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Almost a ghost town on US 66

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Ludlow is vanishing, but has many Route 66 attractions: the Murphy Brothers General Store (in ruins), the Sleepers of the T&T railroad, the remains of the Old Ludlow Cafe and the 1970s style Ludlow Cafe next to the Richfield Service Station and the Ludlow Motel. To the east are more remains of its past: the Post Office and Motel and the Old Filling Station.

Ludlow CA

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About Ludlow California

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation 1,778 ft (542 m). Population 10 (2000).
Time zone: Pacific (MST): UTC minus 8 hours. Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7).

Ludlow is a very small town on Route 66, west of Amboy and east of Barstow, in central San Bernardino County in the southeast of California. Where I-40 and old Route 66 meet. (Map of Ludlow).

The remains of the Ludlow Post Office on Route 66

The remains of the Post Office in Ludlow, Route 66 California
What is left of the Ludlow Post Office, eastern part of Ludlow California, by Thomas Shahan

The History of Ludlow, California

Visit our Barstow web page to learn more about the early history of this area.

The Mojave Trail was the main route used by traders and pioneers on their way in and out of California. It was opened in the late 1700s but became well used after 1850. It crossed the Mojave to the north of what is now Ludlow. But a better link was needed and the railroad to California was surveyed in the 1850s and finally completed in 1883.

Railroad in Ludlow

The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad -A & P (which was absorbed by the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in 1897) built its way across New Mexico and Arizona, crossing the Colorado River at Needles in 1883. There it linked with its competitor, the Huntington and the Southern Pacific (SP) railway which had built a line from Barstow to Needles with the purpose of block the entry of A&P into California.

Both companies built an interchange at Needles to transfer cargo between lines. However the A &P pushed west with a line parallel to the tracks of its rival forcing them to sell out (1884). The following year Atlantic and Pacific linked its main line through the Mojave with their line through Cajon Pass to San Bernardino and Los Angeles.

During this process, they established a station at Ludlow, which later became the basis for the town.

Ludlow was not only a watering stop after the climb across the divide at Ash Hill, (1,944 feet), it was also a rail link to the local mines.

The Name, Ludlow

Ludlow was named after William B. Ludlow, master car repairer of the A&P Railroad.

The surname is a locational one, originating in Shropshire, England, near the Welsh border, at the town of Ludlow: "Ludelaue", meaning: "hill by a rapid", from Old English 7th century, "hlude": "hill" "hlaw": "loud" (noisy).

Mining Town boom and Railroads

Two railroad lines branched out of Ludlow station, one to the north: the Tonopah and Tidewater (T&T), another to the south, the Ludlow and Southern (L&S).

TheT&T was completed in 1907 but didn't link San Diego with Tonopah NV, it ran for 169 mi. to Beatty Nevada it brought borax to be shipped out via the AT & SF RR.

The L&S ran 10 miles southwards to the Bagdad Chase Mines where copper and gold had been found in 1898 and named after the nearby town of Bagdad and the Chase Bank of New York who bought it in 1900. The place was called Camp Rochester after the hometown of the bankers (in NY) but later changed to Stedman (name of one of the bankers).

The mine's general manager was E. H. Stagg, and the local post office was named after him in 1902. Copper ore was shipped via Ludlow to Barstow for milling.

Steadman was a "dry town" so the miners went to Ludlow for their booze. This led to the growth of Ludlow, and the Murphy Bros. Store, though damaged, is a reminder of the town's former glory.

L&S closed in 1916 and its tracks lifted in 1935. The Borax mine closed in 1927 and the Depression led to the closure of T&T and its rails torn up, but the sleepers left in the ground in many places.

The loss of the lines led to a decline in the town's fortunes and became a ghost town. But, as we will see below, Route 66 which had been aligned through the town in 1926 gave it a second wind.

National Old Trails Highway

In the early 1910s the National Old Trails (N.O.T.) built a highway for automobiles, from Barstow to Needles, as part of the Los Angeles to New York road. This road followed the Santa Fe railroad and went right throuhg Ludlow.

The Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) map of 1912 shows "numerous cross washes" between Bagdad and Siberia followed by a winding course through "Very Heavy Sand" past Klondike station, which was not on the road, and Ash Hill station which was also, to the north of the highway.

The N.O.T. road reached Ludlow and crossed the SF Railroad to its north side and the town had "gasoline, oil, meals and lodging." East of Ludlow the road climbed a 15% Grade towards the station of Argos (5 mi.) and then "Sand - Hard Pulling" into Lavic (9 miles west of Ludlow). Crossed to the south side of the Santa Fe RR. and climbed a 10% Grade of Heavy Sand, crossing a dry lake well to the south of the black lava beds that the SF RR crossed. It passed far to the south of the station named Hector and after passsing through another Dry Lake 29 miles west of Ludow at Troy, it reached a "Fine Spring" next to the "alkali marsh" at Newberry, which at that time had no services for the traveller (37 mi.)

The Arizona Good Roads Association guide of 1913 showed many cross gutters and light sand up to Siberia followed by "Heavy sandwash" to Ash Hill "summit". The road must have been a nightmare.

By 1915 some improvements had taken place. but a sandy wash still stood east of Kloindike station. The road now crossed the tracks into Ludlow further east than before. At that time Ludlow offered "meals, lodgings, Gasoline and Garage-repairs" plus "club signs". The town had 255 inhabitants but it lacked fresh water (its wells were briny), water was brought in via tanker wagons from Newberry Springs.

In 1922 the ASCS map showed more stations than shown in the previous maps: Haynes, Siberia (7 mil from Bagdad), Klondike (2.5 mi. west) and Ash Hill (3 more miles), all to the north of the road. The road now crossed the tracks 4 miles west of Ash Hill and 3 before Ludlow.

US 66 is created in 1926

The year it became Route 66 (1926), the road had a straighter course and Ludlow now had "Hotel - gas - oil", clearly the town was switching from an economy based on the mines and the railroad to one based on catering to travellers.

Over the next few years, US 66 was improved, straightened out, widened and better bridges built. It was also paved by the early 1930s.

The WPA guide of 1939 1 tells that after passing Bagdad:

"For 20 miles westward US 66 covers a desolate terrain almost as primitive as it was thousands of years ago. The railroad tracks are dotted with lonely stops without accommodations, which bear such curiously incongruous names as Siberia and Klondike.
In comparison with neighboring "towns," LUDLOW, 115.5 m. (1,782 alt., 150 pop.), is a metropolis. Here two narrow-gage railroads of the Tonopah & Tidewater connect with the Santa Fe.
The SLEEPING BEAUTY, a formation resembling a dormant, smiling human face is outlined by the crest of the CADY MOUNTAINS, northwestward. Directly north appears the yellowish blotch of LUDLOW DRY LAKE, where experiments have been made in processing the lake bed's fine "flour" gold...

The guide mentions three natural attactions one a lake and the other two, a mountain range.

After World War II, diesel engines replaced the old steam locomotives. Water stops were no longer necessary. So the railroad became even less important to Ludlow. business focused on US 66 and did so for the next 25 years until I-40 opened in 1973 and bypassing Route 66 between Ludlow and Needles. Ludlow declined rapidly.

Most of the shops, service stations and cafes located far from I-40's Exit 50 went out of business.

Where to Stay near Ludlow

Lodging close to Ludlow: Barstow:

> > Book your Hotel in nearby Barstow

More Lodging Near Ludlow along Route 66

Motels and Hotels close to Ludlow, California

Heading East.... In California

Further East.... In Arizona

Heading West... Hotels & Motels in California...

Book your hotel nearby, in Barstow

>> Check out RV campground near Ludlow

The Weather in Ludlow

Latest Ludlow, California weather
Route 66: Ludlow, California location map
Location of Ludlow on Route 66

Ludlow is located in the Mojave Desert and has a "mild desert climate" with very dry and hot weather.

Winter average temperatures (Jan) are low: high 60.7°F (16°C) and the low is quite cold: 36°F (2.2°C). The summer (Jul), high is a searing: 104.2°F (40.1°C) and the average low is a pleasant 73.3°F (22.3°C).

Ludlow's rainfall is 4.1 in. year (145 mm) during 30 rainy days every year (there are 281 sunny days per year). Snow never falls in Ludlow. The dry months are April, May and June with less than 0.15 in. per month (3.8 mm), more rainfall takes place during July and Nov. through March with 0.4 to 0.6 in. per month (10 - 15 mm.). Expect thunderstorms during summer.

During summer make sure you stay hydrated. The hot and dry desert climate can dehydrate you quickly. Drink plenty of water and dress for the heat. Read more.

Tornado risk

Ludlow is located well to the west of the Rocky Montains, so there is no risk of any tornados in this area.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.

Getting to Ludlow

You can reach the ghost town driving along old Route 66 which here is named "Old National Trails Highway". Also from I-40 at Exit 50.

Map of Route 66 in Ludlow, CA

Check out Ludlow on our California Route 66 Map, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.

This is the map of Route 66 through Ludlow. The following color key applies:

Pale Blue: the "old 1926 to 1931" alignment of Route 66 to Fenner and Essex from US 95 Arrowhead Junction and Exit 133 of I-40. And for the Needles - to Exit 133, it is the 1926 to 1970s road. West of Essex it is the 1931 - 1973 alignment, through Needles.
Black: the 1926 to 1931 alignment in Fenner, bypassed later when I-40 was built, and Goffs Rd. moved west to link at Exit 107.
Blue: The post 1931 alignment of Route 66 from Mountain Springs to Essex.

Ludlow Map

Map with the alignment of Route 66 through Ludlow

Click on this link > > US 66 alignment in Ludlow

Route 66's alignment in California: the Historic Route 66 into Ludlow

Route 66 logo

Route 66 across California

U.S. Route 66 does not have any Byway or Historic designation in California despite the survival of long sections of original roadbed between Needles and Santa Monica.

Click Here for an overview of Route 66 across the state of California.

Below you will find detailed information on Old Route 66 in Ludlow.

Sights and Attractions in Ludlow, California

Ludlow and its US66 icons

Ludlow and its Route 66 attractions

A Vanishing town

Ludlow is almost a ghost town with many derelict buildings. Don't miss the Murphy Bros. General Store, or the Ludlow Cafe next to the Richfield Service Station with its old trucks. To the east are the remains of the Old Ludlow Cafe, a vintage service stsation and the Post Office and Motel. In the desert you can see the Sleepers of the old T&T railroad.

Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Ludlow

In 1946 Jack DeVere Rittenhouse drove along Route 66 gathering information for his memorable "Guide Book to Highway 66", this was the heyday of the route, and he mentioned Ludlow:

"...Although quite small, Ludlow appears to be a real town in comparison to the one establishment places on the way here form Needles"

And small it was, the town had moved 0.2 miles north (320 m) , from the railway station to Route 66. The station was located at the point where Main St. took a 90° turn to the north; Main St. split from Route 66 at the eastern end of the town, ran next to the tracks and then turned north back to US 66 which had an east to west alignment.

On the corner where Main St. turned north is a relic of its past glory: Murphy Brothers Store.

Murphy Brothers General Store

Main St. and Railroad

You will see the remains of a concrete building.

The ruins of the old Murphy Brothers Store in Ludlow

Ruins of the building of Murphy Brothers Store at Ludlow
View of the remains of the concrete building, once the Murphy Bros. Store in Ludlow. Google
Click image for Street View

Below is a postcard showing the General Store in its better days ca. 1926.

A 1926 postcard of Murphy Brothers General Store

Murphy Store in a 1926 postcard in Ludlow, Route 66 California
1926 Postcard of Murphy Bros. Store, Ludlow California

During the boom period of mining in Ludlow in the early 1900s, the Murphy Brothers profited from it, because they owned a garage, general store, eating place a hotel, boarding house and a saloon (for the thirsty miners).

A 1913 photo of Murphy Brothers Store in Ludlow CA

Murphy Store in a 1913 photograph.

The image already shows their focus on tourists: "oil - gas- accomodations (sic) - information".

When business shifted to Route 66, they provided travellers with their hotel, supplied them with their store and their garage was listed by AAA as a reliable place for repairs.

The Arizona Good Roads Association published a guide back in 1913 (reprinted by Arizona Highways in 1987), and it displayed a photograph of the original store:

The 1920s guide of the N.O.T. road gave Ludlow a population of 350 and mentioned Murphy's: "Store, camp ground, hotel".

At that time they had rebuilt the store in reinforced concrete, a two story building. But in 1931, the road was routed north of the tracks, and Main St. stopped being the principal road through Ludlow. The focus had shifted to the north. The place began to languish.

After the opening of I-40 in 1973, the Exit by the Interstate became the only place for business. The store had closed long ago.

The Hector Mines Earthquake (7.1 magnitude) hit it in 1999 and the front of the building collapsed. Further damage came from the Chino Hills Earthquake in 2008. The place is fenced off for your safety.

Balloon Track Remains

The sleepers in the desert.

Route of the old Balloon Track of T and T railroad at Ludlow

Route of the Balloon Track in Ludlow

In 1933, the T & T (Tonopah and Tidewater) Railroad ceased operating and its link at Ludlow with the Santa Fe Railroad was no longer necessary. When the flood of 1938 damaged the line, it was decided to scrap it.

So 26 miles of track were removed beginning in 1942, working south from Beatty. This job was completed in 1946.

But the only thing that was removed were the steel tracks. The sleepers were left behind as were the railroad bed, the bridge foundations, culverts and drainage. You can still see them today.

As the image shows, the T&T tracks (shown in Red) met the main Santa Fe RR line (shown in Black) just a few yards east of Murphy's General Store, and curved counter-clockwise from there in a wide circle, crossing Main St. just behind the Cafe and Motel (see crossing point marked with a yellow circle on the right of the image).

It then headed south before curving to the north again, crossing Route 66 and what is now I-40 (Yellow circles).

The yellow arrow marks one of the spots where the sleepers were left on the ground (Map with exact location, you can even make out the sleepers!).

Ludlow Café

68315 National Trails Hwy, Ludlow

Close to the corner of Ludlow Rd. and Main St., just to the south of Exit 50 on I-40 is this modern Ludlow Cafe (Read about the Old Ludlow Cafe). With its

The building has a high gabled roof and a modernistic style vitraux on the facade that faces the road. Back in the 1970s it was the "Friend's Coffee Shop".

Ludlow Cafe on Route 66

Ludlow Cafe on route 66.
This photo is courtesy of TripAdvisor

There are some wagons used for carrying ore in a mine decorating the front of the Cafe and a small marker with two plaques on it.

The Carryall Project

Marker and plaque in Ludlow

In front of the Cafe at Ludlow there is a marker about the "CARRYALL Projdect" it was placed there by the Bureau of Land Management and the Billy Holcomb Chapter of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus in 2010.

The AT & SF Railroad planned a new line between Barstow and Needles with a shorter and straighter route. It would also be more level to avoid climbing the mountain ranges along the route.

As conventional tunnel digging and excavation would be too expensive, the company got in touch with the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1962, to explore the use of nuclear explosions to blast the new route.

since 1957, the AEC had developed the "Plowshare" program, for the peaceful use of H-bombs, for instance to excavate via nukes, harbors and canals.

As Route 66 was also needing a shorter alignment (the freeway would eventually be built as I-40), the California Department of Public Works (DPW) also joined the project.

The nuclear digging would employ 23 nuclear bombs with a total power of 1,830 kilotons to remove 68 million cubic yards of earth (52 million m3). This would create a trench across the mountains 2 mi long, 360 ft. deep and around 900 ft. wide (3.3 km, 120m, 300 m).

Scheduled to begin in 1967, the cut would carry the railroad and a four lane highway.

Based on the experience gained from the tests carried out at the Nevada Test Sit, little radioactive fallout was expected. But in 1963 the US had signed a treaty that banned any tests that produced debris that crossed international borders (and in this case fallout may have reached Mexico).

DPW dropped out in 1966 and built the highway using conventional methods.

T & T (Tonopah and Tidewater) Railroad

Marker and plaque in Ludlow

Also in front of the Cafe at Ludlow beside the "CARRYALL Projdect" marker. Placed there by the BLM and the Billy Holcomb Chapter of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus.

The plaque tells the story of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad which contributed to the growth of Ludlow.

Old service Station

To the east of the Cafe is a service station with a wide flat canopy held up by steel beams with a 1950s look. Now closed, the pumps have been removed. On the SW corner of Main and Route 66.

Former Richfield Service station

To the west of the Cafe, It has a flat canopy over two vintage trucks -one is a water tanker from "Ludlow Fire District" which has been there since the 1970s. The canopy is held up by two brick pillars. The box shaped building is a typical 1960s station design. At one time it sported the yellow sign of "Richfield", as shown in early 1970s postcard.

The trucks at the old Ritchfield filling station

Vintage trucks at former Ritchfield service station in Ludlow, Route 66 California
Two old trucks at the Service Station in Ludlow California, by Darin Marshall

To the west of the old station is the motel:

Ludlow Motel

The building has a mansard style roof with asphalt shingles. The Yellow sign with black letters says "Motel" and "Ludlow" written in red letters above. It has a linear layout, office in front and rooms behind.

The Old Cafe at Ludlow

0.3 mi. east of Main St. there is a group of old derelict buildings, remains of the golden days of Route 66. On the north side of the road is the old Ludlow Cafe.

It was built in "Streamline Moderne" style, with a simple box shaped building.

Art Moderne or Streamline Moderne, was popular in the 1930s and evolved from Art Deco. Its main features are: curved shapes with rounded edges, horizontal lines or grooves in walls, flat roofs, smooth wall surfaces (plaster) and pale beige or off-white colors with contrasting dark trims.

See a 1950s postcard for its original appearance.

Abandoned probably since the early 1970s, when I-40 bypassed it. Its signs have vanished long ago, and a fire burned its ineterior in 2008. Now it is just a ruin (Street View).

Ludlow Cafe (right) and Abandoned gas station (left)

the old Cafe and an abandoned gas station in Ludlow, Route 66 California
The old Ludlow Cafe on the right and a Service Station next to it, in Ludlow California, by Darin Marshall

Old Filling Station

Next to the Café (to its left) is a gas station with an unusually shaped canopy: its a long trapezoid held up by a single column.

More derelict buildings are on the eastern side of the former service station. But one intresting structure is on the opposite side of Route 66, the old Post Office.

Post office at Ludlow, ca. 1920s

Post office with Motel, at Ludlow ca. 1920s.

Post Office

SE corner of Elliot St. and Route 66

Many have wondered if this was a hotel, a filling station or a home, See the photo at the top of this page.

Actually it was the old Post Office (Street View).

It was, according to the caption of this old black and white photograph from c.1920s, also a motel: "Post Office for Ludlow, Ca. The Motel (sign) is in the rear of th P.O.". And the motel sign can be seen on the left side of the photo.

The Alignment of Old Route 66 in Ludlow

From Amboy to Ludlow

route 66 shield California

As mentioned above, the first road through Ludlow was the National Old Trails (N.O.T.) road. It was built to link Los Angeles with New York in the early 1910s and built following the Santa Fe Railroad from Barstow to Needles.

The road, at Amboy curved towards the south to cross the SF Railroad and then curved west again, running parallel to the tracks in a straight line. Just to the west of Amboy, it skirted the lava field of the Amboy lava flow, next to the Amboy Crater (2.5 mi.)

It kept westbound reaching Bagdad, (8 mi.), now a razed ghost town of which only the cemetery remains.

US 66 kept on straight and then curve towards the northwest at Siberia Wash, having passed the southern tip of a mountain range (12.7 mi). After the curve it kept on straight passing through another demolished ghost town Siberia (15 mi.)

At 16.5 mi. the railway curved away from the road in a climb out of the basin where Bagdad and Siberia are located, heading for Klondike while the road turned slightly to the north-northwest, to curve around a mountain range located to the left (west) of its course and again, curving towards the northwest (20 mi.) close to the tracks, after Klondike.

From here it ran in a straight line, while the railway went across the divide at Ash Hill further north.

Route 66 crosses the tracks in an overpass (25.7 mi.) and then turns west, running between I-40 (right) and the railroad (left). Main Street branches off to the left at mile 27.5 and the road passes by several derelict buildings (motel, cafe, service stations), reaching the main junction in town, at Main Street and Ludlow Road (Route 66) just south of I-40's Exit 50 (28.2 mi.).

Map of US 66 from Amboy to Ludlow.

Read the description and see the map of US 66 from Needles to Essex (our Goffs Page, has even more details).


> > See the previous segment Essex to Amboy (east)

> > See the next segment Ludlow to Barstow (west)

Outdoors, National and State Parks

Pisgah Crater in the Lavic Lake volcanic field

12 mi. west, on the south side of I-40 next to Route 66 in Pisgah. Map with directions.

It is a lava flow and volcano, similar to the one at Amboy Crater. Read more about it at Pisgah Crater on our Newberry Springs page.

Mojave National Preserve

Kelso Dunes in Mohave Preserve California

Kelso Dunes in Mohave Preserve California, "Mike" Michael L. Baird

The Mojave National Preserve protects almost 1.6 million acres of desert habitat; it is a scenic National Park located just west of Needles, east of Barstow, between I-15 and I-40 and the California - Nevada state line.

Observe wildlife like the Desert Tortoise or Bighorn Sheep. Visit the "Hole in the Wall" area, the Cinder Cones, Cima Dome and Kelso Dunes.

Visit the Official National Parks website.

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A Guide to the Golden State, by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, Hastings House, New York, 1939.

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Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.