Trains - Train Museums

Nevada Train Museums

Museums devoted to historic railways are located in both northern and southern Nevada. Celebrating the history of local short lines and the transcontinental tracks that connected Nevada to the outside world, the state’s train museums can keep railroad buffs entertained for hours.

The Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City explores the railroading heritage of northern Nevada with exhibits of restored rail cars and locomotives. Displays relate how the Iron Horse transformed the Western frontier, hauling ore from the mines to the mills and freight and passengers to the growing cities.

Among the 65 locomotives and cars at the museum, 40 are dated circa 1910, the year the recently restored McKeen Motorcar was built. The museum focuses on the Virginia and Truckee (V&T) Railroad and owns 31 pieces of operational and static V&T equipment, many of which were once featured in Western movies and television shows.

Activities include train rides, handcar rides, lectures and several special events. An intricate model railroad, historical photos and various railroad artifacts are displayed in the main museum building, which also has a gift and book shop.

Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City, sits on the site of the Boulder Branch Line, a spur completed in 1931 by the Union Pacific to haul equipment and supplies to the Boulder Canyon Project, later known as Hoover Dam.

An open-air pavilion displays the only remaining locomotive in existence (called the Davenport Dinky) that operated at the Hoover Dam site. There also are a static historical steam locomotive, a railway post office coach that visitors can tour and an 80-ton locomotive that ran on the Jackass and Western Railroad at the Nevada Test Site.

The museum owns four operating diesel locomotives that pull passenger trains on weekends and other times for groups by appointment. The Depot Store offers railroad-themed gifts, such as mugs, hats, whistles and train toys. Restrooms are available.

The East Ely Railroad Depot Museum and the Nevada Northern Railway are located within one of the nation’s most complete rail yards dating to the turn of the 20th century, a 56-acre complex with 52 historic buildings, including the depot and maintenance shops, and antique rolling stock and operating steam and diesel locomotives.

Ely’s Nevada Northern Railroad hauled copper ore from isolated mines to smelters as well as passengers in and out of the mining region. The depot has been restored to its 1907 appearance. During its heyday, 32 passenger trains, 60 ore trains and several freight trains departed daily. The museum’s waiting rooms, baggage storage and offices with period furniture give visitors sense of what life was like in the early 1900s. Among the stock displayed is a 1910 Pullman car converted to a coach in 1917 with a mahogany interior, stained glass and velvet and leather seats.

The walking tour and train rides are offered most of the year, with daily hours in July and August. Railroad souvenirs and books are available in the gift store. Special excursions and photo workshops are scheduled at various times.

Caliente’s Mission Revival-style Union Pacific Railroad Station was built in 1923 of tan stucco, a classic design for its time. The first floor functioned as a depot, community center and restaurant, with a hotel on the second floor. Today it houses the city hall, and visitors are welcome to tour the Amtrak waiting room, the town library and art gallery.

The colorfully painted Boxcar Museum sits next the depot. Displays are devoted to the history of Caliente and the railroad line. Operated by Lincoln County residents, the Boxcar Museum has photos of the time before and after the coming of the railway, luggage carts and various town memorabilia.

The Clark County Heritage Museum, which occupies a 30-acre site in Henderson, displays, among other historic structures, the 1931 Union Pacific Depot from Boulder City. It was the freight and transshipment depot for trains bearing the supplies for the dam construction and for general freight shipments after the dam was completed in 1935. The building now educates visitors about the history of the depot and railroads in Clark County.

Slated for demolition, the depot became a project for Eagle Scouts and was the first building to be moved to the museum grounds in 1976 and restored. Inside is a handmade model train layout and period luggage. Parked next to the depot are a 1940s-era caboose, which visitors can walk through, a combination passenger and baggage car and a 1920s boxcar.

The museum also has one of the original cinderblock cottages built for Las Vegas railroad workers. Visitors can look inside the windows and see how people lived in that era, circa 1911 to 1914.