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Catlin Oil Shale Company

1916 - 1924

Elko, Elko County, Nevada



(Taken From The State of Nevada Historical Marker At Elko Airport)

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(Click to enlarge)

The following photographs were taken August 13, 2001 on the southern outskirts of Elko (0.8 mile south of the end of Morris Lane off Bullion Road).  They show the "remains of a short-lived oil extraction plant, which reached the peak of its productive capacity in the early twenties. Driving of the main shaft began in 1916. Of several tries at extracting oil from shale, this was the only successful operation in Nevada.

Robert M. Catlin, Sr. spent many years experimenting on the extraction of crude oil from these beds before beginning the commercial production of oil. After a production period of less than two years, the plant was closed in the fall of 1924. Hi-power Catlin oil was too expensive to compete with the fossil oils of that day.

Easily 50 years ahead of his time, Catlin did, for a few years, give Elkoans and Nevadans, a dream and the community an oil boom in the Roaring Twenties."

The mine tunnels have been closed.


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Top B&W photo is of Catlin Oil Shale Plant 1923 (courtesy of Northeastern Nevada Museum document # 46-77)

Lower B&W photo is from The Nevadan November 24, 1974

Color photos taken on August 13, 2001


Taken from article in Elko Free Press Extra June 18, 1985


Catlin Shale Oil Plant - August 2001

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^ Catlin Oil Plant

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^ Oil Shale Bed

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^ Tailings Above (East) of Plant

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^ Sunset at Catlin Oil Plant



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USGS Bullitin 729 Oil Shale of the Rocky Mountains Region, 1923 Dean E. Winchester

(from Northeastern Nevada Museum)


What brought on such an interest in Oil in 1916?  

Ans.:  The Automobile was getting popular and World War I began in 1914.



USGS Topographic Map of Elko

USGS Topographic Map Catlin Operation

(NE 1/4 Section 27 - where two tunnels are shown)

USGS Aerial Photograph of Elko

USGS Aerial Photograph of Catlin Operation


Another Shale-Oil Plant That Operated in Elko

(located near entrance to city dump)



Highway marker at Elko Airport

Elko: The First 100 Years
Elko's Population in 1916 was estimated at 2,500

Catlin Shale Oil Company

Morris Lane off Bullion Road.  Only concrete ruins remain of the company begun in 1916 which operated about ten years before closing due to the high cost of refining





Additional Information:  Northeastern Nevada Museum

© 2001 - Elko Rose Garden Association

Recent Photos by Dan Turner