Fenner, California

Raymond & Maria Fenner, 1970s. Photo courtesy of Richard Arthur Fenner.

Raymond & Maria Fenner, 1970s. Photo courtesy of Richard Arthur Fenner.

Fenner is a small oasis in the Mojave, famous for its GAS station sign, located on the old alignment of Route 66.

In the 1800s, the transcontinental rail link was built by two competing railroads: The Huntington and the Southern Pacific (SP), which laid a line from Barstow to Needles across the Mojave in 1883, and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (A&P) from New Mexico westwards. SP sold its line to A&P in 1884 and later it was absorbed by the AT & Santa Fe Railway.

Fenner was a siding on this railroad, in the Mojave, on the western flank of the Piute range of mountains and was named due to a curious method used by the railroad: all the stations between Amboy and Needles were named following an alphabetical order from west to east (however, there were exceptions: the small sidings between those stations, shown below in parentheses):

Amboy, (Saltus), (Altura), Bristol, Cadiz, (Siam), Danby, (Arimo), Essex, Fenner, (Piute), Goffs, Homer, (Bannock), Ibis, (Klinefelter), Java, Khartoum.

It was merely a stop on the railroad until in the 1910s the National Old Trails Highway (N.O.T.) was built from Los Angeles to Needles, passing through Fenner. This brought a growing flow of travellers, and a service station opened in 1912. By 1915 it had added food and lodging.

The road was unpaved, and south towards Essex there was light sand (in those days Essex offered no services to the traveller). This first road ran further to the west of the Santa Fe Railroad; in the early 1920s it was realigned near the tracks.

By 1924, Fenner had hotel, gas, and oil, and in 1926 when US 66 was created, it was aligned along the old N.O.T. road.

Despite being in the Mojave Desert, the "town" got its water from Fenner Spring, located Southeast of the settlement in the Piute Mountains, so trees could grow under irrigation.

But prosperity did not last. Only five years later, Route 66 was realigned, bypassing Fenner. The new paved road passed 3 miles south of Fenner. This led to the demise of Fenner and the upsurge of Essex (which was on the new alignment). Route 66 is now known as Goffs Road.

When I-40 was built across the desert, an Exit (107) was built just next to Fenner, so the famous gas station there does get plenty of customers.

Text of this page is from http://www.theroute-66.com/fenner.html, with minor corrections.