Nevada State Railroad Museum
Southern Pacific Wabuska Depot

Photo of Wabusca Depot at the museum
Now, early 2003


Along with the U. S. Post Office, the two-story clapboard Commercial Hotel and J. M. Feeny’s general merchandise store, the Southern Pacific station at Wabuska served as the hub of the modest settlement, located at the upper end of Mason Valley.  Erected in 1906 by a crew of S. P. carpenters, the twenty-four by eighty-foot freight and passenger station replaced an earlier and smaller depot built by the Carson & Colorado Railroad.  The single-story wood frame building served the predominately agricultural and mining region until Sept. 1, 1979, when the railroad closed the station.

Though not endowed with rich soils, Mason Valley was productive enough to prompt H. M. Yerington, President of the Carson & Colorado Railroad, to order a small freight and passenger station be constructed near the narrow gauge railroad’s “first crossing of the Walker River” in 1880.  Deposits of bluestone (copper sulfate) discovered and only partially developed by John Ludwig in 1870 didn’t exactly prompt an immediate rush to the region until after 1900 when those ore bodies were more actively worked.

The mining boom brought about by the discovery of gold and silver at Tonopah and Goldfield immediately after 1900 did much to expand shipments of such indigenous agricultural products as hay, grain and potatoes from Mason Valley.  The tremendous increase of freight out of Wabuska influenced the S. P. to replace the original C&C depot with a larger station in 1906.  They also added a freight shed.  This agricultural boom coupled with the highly active development of the bluestone deposits by the Nevada Douglas, Mason Valley and Bluestone mining companies soon led to the construction of several ore processing facilities.  To economically transport the ore from the mines located in both Smith and Mason valleys, the Nevada Douglas Copper Co., the area’s principal developer, surveyed and then contracted for the construction of a standard gauge railroad, starting at Wabuska, in 1909.  The S. P., now the owner of the old C&C, in the meantime had broad gauged its line in 1906.  Resembling a gigantic letter “J,” the route of the Nevada Copper Belt Railway was completed to Ludwig three years and 37.8 miles later.

Soon after the NCB began service in 1912, the railroad’s first three engines and cars were kept active hauling up to 750 tons of ore per day.  Wabuska was indeed a bustling place as many freight teams arrived and departed daily to and from the smaller mining camps of Ramsey, Buckskin and others.  Copper was KING – for a while – along with gold and silver.  Then, as most mining booms seem to do repeatedly, in face of declining prices of metal, the economy hit the skids.  The region suffered since the three major companies, i.e., Nevada Douglas, Mason Valley and the Bluestone mines constituted the principal sources of traffic for the NCB.  There was a brief flurry of activity in the late 1910s and again in the 1920s.

According to historian David F. Myrick: “Passenger service on the NCB was both transilient and ephemeral …” except between Wabuska and Thompson (site of the Mason Valley Mill Co.’s huge smelter) where service could be considered normal.  In addition to what little revenue was earned from hauling freight, the company’s cashbook recorded an occasional picnic excursion from Ludwig as well as from the other end of the line at Wabuska and Yerington.  The destination was Wilson’s Canyon.  The two Hall-Scott gasoline-powered motor cars often provided this service and on some occasions hauled “as many as three or four freight cars in addition to their human cargo.”

Revenues continued to dip, prompting the owners of the Nevada Copper Belt to petition for abandonment.  March 24, 1947 was the last day of operation.  Apparently, business at Wabuska depot continued sufficiently until shortly before Sept. 1, 1979, when the Southern Pacific closed the seventy-three year-old structure.  Following its gift to the Nevada State Museum in 1982, the eighty-foot long depot was moved intact to the Railroad Museum at Carson City in 1983.  During the next four years, depending on time and funds, the depot underwent a complete renewal to reflect its appearance of the 1910s.  Not-withstanding the addition of a number of mandatory safety features as well as a telephone and an electronic cash register, the Wabuska depot is back in business – serving as a busy railroad station once again.

In late 2003 the depot received a new wooden platform to facilitate the loading of our guests on the steam trains and the motor cars.

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Modified Monday December 08, 2008