Rhyolite Train Depot

The town of Rhyolite boasted three train services using the Rhyolite Train Depot which is completed in June, 1908. The depot services the Las Vegas & Tonopah, the Tonopah & Tidewater and the Bullfrog-Goldfield train services. 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 its its bid to connect the booming two of Rhyolite with the outside world.

Rhyolite Train Depot is located at the north end of town in Rhyolite, Nye County, Nevada.  - Photo by James L Rathbun
Rhyolite Train Depot is located at the north end of town in Rhyolite, Nye County, Nevada. – Photo by James L Rathbun

The first train entered Rhyolite at 7:00 pm on December 14th, 1906 bringing another 100 people into the town. Train service to the booming mining town was a big deal. The fact that Rhyolite could lure three train services all but ensured the future of the largest mining town in the state.

In 1907, the Las Vegas & Tidewater line alone hauled 50 freight cars per day into Rhyolite. This volume required a large depot to handle the load. In September 1907, the construction of the depot started by the Las Vegas & Tidewater Railroad. The Mission Revival styled building in constructed with concrete blocks built upon a solid concrete foundation. A gentlemen’s waiting area is located in the east end and a separate ladies waiting room is located in the west end. The ticket office is located in the center of the building and the ticket agents office is located on the second floor.

The train depot takes up an entire city block on Golden Street. The cost on construction was $130,000, or about $3.8 million in 2021.

The train depot in Rhyolite is complete in June 1908. The timing of the complete is ironic in that it coincided with the beginning on the decline of Rhyolite. Within months of completion of the depot, more people were leaving town using the station than arriving. In the first year of operation, the railroad generated a small profit. Between 1909 and 1919 the railroads lost money each year. By 1919, the railroads cut their losses and salvaged the tracks for other projects.

Rhyolite Ghost Casino

The 1920’s offered a brief revival to the town on Rhyolite. Wes Moreland purchase the train depot in 1935 and opened the Rhyolite Ghost Casino in 1937. Drinking and gambling are available on the first floor. The second floor operates as a brothel. The star of World Ware 2 halts the brief rebirth of Rhyolite. The fuel rationing almost completely drained the economy in the area.

In the 1960’s Moreland sister inherited the train depot. Mrs. Herschel Heiser operated a museum and gift shop out of the old station.

At the time it was built, the train depit is claimed to be “The finest in the state.” Today, the train station is one of the best preserved.

Rhyolite Trail Depot Map

Rhyolite Train Depot Marker Text

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.

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  Rhyolite Train Depot Markerwar 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.

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.

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