Odd name for a town isn’t it? Carp is a fish, and an ugly one at that.
However, Carp, Nevada was not ugly, maybe not pretty either, but in its day it served as a siding on the Union Pacific Los Angeles to Chicago line.
Walter Averett, author of Through the Rainbow Canyon, grew up in Carp where his father C. L. “Clint” Averett, was a pumper on the railroad from 1924-1932. The family lived in Carp until June, 1941, eventually moving to Caliente in 1944.
Carp was originally named Cliffsdale. Averett notes that was because that was the name of the post office that was the siding depot. In 1918, the name was changed to Carpsdale, However, in late 1925 Tom Casey and the local postmaster, got the name changed to just plain “Carp.”
In the era of steam locomotives, Carp was important to the railroad, Averett notes, “because it had a good supply of water and because it was where helper-engines coupled to eastbound trains for the long pull to Caliente or beyond. It had a dozen or so houses, a pumping station, a railroad depot, a sidetrack, and other railroad buildings.”
Not only railroad people lived there, or nearby, a number of ranchers did also.
Averett recalls a four-story coal chute was alongside the rail line by the water standpipe that was used to fill the water tanks of the engines. Some engines burned oil and Carp had a holding reservoir that could pump No. 6 boiler fuel into the engines that operated by oil. Diesels replaced coal and oil engines in the 1950s. The Carp post office closed in 1974.
Averett explains that his dad’s job as pumper included pumping water to the reservoir and oil to the oil tank on its high platform. “Eastbound trains regularly took on water and oil, and westbound trains usually just water only. Water and waste oil from the boiler house ran out into a pond we called the oil sump, where the oil accumulated in layers on the water. Now and then the pumper would burn the oil sump to get rid of the accumulated oil.”
He recalls vivid memories of “billowing black clouds of smoke, with the red flames shooting up through them.”
Several passenger trains a day sped through Carp in each direction. Averett states, “In a cloud of dust, and the mailbag thrown out of the mail car just about the same time the steel arm snatched the outgoing mail bag from the mail hook beside the track.”
Carp had a school too, as did a few other places along the line to Caliente. The first one was in 1917. Classes were held in private homes until a new building was put up in 1920. This first school burned down in 1938, Averett notes, and was replaced by a somewhat larger building. The school house also served as the local center for dances, parties, Sunday School, and polling places during elections.
Little remains of Carp today except a railroad siding occupied occasionally by idling freight trains, and what’s left of the watering reservoir, both a reminder of a time and a place gone with the wind.