Volunteers with Corral 14, Corral 66, the Friends of Regional Parks and Calico concessionaires work on wagons at Calico Ghost Town on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Jeanette Hayhurst)

By Sandra Emerson | semerson@scng.com

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When prospectors traveled to the Calico mining camp hoping to strike it rich during the silver rush of the 1880s, they didn’t get there by car.

Many took wagons.

While not all original, the wagons and buggies on display at Calico Ghost Town, now a San Bernardino County regional park in Yermo, are cracking and decaying due to harsh desert weather.

To help, Calico shop operators, parks officials and volunteers with Equestrian Trails Incorporated, Corral 14 in Palmdale, Corral 66 in Barstow and Friends of Regional Parks are working to preserve the relics until they raise enough money to fully restore them. 

“Calico is a state landmark, so we want to preserve it as best we can,” Lori Ciabattini, president of Friends of Regional Parks, said.

On Oct. 13, volunteers spent the day pulling wagon wheels lodged in the ground and spraying the wooden frames with linseed oil to protect them from the elements. More work is planned Sunday, Dec. 8.

“Until we can get a really comprehensive project or until we have all the money and grants, at least we’re doing something and slowing down the decay,” said Xavier Canale, a Calico shop owner who spearheaded the project.

The volunteers hope their efforts will stop further deterioration, while the Friends group, with the help of some county dollars, raises money to have the vehicles restored to their original condition by Hansen Wheel & Wagon, a South Dakota-based company that specializes in restoring wagons. That could cost between $5,000 to $10,000 per wagon, Ciabattini said.

The group would like to restore a hearse wagon, which is one of two originally on site, that has also seen better days. The second is on display at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Ciabattini said.