The historic Nevada Northern Railway Museum is mourning the death of its resident cat who became an internet sensation – and family.
Dirt — short for Dirtbag — died Wednesday in the town of Ely at the age of 15, the railway said in a post on its website.
The (semi) feral kitty was a staple at the Railway Museum. His online notoriety started when an employee posted a picture of Dirt on Facebook five years ago, which led to the creation of Dirt merch including keychains, T-shirts, mugs and even his very own coffee blend.
In a post remembering Dirt on NNRW’s Facebook page: “In the spring of 2008, a little kitten of orange and white fur was found in the engine house by himself. The mother and any other kittens were long gone. The crew at the time would sit for hours each day with cans of tuna and soft cat food, to get the little fur ball to trust them.”
Dirt finally came around to trusting them. They took him to the vet for a checkup, shots, and eventually he was neutered. The shop guys did their thing, and the little kitten did his thing. Dirt was free to come and go as he pleased at the museum in Ely, Nevada, which is 240 miles north of Las Vegas.
Dirt’s name came from his orange and white coat always being stained with dirt and grease, because – like most cats – he hated baths.
When Dirt’s pictures first hit the internet, social media treated him less like dirt and more like a dignitary. Keep in mind, Ely only has a population of about 4000 (according to the 2021 census), so Dirt was indeed a well know celebrity!
Railway president All Bassett said, “We had a family fly over from China to LA, to Las Vegas, rent a car and drive to Ely to see Dirt… and it’s like, ‘He’s a cat! He’s not on display.’”
Meanwhile, Dirt Jr. — or D.J. — another rescue cat, still resides at the museum. A Facebook post says he’s a little lonely now, but goes on to say that “Dirt was teaching his protégé DJ, Dirt Junior, the ins and outs of being the Boss Shop Cat. We knew this day was coming, DJ now has big paws to fill.
The Nevada Northern Railway Museum plans to honor Dirt with a funeral service and two bronze statues.
The Nevada Northern Railway Museum offers train rides pulled by century-old steam engines and tours of the machine shop and engine house. Bassett said Dirt always came out during the tour, to the delight of visitors – who always wanted his picture. He said the cat undoubtedly increased attendance.
RIP Dirt. Play well, kitty!
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