The Northern Railway in Nevada is a huge tourist destination for people all around the world to see. Antique trains and cars gather a lot of attention from people. However, people don’t just go there for the vehicles. Something else attracts them as well…
Meet Dirt, the Railway Cat.
He is usually seen walking around the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum and is now considered a mascot of Nevada.
Dirt has unique fur patterns that make him look like he has been working in a train that is powered by coal, as his markings make him look like the grey colour is actually coal.
The social media director and manager of guest services at the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum, Eric Mencis, spoke about Dirt’s job at the museum:
“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.”
Dirt has lived at the engine house of the East Ely Railroad ever since he was born.
Dirt is now 11 years old. His mom was a random stray that walked in.
“She had her kittens under one of our trains, a 1907 built rotary snowplough 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,” Eric talked about Dirt’s kitten days.
So basically, Dirt does need a bath.
“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 grey,” said Eric.
“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 he’s 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,” explained Eric.
Learning about the history of the railway is exciting and all, but Dirt usually steals the attention away. His cute antics usually catch people’s eyes as he poses for photos, cuddles with visitors and lets them pet him as he stands proudly amongst them.
Sure, he might look really tough because of his fur, but he’s actually just a soft fluffball.
“Dirt had kittens years ago, and most were also orange and white and got just as dirty as Dirt. Most didn’t have the sense of how to live around the trains so we rehomed 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 frond a better home. Dirt has gotten fixed since then.”
Dirt has become famous now, Eric says: “I do love it when Dirt gets shared to other places without the museum’s name attached so that people can 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 when she recognized him she was overjoyed with excitement.”
Dirt takes his job seriously, so we expect you to treat him like a professional when you meet him at the railway!