When you visit the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum, don’t miss the opportunity to greet Dirt – the beloved Railway Cat, who holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Nevada. This feline sensation was born 11 years ago to a stray cat that found its way into the museum. Since then, Dirt has taken social media by storm and become a celebrity in his own right.
According to Eric Mencis, the manager of guest services and social media director of the railroad, his mother’s cat gave birth to a litter of kittens under a 1907 rotary snow plow, which is a massive steam-powered train snowblower. While the other kittens left, one stray remained hidden and scared to come out. The train crews then decided to leave a can of tuna on a chair every night for the kitten. Eventually, the kitten became friendly with the crews and came out of hiding.
Dirt is a fun-loving creature who enjoys playing on the dusty floors of the engine house and scaling the coal piles on trains powered by steam engines. As a result, he typically looks messy and unkempt, which prompted the crew to give him the moniker “Dirt”. Despite needing a good scrubbing, people are captivated by his unique markings.
According to Mencis, visitors on the tours are left in awe upon hearing about the railroad’s history and stories. And just at the right moment, Dirt appears before the group, either strolling in from another room or emerging from beneath a train. He confidently takes a seat in the center of the group, exuding a sense of pride that’s unique to him.
Mencis shared that Dirt, the adorable feline, is a mix of orange and white fur. However, due to his playful nature of rolling in dirt and climbing on trains, his pristine white fur turned gray. Interestingly, Dirt learned not to groom himself like other cats do. Perhaps due to his stray lineage, he prefers to stay oily and filthy which gives him a rugged look. Surprisingly, this helps keep him clean since he doesn’t attract dust or bugs.
It’s commonly acknowledged that Dirt’s suitability for railway life is not solely due to his appearance, but also his personality. He gives off the impression of someone who spends their days tinkering with engines.
According to Mencis, Dirt is an old-fashioned railroad worker who now lives as a cat. He roams around the workshop with a confident air, ensuring that everything is running smoothly. He’s the kind of boss who started at the bottom and worked his way up, and he appreciates the hard work his team puts in. He takes great pride in his engine house and the trains he oversees, inspecting them carefully to ensure that every bolt is tight and every bearing is properly lubricated.
A few years back, Dirt, the orange and white cat had a litter of kittens that were just like him – playful but messy. Since they didn’t know how to stay safe near the trains, we had to find new homes for them. Luckily, many of our train crews and volunteers were willing to adopt these adorable kittens. One of them lived in the engine house for almost seven years until it was time for her to move on to a better place. As for Dirt, he has been neutered since then.
Thanks to the power of social media, the museum is now attracting approximately 30,000 visitors on an annual basis. Dirt, the museum’s star attraction, has gained a huge following across every continent. In fact, some people have even gone as far as rerouting their journey by 200 miles just to visit our museum and meet Dirt in person. Although they also enjoy riding the trains, their primary objective is to get up close and personal with Dirt.
If you are a fan of Dirt and would like to view more of his photos, feel free to drop by his Facebook page or Instagram account.
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