There were three places in this immediate area of the desert referred to as Danby. The first one was established in 1883 by the Southern Pacific Railway as a watering stop for the steam locomotives, about 2 miles southeast of what is today National Trails Highway. The name Danby followed the railroad’s convention of naming stops in alphabetical order going east from Amboy – Bolo, Cadiz, Danby, Essex, etc.
Initially, water was piped to the railroad via a 2-inch steel pipe from Bonanza Spring in the Clipper Mountains 5 miles northwest of the tracks. As railroad traffic increased the railroad eventually drilled several good water wells at Danby and build a large pumping station. Danby became an important watering stop for the railroad and was home to both railroad workers and a few prospectors who worked mines in the Old Woman Mountains. The concrete pad marking the location of the water wells can still be seen just a few feet south of the tracks, but there is no trace left of the pumping station.
Former pumping station at Old Danby, circa 1932.
Neilson moved his service station north to the new highway and was eventually joined by his brother Bill, also from Scotland. Johnny was later elected Justice of the Peace and built a small building at Danby to serve as his courthouse. Although badly weathered, the building is still there. Sometime later a garage was also built at Danby to service travelers on the highway, and it went through several owners during the time it was in operation. The garage, with the mural of a mountain man scene on the front door facing the highway is also still there but is in bad shape and likely to collapse in a few years.