The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad Depot

One of the grandest Depots in the West!

Photo Courtesy Private Collector
Railroad Depot 1960's

Well, here we are. Isn't she beautiful? Oh what a wonderful time the people had in this building. Can you still hear the noise of the trains and the people milling around?

The first railroad to reach the Bullfrog Mining District was the Las Vegas & Tonopah backed by the Honorable William A. Clark. On October 6, 1906 the first passenger train made it to Gold Center. From there it was completed into Beatty, and a large celebration that lasted several days spurred on the building of the Railroad into Rhyolite. On December 14, 1906 the first train pulled into Rhyolite at the freight depot. And by the 18th needed supplies had started to arrive.

There were three railroad lines in Rhyolite, the next one was the Bullfrog Goldfield line that came in June of 1907. And the last one used the same tracks as the B & G and was called the Tonopah Tidewater. In fact, there were enough side tracks to have 100 cars just sitting there.

With Rhyolite growing the need for a Railroad Depot became increasingly apparent. The company purchased all of block 12. The boarder was Golden St. on the West, Main St. on the East, Nevada Ave. on the South and Bonanza on the North. The plans called for an impressive structure using stone blocks from Las Vegas. (The same design was used for this station as the one already built in Las Vegas. A third depot was built in Goldfield, but it was not as grand as the Las Vegas and Rhyolite depots.)

Construction finally started on September of 1907. But because of legal problems over the land, it was not completed until June of 1908. F. B. Clark, a builder from Kansas City was to oversee the construction of the depot. On the East end of the depot there was a large baggage room and a gentlemen's waiting room. The West end would house the ladies waiting room with a ticket office in the center of the building. They even supplied housing for the ticket agent on the upper floors.

By 1916 there was only a stub line going into Rhyolite, the depot was no longer in use and by late 1917 the rails were pulled up in Rhyolite to reuse the iron for WWI. Although the depot stood abandoned and forlorn, that was not to last as private ownership was soon to change the use of the Las Vegas & Tonopah Depot.

In 1930 Pat McLaughlin purchased the Railroad Depot for a few hundred dollars. He created a showcase home in the desert, but this was not to last very long. After buying up other historic properties in the Bullfrog Mining District, Mr. McLaughlin's luck ran out. Most of his holdings were taken over by a San Francisco Corporation, including the Rhyolite Railroad Depot. Working the old mines in the area, they turned the Depot into a boarding house, Offices and Mess Hall for the men working for their company.

By 1935 Mr. Westmoreland, a business man from Las Vegas had purchased the depot. It is from his ownership that the "Rhyolite Ghost Casino" sign was put on the depot. He had a small casino and bar on the bottom floor and entertained visitors from all over the world. At the time that Mr. Westmorland had the depot, you could only get to Death Valley by using the old railroad grade through Rhyolite. Somewhere in the mid 1950's his sister Mrs. Fredrica Heisler (sister to Westmoreland inherited the depot and opened a gift shop there. You could also get cold drinks, sandwiches and great conversation. Mrs. Heisler was a retired school teacher from Georgia and her husband was a Baptist Minister. If you ever wanted to get married in a Ghost Town, Rhyolite was the place to go with their resident Minister.

This building has been several things in its lifetime. Starting as a Railroad Depot, a home, boarding house and mess hall, business offices, casino and bar, museum and gift shop, it even doubled for a church for the 7 people that lived in Rhyolite during the 1950's and 1960's. I guess you could say it has seen it all. Today the depot belongs to the Bureau of Land Management and is being held in arrested decay.

Well, now you know more about Rhyolite than you ever wanted to know. If you ever get to the Nevada Desert, or you are going to visit Las Vegas, put us on your schedule. You won't be sorry, the Beatty, Rhyolite area has a lot to offer. Not to mention that we are the EASTERN GATEWAY TO DEATH VALLEY.

(If you don't want to look at all the photos, just scroll to the bottom of the page.)
Laying the Tracks Link to Larger Picture
First Passenger Train Into Rhyolite Link to Larger Picture
Building the Depot Link to Larger Picture
Depot 1910 Link to Larger Picture
Last Train Link to Larger Picture
The Depot in 1920 Link to Larger Picture
The Depot in 1924 Link to Larger Picture
The Depot in 1926 Link to Larger Picture
The Depot in 1935 Link to Larger Picture
Inside the Depot Link to Larger Picture
The Depot in 1948 Link to Larger Picture
The Depot in 1952 Link to Larger Picture
The Depot in 1965 Link to Larger Picture
The Depot in 1979 Link to Larger Picture
In front of the Depot in 1984 Link to Larger Picture
Advertisment 1985 Link to Larger Picture
The Depot in 1998 Link to Larger Picture
Railroad Depot 2008 Link to Larger Picture

A side trip to see the inside of the depot. I hope you enjoy it.
I hope you have enjoyed this tour. If so, go on to the sitemap and see what else we have to offer.

Go to the Sitemap for more on Rhyolite

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This page updated September 2010