Tiny Nevada town of Coaldale for sale again
This 130-year-old mining, railroad and tourist town in the middle of the Nevada desert, about 160 miles southeast of Fallon, has a population of zero.
Two of its dozen-or-so buildings were heavily damaged by a fire set by arsonists in 2008, and the other structures have been ravaged by vandals and looters.
And to add to Coaldale’s woes, the land under much of town is polluted by diesel and gasoline fuels leaking from underground storage tanks.
But Ed Ylst, administrator of the trust that owns this 40-acre township, thinks Coaldale could have a bright future, and he is putting it up for sale for the second time in eight years.
His asking price for Coaldale, believed to be the only town in Nevada currently for sale?
“About $70,000,” said Ylst (pronounced “ailst’), who lives about 40 miles east of here in Tonopah, the county seat of adjacent Nye County.
“I put Coaldale up for sale in 2006 and was deluged with letters and phone calls from people all over the country who said they were interested in buying the place. But nothing panned out, so now I’m trying to sell it again,” said Ylst, who may be reached at P.O. Box 60, Tonopah, NV 89049.
Coaldale, which sits at the junction of highways 95 and 6 in the far northwestern corner of Esmeralda County (population 750), includes a 12-room motel, casino-bar-restaurant, general store, gas station, garage, diesel generator building, laundry, bath house and trailer park.
Also included in the property is the Coaldale Airport, which consists of a 3,050-foot airstrip. At one time, the airfield held the official designations “KOAL” by the International Civil Aviation Organization and “OAL” by the International Air Transport Association. But the designations have been suspended pending the field’s general improvement to meet minimum national and international standards.
Although annual county property taxes for the township are only $194.77, Ylst acknowledges it would cost “several thousands of dollars to fix the town up.”
But he believes an entrepreneur with money to spend could “make a go” of Coaldale and “bring it back to life.”
“Traffic on the highways has been picking up somewhat, the Hotel Mizpah in Tonopah has reopened and is doing well because of the influx of tourists to the area, and there is a population rise locally because of the reopening of mines and the completion of a solar energy plant,” said Ylst, 64.
Little Coaldale, which during its heyday had about 50 residents, a town marshal, market, general store, railroad depot, post office, gas station, hotel and small residential district, began its population and economic declines nearly 70 years ago when the nearby coal mines, which had opened in the mid-1880s, closed down for lack of coal in the late 1940s.
About the same time, the railroad depot also was shuttered when the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad, which since 1904 had run its tracks through here along a 100.4-mile route between Goldfield and Mina, went out of business in 1947 due to waning gold and silver operations in Central Nevada.
Most of Coaldale’s inhabitants, because of the lack of employment, quickly fled, leaving just a half-dozen-or-so remaining to operate the store, gas station, café, garage and motel.
These enterprises, too, eventually foundered when highway traffic dwindled, and by the early 1990s, Coaldale had turned into a modern-day ghost town, leaving a whole lot of nothing in the middle of nowhere.
In 1994, Coaldale achieved momentary fame when it was partly reconstructed to house cast and technicians and serve as the set for the Hollywood feature film “The Stranger” starring Kathy Long, at the time the world’s female kickboxing champion.
Long played the part of a lusty, leather-clad motorcycle-riding heroine who saves the town from a terrorizing band of killer bikers. Using her kickboxing skills and a leather whip, she kills a bunch of baddies, including one nasty fellow by tossing a wrench in his mouth, dispatches several others by blowing up their speeding cycles, and kickboxes the remaining gangsters out of town to the cheering of its residents.
The film is recognized by cult movie enthusiasts as one of the best biker films ever made, and is favorably compared to “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando, “Cycle Savages” with Bruce Dern, “On Any Sunday” with Steve McQueen and “Hells Angels on Wheels” starring Jack Nicholson.
But when the film was completed and the cast and crewmembers returned to Hollywood, Coaldale again fell apart, and visitors today are confronted with tumbleweeds and sagebrush blowing into the carcass of its torched restaurant-bar-casino, trashed motel rooms with broken windows and missing doors, and mattresses, bedframes, tires, oil drums, pieces of car and truck bodies and piles of junk littering the landscape.
Gang symbols and graffiti adorn the café, and its large outdoor sign that once advertised “Restaurant, Bar and Slots” has been defaced to read “Restaurant, Bar and Sluts.”
The only visitors to Coaldale in 2014 are the occasional photographer, vandal, arsonist, newspaperman and fan of kickboxing actress Kathy Long.
But, still, Ed Ylst remains optimistic about Coaldale’s future.
Coaldale is a short drive for tourists to Death Valley, the scenic Monte Cristo Mountain range and the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe national forests. There are opportunities nearby for camping, rock hunting, off-roading, exploring, photography and prospecting.
And, to boot, Coaldale’s new owner would become the township’s marshal-constable, fire chief, Town Board chairman and airport manager!
David C. Henley is Publisher Emeritus of the LVN.