Planes, Trains and Automobile Graveyards

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Planes, trains and automobiles are three of the greatest – and most useful – inventions of the industrial era.  But what happens when these heroic heralds of advancing technology become useless themselves?  Some are simply forgotten while others are scrapped.  But along the way, most go to vehicle graveyards.

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It’s impossible to talk about plane graveyards without mentioning Davis Monthan Air Force Base in the Arizona Desert, home to around 4,000 retired military aircraft.  While some will fly again – chiefly as target drones to be destroyed over gunnery ranges by the latest generation of high tech aircraft and weaponary – others, like the gutted hulks above, spend their last days baking in the sun before an undignified acetylene fate.

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In addition to major boneyards like Davis Monthan, dilapidated aircraft while away their final hours in various locations across the United States – predominantly the deserts out west.  While the plane above is in a poor state of disrepair, it’s interesting to note that, despite broken glass and pieces missing, vandalism doesn’t appear to be a major problem here, unlike elsewhere.  Perhaps the locals are just used to having former military aircraft lying around their neighbourhoods.

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Once a major mining hub, these old locomotives have been rusting away amid the searing heat of the Bolivian desert since the 1940s. Located near the town of Uyuni, Bolivia’s tourist gateway to the world’s largest salt flats, the trains are now a major attraction with many of the 60,000 tourists per year who venture to Uyuni paying them a visit.

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Eastern Europe is another region where planes, trains and automobiles rest in abundance, not so much scrapped as collapsing into rust.  These trains in Moldova (above) have most likely stood silently in this overgrown marshalling yard for decades, and will probably do so for many years to come.

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It’s not often that old corroding cars come in handy for a nature project, but the car graveyard in Soda Springs (above) is an exception to the rule.  In 2009 the rusty wrecks were used as part of a study looking at the spring migration of birdlife in the Eastern Mojave Desert.  But stranger still is the 1966 Pontiac Bonneville emerging from the sand of Morro Bay, California.  The hapless vehicle sunk into the sand in 1973, only to be uncovered by winter storms decades later.

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Blending in expertly with its surroundings, this classic motor lies inexplicably alongside a trail in a provinical park.  Its moss covered remains are well and truly dug into the dirt, offering up an idea of how long it has been here.  But what – dare we ask – happened to the driver?

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If the previous abandoned car was a mossy mess, the one above takes it to the extreme!  Adorned with leaves and entangled in greenery, this unfortunate vehicle is more a part of the undergrowth than consumed by it.  It may have escaped the scrapman, but the future isn’t looking too bright…

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Not strictly automobiles in the cruising-around-town sense of the word, tanks nevertheless have wheels (albeit covered by tracks) and constitute vehicles.  The images above show the spoils of war left baking beneath the Middle East sun, their fighting days most definitely behind them.

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What would you expect to see at a place called The Cadillac Ranch?  Surely a job lot of upended Cadillacs semi-sunken into the desert floor, right?  Established in 1974 as a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, the ranch illustrates the evolution of the Cadillac through various “displayed” models, each set at an angle corresponding to the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Cadillac Ranch is a paradoxical work about the American fascination with a “sense of place” as well as the freedom of the open road – hence the half-buried Caddies.



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