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Ghost Town Tuesday; Rice, CA and the Bomb

The ghost town of Rice lies in the southern Mojave Desert of San Bernardino County along California State Route 62.  Rice despite it's derelict appearance was the head of a rail line and almost became the locale of the first nuclear weapons test.


Rice began life as a siding of the California Southern Railroad which was incorporated in 1914.  The California Southern Railroad began at the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad ("ATSF") tracks at Rice which was originally known as Blythe Junction and traversed southeast 42.2 miles through the Big Maria Mountains and Little Maria Mountains to Bylthe in the Sonoran Desert of Riverside County.  The California Southern Railroad was completed by 1916 and was extended about another 7 miles to Ripley in 1920.  The ATSF began to lease the California Southern Railroad in 1921 and purchased it in 1942.

Rice and the rails of the California Southern Railroad can be seen on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Riverside County. 



Rice was a rather unremarkable rail siding until World War II and the creation of the Rice Army Airfield in 1942.  The Rice Army Airfield was part of the Desert Training Center run by Major General George S. Patton which is best known today as a significant tank training ground during World War II.  Rice apparently had several thousand enlisted personnel living in the town during the war years when the Army Airfield was operating.  Supposedly the Rice Army Airfield was one of the three locations in the running for the Trinity Test which was the first detonation of a nuclear weapon.  According to conjecture/rumor the Rice Army Field was not selected to slight Patton and was moved to White Sands in New Mexico instead.

Rice was largely depopulated after World War II.  The Army Airfield was turned over to civilian use but was abandoned some time in the 1950s.  The ruins of the gas station in Rice opened in the 1970s.  The ATSF sold the rights to the line between Rice and Ripley to the Arizona & California Railroad ("ARZC") in 1991.  Rice was largely known in modern times for a shoe tree that burned in 2003 only to be replaced by a shoe fence which still exists to this day.  The last train to run from Rice to Ripley was in December of 2007.  In 2009 all but the first four miles of rials south out of Rice were abandoned and were removed in 2011.  Aside from building foundations there isn't much left to indicate anything significant ever happened in Rice or the roll it played during World War II.



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