Restored motor car debuts at railroad museum |

Restored motor car debuts at railroad museum


Cal Tinkham held a video recorder while riding in the McKeen Motor Car Sunday afternoon.

It was the motor car’s first passenger service in 65 years, and for Tinkham, 78, it was like nothing had ever changed after riding the self-propelled passenger car when it was still carrying people along the Virginia & Truckee Railroad decades ago.

On Sunday, Tinkham, who rode the car before it was decommissioned in 1945, was one of the first people to ride the motor car after 14 years of restoration work.

“I think it’s marvelous,” said Tinkham, wearing an engineer’s cap. “It’s just the same.”

The ceremony marking the first passenger service of the McKeen Motor Car attracted a large crowd that watched the car make a loop around the Nevada State Rail Road Museum.

Sunday’s ceremony also took place exactly 100 years – to the minute – after the McKeen Motor Car was delivered to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad in 1910 from Omaha, Neb. At the time it cost $20,000.

After the McKeen Motor Car was officially retired in 1945, its shell was used to house a diner on South Carson Street until 1957. Al Bernhard purchased the shell and used it as storage and office space for his plumbing business.

In 1996, Bernhard and his family donated the shell to the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Fourteen years later, the motor car is fully restored and running again.

“This is truly one of a kind,” Bernhard said on Sunday.

Members and volunteers at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, Bernhard and people who rode the McKeen Motor Car as passengers decades ago attended the ceremony on Sunday.

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, former state Sen. Mark Amodei and Robin Reedy, Gov. Jim Gibbon’s chief of staff, attended the event.

The McKeen will be available for limited rides, to be scheduled. For more information, go to the Friends of the Nevada State Railroad Museum website,