop, two rooming houses, a post office, Standard oil company office, rail station, rail road and homes.

Water was brought in from the town of Newberry springs by rail car.

Today's travelers can recapture a feel of the old Route 66 days when they eat at the Ludlow Cafe. The food portions are hearty and at a recent visit we were served An 1883 ore car tells the story of Ludlow's past. In the background, a modern gas station attracts travelers to veer just a few yards off I-40. (Alan Heller / Correspondent) by a curt waitress who had just finished bawling out the staff within earshot of the customers.

However, she did sell me a single sheet of paper with a list of facts about the town all for only $3. It set forth in part the following:

"Until 1988 the telephones had no dials and you waited for the operator in San Bernardino or Los Angeles to pick up the line to place a call out. When calling into Ludlow an operator was needed to ring into the phone numbers which were Ludlow #1, #2, #3, etc. Each location had to listen for distinctive rings to identify which business they were ringing for."

There are remnants of old town buildings, a gas station and hotels which attract photographers from near and far. Rockhounds also visit the area to rummage through the many gem fields within a 20-mile radius of town.

~Claudia Heller, PasadenaStarNews.com

 

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