Have you ever visited the Nevada Northern Railway?The place is a living history book of Nevada’s once prolific copper operations. The railroad itself dates back to the very early 20th century as a means of transportation to move the large amounts of copper being mined from south-central Nevada. As the price of copper began to plummet in the late 1970s Kennecott Minerals Company, then owner of the railroad closed down all of its operations, which today operates it as the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. Along with these trips the railroad also offers other attractions like train charters, locomotive rentals, cab rides, and caboose rentals. It is right to say that these 1906 train cars are not the only tourist attraction in the area.
Here you can also meet the Railway Cat Dirt, wandering around the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum. Famous for his distinct markings, he gives the appearance he’s been working all day on a locomotive, covered in coal.
“As tours walk through the building people are just amazed about hearing the history and the stories of the railroad. Then as if he knew it was his cue to appear Dirt just walks into the room where the tour is, or out from under one of the trains and sits in the middle of the group with a sense of pride that only he can have,” Eric Mencis, the manager of guest services and social media director of the railroad told Bored Panda.
“She [his mom] had her kittens under one of our trains, a 1907 built rotary snow plow to be exact. A Rotary Snow Plow is a huge steam-powered train snowblower. Mom and the other kittens left and this one stray was all alone but scared to come out. So our train crews would leave a can of tuna on a chair every night for this kitten, eventually, the kitten came out friendly up to the crews,” said Mencis.
“Dirt is actually an orange and white cat, but because at a young age he started rolling in the dirt and climbing on the trains, his white fur gets stained gray,” explained Mencis. “At a young age, Dirt learned not to lick himself clean, like normal cats, being part stray he likes to stay oily and dirty because it helps keep him tough looking and also in a sense keeps him clean because things don’t stick to his fur and bugs don’t go near him.”
“Back when our trains were built, railroading was the 2nd most dangers job in the world. Mining was the first most dangerous job and we were a copper mining railroad, doing the first and second most dangers jobs in the country at the same time in the same place. It took rough and tough men 100 years ago to move millions of tons of rock, by rail to get melted down and make copper to provided electricity to the world. You look at old pictures of those men, and you can just tell in their eyes they have stories to tell. When you look into Dirt’s eyes, he has that same look.”
“Dirt is pretty much one of those old-time railroaders living now as a cat. Dirt walks around the shop like his the boss making sure everything is working right. The type of boss that started at the bottom and worked his way up the latter, the type who knows how hard and tough the job is but has faith that his men can get it done. He walks with a sense of pride around his engine house like these are his trains and he and he is proud of the men to keep them going. He will climb on and walk around the trains, like he is inspecting them, checking to make sure not a bold is loose or that the bearings are properly oiled up,” Mencis told.
“Dirt has always been popular with museum guest, but to keep the museum alive, we have to keep getting the word out. We are in Ely, Nevada, a town that is 200 miles in all directions away from anything. Since I started my job here at the railroad 3 years ago, we have gotten our social media to just grow and grow.”
“I do love when Dirt gets shared other places without the museum’s name attached that people to recognize him. We had a lady come to visit yesterday who saw his picture in the gift shop not realizing she was at the place where Dirt lives and recognized him was overjoyed with excitement.”
“I am shocked that he has become famous as he has. I knew he would be popular but not this famous. We do offer Dirt Tshirts, magnets, key chains, coffee mugs, and even his own coffee, and I have mailed his items around the world for people who purchased them on our online store. The biggest thrill of Dirt’s fame is just knowing how much joy he brings to people around the world,” the manager also said.