Dirt the Railway Cat is the mascot of the East Ely, Nevada Northern Railway Museum which houses original trains from the early 1900’s.
Dirt, from his name, is a dirty cat, seemingly covered in coal from the trains in the museum. He is actually a ginger and white cat, but his fur has turned grey from rolling around the engine house and rubbing against coal covered engines. Mencis, the director of the museum, says that Dirt 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.” But more importantly, he is now famous amongst museum goers. Born in the museum some 11 years ago under one of the trains, Dirt was adopted by the train crews who leave him cans of tuna.
Dirt is the perfect mascot for the museum in that he looks just as tough as those old time railroaders. Plus he has an attitude that the museum is his. He walks around the trains “….like he is inspecting them, checking to make sure not a bolt is loose or that the bearings are properly oiled up.” Mencis says.
Dirt has become a social media star. Mencis says, “I am shocked that he has become famous as he has. I knew he would be popular but not this famous. We do offer Dirt Tshirts, magnets, key chains, coffee mugs, and even his own coffee, and I have mailed his items around the world for people who purchased them on our online store. The biggest thrill of Dirt’s fame is just knowing how much joy he brings to people around the world.”
Dirt has become so famous that many people take the side trip to Ely, which is about 200 miles away from the main route, just to meet him. The museum now gets about 30,000 visitors a year.