The rich history of Owens Valley and the Eastern Sierra is preserved at this former railroad station & settlement outside of Bishop, CA.
I must have driven by this sign at least a hundred times over the years.
It was often on my list of places to visit but every time I scheduled it on one of my road adventures, I always seemed to arrive too late.
Well, fortunately on this particular trip I not only arrived with enough time left to explore the entire museum but also had on a pair of shoes, came with no pets and wasn’t sucking on a cancer stick.
Formerly called Bishop Creek Station, the town of Laws, CA got its start in 1883 as a depot on the Carson & Colorado Railroad which originated in Nevada, before climbing over Montgomery Pass and making its way to the upper reaches of Owens Valley and on to Keeler to service the rich silver mines of Cerro Gordo. The first train arrived in April, 1883, at which time, the depot, water tank, turntable, and homes for the local agent and section boss had already been built. – Legends of America
Soon a small settlement sprung up around the station that included two general stores, a restaurant, hotel, dance hall, a barber, boarding house, blacksmith, and post office.
In 1900, the Southern Pacific Railroad bought out the Carson & Colorado line and renamed the station Laws in honor of R.J. Laws, a railroad official.
Southern Pacific eventually expanded its narrow-gauge line north from Mojave to Owenyo, which finally connected the north and south ends of Owens Valley by rail.
Laws continued to thrive until the Great Depression hit which eventually led to the closure of the narrow gauge line running north out of the station.
By 1960, the Southern Pacific closed the southern portion of the narrow gauge between Laws and Keeler. It was the last public-use, operational narrow gauge railroad in the American West. Later its tracks were pulled up and the station and some of its old cars and equipment were donated to the City of Bishop. Though Laws took a major hit with the removal of the railroad, it still hung on, primarily due to a mill operated to process clay and talc from nearby mines through the 1960’s. Finally, the post office closed its doors forever in June, 1963. – Legends of America
The Laws Railroad Museum opened in April, 1966.
It’s operated by the Bishop Museum and Historical Society, which has recreated an old time village around the original 1883 depot and Agent’s House by moving old historic buildings onto the grounds from various locations in the Eastern Sierra Nevada.
Each building contains exhibits of historic artifacts from the local area.
One of the most interesting items found at the museum is this display of siamese lambs.
Born on a nearby farm…
…these cute twins probably would of had a rough life if they had survived.
The last steam train to operate on the old Narrow Gauge line is on display at the museum outside the depot.
The Slim Princess, the last of the Western Narrow Gauge, started out as the Carson & Colorado Railway. The C & C was a step-child of the Virginia & Truckee RR with its north connection at the Carson River and the plans to build to the Colorado River. The southern end never went past Keeler where the shop for steam power was located. – Owens Valley History
The last train officially ran out of Laws on April 29, 1961…
…but you still take a ride on a restored rail car from the Death Valley Railroad and an old mine train taken out of the Pine Creek tungsten mine on special occasions.
The museum also houses an extensive collection of old and reconstructed mining equipment.
With a full 11 acres to explore, expect to spend at least 2 hours or more in order to see everything the museum has to offer.
MUSEUM OPEN ALL YEAR 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Summer hours 9:30 am to 4:00 pm daily Reception Center closed on Thursdays January-March Museum grounds remain open Admission by donation
Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site
Silver Canyon Road, Bishop, CA 93514
(5 miles north of Bishop on Highway 6) www.lawsmuseum.org