October 2020 COVID-19 Adventure Part Nine

In this episode, we visit Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site, a California Historical Landmark. The museum is also listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

We first tried to visit Laws Railroad Museum on a day the wind was blowing so hard it picked up dust and dirt and flung it all around. The day after the windstorm, all the bad air had disappeared, leaving only blue skies behind and clear views of the mountains.

Landscape of yellow dry grass, trees and mountains in the background
View east from museum toward the White Mountains
Western looking building serves as reception center and ticket office
Reception Center and Ticket Office
Western buildings and boardwalk
Boardwalk and old buildings

The C & C Railroad rolled into the town of Laws for the first time in April 1883. Three years earlier William Sharon, Henry Yerington, and Darius Mills formed the Carson and Colorado Railroad Company and began construction.

Pathway next to tall trees and kids train ride
View from outside the Reception Center looking south

While crews laid the narrow-gauge tracks between Mound House, Nevada, and Laws, California, people arrived in town, drawn by the opportunities a new railroad would bring to the region.

Engine No. 9, a 1909 Baldwin 4-6-0

They built a depot, an agent’s house, and various amenities to support the railroad and the trains. Homes, barns, corrals, general stores, boarding houses, hotels, and warehouses sprang up around the depot.

Laws Depot
Western style potbelly stove inside ticket office of train depot
Visitors find the ticket office inside the depot.
Displays of train memorabilia inside train depot
There’s also memorabilia and model trains
Two wooden pole like objects that form a V at the top
We found these “Y” shaped poles in the depot. Any idea what they are?

By July 1883, the railroad completed its last 60 miles of the 300-miles, and in August trains rumbled down the tracks to the last stop in Hawley (known as Keeler today).

Yellow building with black framed windows and sign that says medical offices
Every town needs medical offices
Eye exam equipment
Looks like the same device my optometrist uses to check my eyes.

For nearly 50 years, the railroad provided passenger service and hauled freight. It supported the mining industry and local ranchers and farmers. The conversion from narrow gauge to standard gauge railroads was but one contributing factor in the demise of the C & C. Improved roadways, trucks, and automobiles allowed passengers and freight to travel farther, faster, and sometimes cheaper than the train so there was a steady decline in their use.

Singer sewing machine in wood cabinet and table with patterns and notions
Dressmaker’s shop
Sewing patterns and notions on a table
My grandmother made all my school clothes until I was in high school. I think the blouse and skirt pattern looks familiar.

In March 1900, Southern Pacific (S.P.) purchased and operated the railroad. S.P. discontinued passenger service in 1932, and the freight trains made their last run in 1943. The tracks north of Laws were removed, leaving only the 60-mile run to Keeler.

Fire station old wooden yellow building
Pioneer Building and Fire Station
Bishop Rural Fire Dist. R-2 fire truck
The 1947 White. built by Van Pelt, with original 10,000 miles, is still operational
Spider webs among fire fighting equipment
Antique fire equipment needs a cleaning

On April 30, 1960, Locomotive No. 9 pulled a string of cars into Laws Station for the last time. The City of Bishop and the County of Inyo became the owners of the property under a gift deed by S.P. and on July 6, 1964, they also transferred the land.

Printing press equipment
Working printing presses dating back to 1880
Potbelly stove and display cases inside a general store
General store
Small weathered wood building with Post Office sign
Laws last original post office

On April 1, 1966, eighty-three years from the day the train arrived, Laws Railroad Museum opened the doors to the public. It amazed us how much the museum had grown since our first visit in the early 1980s.

Black horse-drawn hearse inside building with western memorabilia
Hearse in the Western Display
Saddles, brands, horseshoes on display
Saddles, brands, and other paraphernalia in the Western Display

The engine and train cars are original, as are the depot, agent’s house, oil and water tanks, and a turntable. The rest of the town was torn down for salvage by 1959. The other buildings occupying the museum’s eleven acres were local structures saved from destruction and moved to the site.

Mustard colored 1900s house trimmed in brown with white railing and ramp
Original 1883 Agent’s House

One of the prized possessions of the museum is a restored circa 1900 local ranch house with period furnishings. The Shipley and Conway family tree hangs inside the home and shows the three generations that lived in it before it was moved to its new location at the museum.

Inside an early 1900s home with wood accents and papered walls
Pillars and decorative header separate the living and dining areas
Inside early 1900s home showing a mannequin in period costume, wood carved bed, quilt, water pitcher, and bowl
Bedroom one
Bedroom inside early 1900s house with bird cage, wood carved bed, rocking chair, and dolls
Bedroom two
Dining room inside early 1900s home, with wood built-in hutch and buffet
Love the built-in buffet and hutch
Early 1900s kitchen with stove, table, and dishware
All the modern conveniences in the kitchen
Early 1900s bathroom showing toilet, pedestal sink, and tub
Bath

Besides the ranch house, visitors will find the Library and Arts Building housed in Bishop’s first Catholic church, a gazebo, a 20 Mule Team Borax Wagon exhibit, gas station, farm and mining equipment, and train restoration shop. The following pictures are just a sample of some of these exhibits.

Early 1900s School house painted gray with white trim
Original 1909 North Inyo School House
Stone building with wood and tin roof used as blacksmith shop
Blacksmith shop
Table and icebox inside a miner's shack
Inside miner’s shack
Two bath tubs set in floor at early 1900s bath house
Bath house
Late 1800s train tracks, train turntable, and water tank
Tracks, original 1883 Armstrong turntable, and replica 1883 water tank
Mining equipment and replica mine tunnel
Replica mine tunnel comes complete with audio of pick axes, voices, and a blast

This isn’t the first actual, or replicated, western town we have visited, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. We find it fascinating to walk the streets, peek inside buildings, and imagine what life was like in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I can almost hear the clomp of horses’ feet, the jingle of their bridles, and a whistle in the distance announcing the train’s arrival.

Next up, we finish up our time in Bishop, California.

Stay Safe