McKeen Motor Car designated historic landmark
October 18, 2012
The McKeen Motor Car at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, one of the state’s historic treasures, has been designated a national historic landmark by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.Called one of Nevada’s significant historic treasures, the McKeen vehicle at the Nevada State Railroad Museum earned the recognition from Salazar and ample praise from Gov. Brian Sandoval.“As we begin to celebrate Nevada’s 150th anniversary of statehood in 2014,” said Sandoval, “this is yet another opportunity to attract tourists to our great state.”Approximately 160 such motor cars were built from 1905 to 1920. Nevada’s version served on the famed Virginia and Truckee Railway. The motor car is a rare example of William McKeen’s effort to use internal combustion engines in rail travel. McKeen also experimented with streamlining and the use of lightweight metals for his motorized rail cars, lowering costs for passenger service or express service on sparsely-settled rail branch lines. Sandoval called the car “a wonderful piece of history” and said Nevadans should be proud of the designation. Ron James, Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer, called the designation noteworthy.“There are only 2500 National Historic Landmarks in the nation,” James said, “so this is a noteworthy distinction.”Retired in 1945, the McKeen Motor Car was converted into a restaurant and later into Carson City retail space. In 1995, it was donated to the railroad museum and staff spent years restoring it. That restoration made it the only surviving McKeen Motor Car that is able to move under its own power. It also is the eighth Nevada resource to receive such a landmark designation distinction.The others are Hoover Dam, the Comstock Historic District, Fort Churchill, Fort Ruby, the Nevada Northern Railway Complex at Ely, Leonard Rockshelter in Pershing County and the Francis G. Newlands home in Reno.James gave credit to Rep. Mark Amodei, formerly a state senator from Carson City who “played a pivotal role” in moving the motor car’s restoration forward.He also credited Michael “Bert” Bedeau, district administrator of the Comstock Historic District Commission, for drafting the nomination to secure the designation.The motor car operated four times annually, including at the museum on Nevada Day Oct. 26. The other three times are Independence Day, Father’s Day and National Train Day.