A fairly sound argument could be made that Route 66 and the faded, refurbished, or vanishing infrastructure along that highway corridor may be the most famous of America’s transportation time capsules. From Chicago to Santa Monica vestiges from more than a century of transportation evolution are preserved as a hodgepodge collection of roadways and bridges, service stations and motels, dealerships and garages, abandoned automobiles and trucks.
|East portal of the Johnson Canyon tunnel.|
The speed of this evolution during this past century often resulted in the designation of a road or bridge as obsolete almost as soon as it was complete. Subsequent realignments, and technological advancements in automobile, aircraft, and railroad engineering, fueled the abandonment or transformation of nearly new garages, motels, railroad stations, airports, and service stations.
As an overwhelming percentage of my published work focuses on the development of the American auto industry between the years 1885 and 1940, and the majority of the rest is travel orientated, I often find myself opening, visiting, and exploring these time capsules. Still, it was our recent adventure to the circa 1880s Johnson Canyon railroad tunnel that sparked a more intense and in depth look into our transportation time capsules, the tangible links to a very rich history that we often drive by but never see.
As an example, Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in Kingman is a haven for Route 66 enthusiasts. Dating to the late 1930s when the facility opened as the Kimo Cafe, it serves as a direct link to the past.
Immediately to the east is an old dealership that seldom garners a second glance unless a vintage or custom car is on display in the former showroom. How many who walk or drive past notice the unique facade of the garage that hints of Ford dealerships during the 1940s or the doorway that was once dominated by a large “E” for Edsel?
For me these dusty, tarnished, or abandoned monuments to our quest for speed, for the latest and greatest are more than sources of mere fascination, they are just a bit disturbing. As so eloquently captured in the images on the Ruins of Detroit website, like lines on a weather worn face and the stooped shoulder of of an aged warrior they speak of faded youth with its unbridled exuberance. They are the ruins of a lost civilization and that civilization was mine.