Dirt the Railway Cat, the famous resident of the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum, crossed over the rainbow bridge in January 2023.
This remarkable kitty, who gained international fame and charmed thousands of the museum’s visitors, passed at the ripe old age of 15.
He was beloved by everyone who worked alongside him and his many fans from around the world.
His life began at the Nevada Northern Railway, it’s an old relic preserved in time that brings tourists from all over to check out the trains and carriage cars that are housed there.
But the trains weren’t the only tourist attraction in the area.
Dirt the Cat Lived Here!
Wandering around the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum was Dirt the Railway Cat and he became one of the mascots of Nevada.
Dirt has very distinct markings, he looks as if he’s been working all day on a locomotive, covered in coal.
Dirt the Cat: East Ely Railroad Depot Museum
Eric Mencis, the manager of guest services and social media director explained Dirt’s role: “As tours walked through the building people were 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 walked into the room where the tour was, or out from under one of the trains and would sit in the middle of the group with a sense of pride that only he could have.”
The engine house of the East Ely Railroad was the only home Dirt had ever known.
How Did Dirt The Cat End Up There?
He was born there 15 years ago to a stray that wandered in. “She 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,” explained Eric.
“Dirt was 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 became stained gray,” he added.
Dirt The Cat: Doesn’t Lick Himself Clean!
“At a young age, Dirt learned not to lick himself clean, like normal cats, being part stray he liked to stay oily and dirty because it helped keep him tough looking and also in a sense kept him clean because things didn’t stick to his fur and bugs wouldn’t go near him.”
“Back when our trains were built, railroading was the 2nd most dangerous job in the world. Mining was the first most dangerous job and we were a copper mining railroad, doing the first and second most dangerous 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 that 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 looked into Dirt’s eyes, he had that same look.”
Dirt The Cat: Honorary Kitty Railroader
“Dirt was pretty much one of those old-time railroaders living now as a cat. Dirt walked around the shop like he was the boss making sure everything was working right. The type of boss that started at the bottom and worked his way up the ladder, the type who knows how hard and tough the job is but has faith that his men can get it done.”
“He walked with a sense of pride around his engine house as if they were his trains and he was proud of the men that keep them going. He would climb on and walk around the trains, like he was inspecting them, checking to make sure not a bolt was loose or that the bearings were properly oiled up,” described Eric.
People loved to hear the history of the railway but it was Dirt that would steal the show with his celebrity attitude, he would pose for photos, rubs against the visitors legs and allow them to pet him.
He may have looked like an old tough railroader on the outside but on the inside he was a total sweetheart.
Dirt The Cat: Local Celebrity
“Dirt had fathered kittens years ago, most were also orange and white and got just as dirty as Dirt. But they didn’t have the sense of how to live around the trains so we re-homed them, with many of our train crews and volunteers adopting them and taking them home.”
“One of Dirt’s kittens lived in the engine house for about 7 years but just over a year ago found a better home. Dirt has gotten fixed since then.”
There’s no denying that Dirt was a star, Eric said: “I loved it when Dirt was shared to other places without the museum’s name attached so that people would recognize him.
We had a lady come to visit who saw his picture in the gift shop not realizing she was at the place where Dirt lived and when she recognized him she was overjoyed with excitement.”
This kitty really loved his job and took it very seriously, while at the same time stealing the hearts of everybody that met him.
It’s a sad day indeed knowing that Dirt will no longer be roaming around the trains and carriages, saying hello to everyone he met.
In memory of their most famous employee, the museum will create a life-sized bronze statue and a headstone.
And his employee I.D. card, along with his collar and food bowl will be placed on display within the museum’s archives
The museum will be celebrating Dirt’s life with a Remembrance Day on Sunday, May 28, 2023, you’ll be able to take a ride on a train and check out all the places Dirt loved to hang out.
RIP dear Dirt, you will be truly missed by everyone that knew you.
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You can find out more about Dirt and the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum on Facebook