If you come to the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum, you will get a chance to meet Dirt the Railway Cat – one of the mascots of Nevada. He was born there 11-years ago to a stray that wandered in. And now he has become an undeniable star on the Internet.
“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,” Eric Mencis, the manager of guest services and social media director of the railroad said.
He loves rolling around on the dirt floors of the engine house and climbs all over the coal pines on steam-powered trains, so he is always covered in coal and the crews decided to name him Dirt. Although he is dirty and needs a bath, people are fascinated by his distinct markings.
“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,” Mencis told Bored Panda.
“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.”
People agree that appearance is not the only feature that makes Dirt the perfect fit for railway life, he also has the personality to match. He looks like he works on engines all day.
“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,” described Mencis.
“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.”
Thanks to a push on social media, the museum gets about 30,000 visitors a year and Dirt has fans on every continent. “Some people have even rerouted their trip 200 miles out of the way to visit our museum and meet him. Of course, they stay and ride the trains too but their number 1 goal was to meet Dirt in person.”
If you love Dirt and want to see more his pictures, you can visit his Facebook page and Instagram.