A few miles outside the town of Bishop is Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site, once a station stop on the Carson & Colorado Railroad.
Today the railroad no longer runs, but the original station depot is still there, along with train cars, agent’s house, general store, post office, old school house, fire station, saloon, newspaper, blacksmith shop, miner’s shack, all filled with original artifacts, re-creating life in the Owens Valley more than a century ago.
Laws is one our favorite “must-sees,” not only because it’s fun for kids to climb up into the cab of Engine #9, ring the schoolhouse bell, play hide and seek around the train cars, explore this open air museum, but also because our boy’s great grandfather ranched cattle in the area – this is part of our family history.
Completed in 1883, the Carson & Colorado Railroad ran from Mound House (near Carson City Nevada), down through the Owens Valley, ending at Keeler on Owens Lake to the south. Building a railroad on the remote east side of the Sierra Nevada was a challenge – rails were shipped in from miles away, workers were in short supply, the route went through a mountain pass over 7100 ft high, requiring a tunnel through solid rock. The C & C narrow gauge railroad, nicknamed “Slim Princess,” ran for about 80 years, until 1960.
Here’s highlights of the museum.
Inside the old station is the ticket window, waiting room, baggage room, and model trains.
19th century buildings
The station depot, agent’s house, turntable are original from 1883, other wooden buildings were brought here to create a typical main street in Owens Valley towns.
In the general store are staple goods, and old fashioned cash register, typewriter, adding machine, and scales.
Next to the general store is a display of cattle brands, saddles and horseshoes.
The barbed diamond was the brand of Jess Chance, our boys great-grandfather. The Chance family had a ranch outside of Bishop in Round Valley, and summer pastures near Mammoth.
Station agent’s house
Parlor with a piano, and dining room.
Child’s bedroom in the agent’s house, with cradle, dolls, miniature desk and chairs.
Old colored bottles
Wooden carriages and freight wagons
Two seater carriages were used for transportation, heavy freight wagons hauled equipment to mines in the area.
Mining was important in this area, one of the most productive was a tungsten mine, though were were plenty of solitary gold and silver prospectors too. On display are mining tools, ore samples of tungsten, copper, silver, gold, sulfur, and equipment used to crush the ore.
Tracks in the distance