Rhyolite Railroad Depot
Rhyolite Railroad Depot Overview
Completed in June 1908, the Rhyolite Railroad Depot was designed in the style of Spanish revival and the cost of construction was $130,000 or about $3.8 million in today’s dollars.
Located on Golden Street, in the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada.
- August 1904 – The first gold to be discovered in this area was found by “Shorty” Harris and Ed Cross
- 1905 – 1912 – Rhyolite was the biggest and most prosperous town in the region
- February 1905 – Bob Montgomery had started the Shoshone Mine nearby and it was being touted as “the new wonder of the west”
- December 14th, 1906 – The first train entered Rhyolite at 7:00 pm bringing 100 people into the town
- 1907 – The Las Vegas & Tonopah line alone hauled 50 freight cars per day into Rhyolite
- September 1907 – The construction of the depot was started by the Las Vegas & Tonopah (but have found references it was also Tidewater Railroad)
- June 1908 – The train depot in Rhyolite is completed
- 1909 and 1919 – The railroads were losing money each year
- 1919 – The railroads cut their losses and salvaged the tracks for other projects and Rhyolite was a ghost town
- 1920s – The caboose served as a gas station along with a fuel storage tank and a pump
- 1935 – Norman C. Westmoreland bought the depot
- 1937 – The Rhyolite Ghost Casino operated out of the train depot
- 1960’s – Westmoreland’s sister, Mrs. Herschel Heisler, inherited the train depot and she operated a gift shop within the museum in the train depot
Rhyolite Train Services
Stretched 67 miles from Goldfield, Nevada to Rhyolite. This line paralleled close to the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad
Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad
The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad stretched some 160 miles from Ludlow, California to Gold Center, Nevada (south of Beatty)
Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad
1906 – The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad arrived in Rhyolite and stretched 210 miles from Las Vegas to Tonopah, Nevada. Montana Senator William Clark owned the Las Vegas & Tonopah along with the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad. Later, all were purchased by the Union Pacific
The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad started its push to Rhyolite by laying one mile of track per day. Later, the railroad redoubled its efforts and pushed two miles per day in its bid to connect the booming two of Rhyolite with the outside world.
Public Domain, Link
36° 54.216′ N, 116° 49.734′ W
Since the 1930s, the depot has passed from person to person, eventually ending up with the Barrick Mining Company.
In October 2000, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquired the depot, along with most of the Rhyolite Townsite, from the mining company in a land swap.
At some time before the swap, a group of local citizens replaced the historic depot roof with modern composite shingles. Although not historically accurate, the shingles have helped preserve the building in the relatively good condition that you see today.
At the time the depot was built, the local newspaper claimed it was “the finest in the state.” Today, it is one of the best-preserved examples of early twentieth-century Mission Revival train depots in Nevada.
The BLM’s Tonopah Field Office is working to restore this historic building. If you would like to donate to the restoration, a secure donation box is located to your right. All donations will be used in Rhyolite.
Please help us keep the depot in its current condition. Report acts of vandalism to the Tonopah Field Office at (775) 482-7800.
The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad Depot was completed in June 1908, around the same time that Rhyolite began its slow decline. Within months of its completion, more people were leaving Rhyolite through the depot than were arriving.
The railroad turned a small profit in 1908 but lost money every following year until it was finally dismantled in 1919. The tracks were salvaged, but the depot was left to stand as one of the few remaining buildings from the Rhyolite boom, primarily because it could not be moved elsewhere.
In the 1920s, Rhyolite enjoyed a small revival through tourism. Wes Moreland bought the depot in 1935 and, beginning in 1937, operated it as the Rhyolite Ghost Casino. The drinking and gaming were conducted downstairs, while a different type of hospitality, reportedly staffed by “working women,” was conducted upstairs in the old ticket agent’s quarters.
Like the town before it, the casino had a relatively short life. The onset of World War II, and the associated war effort, including fuel rationing, completely drained the area’s economy.
By the 1960s, the building had passed to Moreland’s sister, Mrs. Herschel Heisler, who operated the lower floor as a museum and gift shop for tourists.
In keeping with its prominence as a mining center, Rhyolite was serviced by three railroads: the Las Vegas & Tonopah, the Tonopah & Tidewater, and the Bullfrog-Goldfield.
The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad laid one mile of track per day, then two miles of track per day, in its hurry to connect Rhyolite with the outside world. The first train from the Las Vegas & Tonopah entered Rhyolite at 7 p.m. on December 14, 1906, with about 100 passengers.
It was a big deal for a young mining town to be serviced by one railroad, but three railroads were almost unheard of in the history of Nevada. With three railroads, it seemed that Rhyolite was destined to be the largest mining camp in the state and the first few boom years made this prediction look inevitable.
By 1907, the Las Vegas & Tonopah alone was hauling 50 freight cars into town per day. The large volume of freight required a large depot to handle it.
In September 1907, the Las Vegas & Tonopah began building the depot that stands before you. It is constructed of concrete block with a solid concrete foundation in the Mission Revival style. There was a gentlemen’s waiting area on the east end and a ladies’ waiting room on the west end. A separate baggage room was located east of the men’s waiting area. The ticket office was located in the center of the building, and the ticket agent’s quarters were located upstairs.
It was planned to take an entire city block on Golden Street and cost approximately $130,000 – the equivalent of $3,798,393 in 2021.
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Photos and Videos
Rhyolite Depot Bought for Night Club
TONOPAH. Nev. Aug. 10
The famous old “ghost town” of, Rhyolite, which was once the center of a great mining boom, may become a gambling mecca for Death ‘ Valley’s winter tourists, under plans announced today by Wes Moreland, formerly of Las Vegas.
Moreland has purchased the famous old Rhyolite railroad depot and has started a $15,000 remodeling job on the building. The casino, which is to be elaborately decorated and furnished, will operate during the winter months only under present plans.
Former operator of a tavern at Las Vegas, Moreland hopes to open his new establishment by October 1.
Ghost Casino At Rhyolite Opens Oct. 1
TONOPAH, Nev., Sept. 20. (Special)
Redecorated and refinished as the “Ghost Casino,” the historic old railroad depot at Rhyolite will open as one of Southern Nevada’s most elaborate night clubs October 1, Wes Moreland, the new owner, announced today.
Moreland said more than $10,000 has been spent in converting the old depot into a modern entertainment spot. A gala opening night is planned and Southern California celebrities will be invited to attend.