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LAWS RAILROAD MUSEUM & HISTORICAL SITE
By Gordon L. Wilson--TCA 76-10233
Driving south from Carson City, Nevada into California
on Route 395, you will be on the eastern side of the magnificent
Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. At the small burg of Lee Vining,
and only in the summertime, you may take a scenic detour onto
Route 120 into Yosemite National Park. Lodging in the “high country” and
The Tuolomne Meadows is pretty scarce, so you will probably wish
to return to Route 395 and head further south to the town of
Bishop. Just as you enter the north end of Bishop there is an
intersection with Route 6. Five miles down this road is a complex
that is like entering an HG Wells “Time Machine”, specifically
to the late 19 th and early 20 th Centuries.
Southern Pacific 4–6–0
steam engine and Vanderbilt style tender
The Laws Railroad Museum is a true anachronism. Many of its
39 buildings date back in time well over 120 years and each is
jam-packed with exhibits and displays from years of a by-gone
era. Incorporated in 1880, today it is listed on the National
Registry of Historic Places and is California's Historical Landmark
#953. It is open daily throughout the year and visiting hours
are from 10 AM to 4 PM. Admission is free, but donations are
In the Carriage House are many old horse drawn
vehicles; among them this Circa 1912 Texaco Company's
You start at a Reception Center, full of unique railroad gifts
and books. Among the stores and buildings you will find here
are the last Laws Post Office, a General Store, the Print Shop,
a Fire Station, a Mining Assay Office, Ye Olde Blacksmith Shop,
a Carriage House, the 1909 Inyo County School House, a Ranch
House, a Wells Fargo Office, and the Laws Freight Station and
The Inyo County School House and Gazebo
A turn of the 20 th Century Wells Fargo Office, now
housing a collection of Indian Artifacts and Glass Bottles/Glassware
Laws Freight Station and
Depot whose interior now includes Railroad memorabilia
and two (2) operating model train layouts – one in
HO gauge and one in O gauge
Southern Pacific Locomotive #9
heading a consist of 19 th Century freight cars
The “Armstrong” turntable – once
fancied by the late Ward Kimball, a copy of this turntable
now operates at the Perris, CA Orange Empire
Among the railroad items, you will find SP Engine
#9 leading a string of late 19 th Century pieces of rolling stock.
the south end of the property are many railroad relics, among
which are an old water tower and an “Armstrong” turntable.
A copy of this turntable is also found in Perris, California,
at the Orange Empire Railway Museum. Why a copy? The late Ward
Kimball, while visiting Laws, saw this turntable and liked it
so much that he had a copy of it made for the Perris facility.
A very similar one can also be found at the Nevada State Railroad
Museum in Carson City, Nevada. Amazingly, the one that is NOT
in working order is the original one here in Laws.
The staff at this site is totally volunteer, and to say they
are friendly, helpful, and accommodating would be an understatement.
Should you have even the slightest interest in early California
railroading and the Western pioneer days of the late 19 th Century,
be sure you take this “detour” on the outskirts of Bishop, California.
It is relaxing, peaceful, and quiet. Make sure you bring your
camera. Following your excursion to the Laws Railroad Museum,
you may wish to stop for some wonderful food and beverages in
Bishop at “The Whiskey Creek Restaurant” on Route 395, one of
America's truly scenic by-ways.
Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site
P. O. Box 363, Bishop, CA 93515
An unusual yellow V & T Caboose. Built in 1883
for the Virginia & Truckee RR, it originally was
a combination Passenger and Baggage Car