LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — With heavy hearts, the Nevada Northern Railway announced Wednesday that Dirt the Boss Shop Cat had died the day before.  

Thousands of fans posted heartfelt messages and photos of Dirt in the Facebook comments of the post announcing his passing.

Dirt, who had lived in the locomotive repair shop of the Nevada Northern Railway for 15 years, was front and center of the museum tours and had fans from all around the world.  

Here is his story: 

In the spring of 2008, a small orange and white kitten was found all alone in the engine house. He was born under one of the Nevada Northern Railway’s historic steam locomotive, but his mother and siblings were long gone when he was found by the crew. 

The crew who found him quickly became attached. They would sit with the little furball for hours, feeding him tuna and soft cat food, trying to get him to trust them.  

Once that trust was earned, Al, the railroad’s master mechanic, took the little guy to the vet to get him a checkup and some shots. From there, the rest is history.  

While the shop guys worked, the kitten would roam around the shop, often curling up in the cab of a coal-fired locomotive. His once orange and white fur began to pick up black coal dust, leading to the moniker the shop workers lovingly named him: Dirtbag.  

Of course, once visitors started to discover the shop’s cat, his name was shortened to a more appropriate one: Dirt.  

Dirt grew up to be a large, rough-and-tough tom cat that was the “King of the Shop,” playing fetch with gophers and bats that he found in the surrounding neighborhood. According to the Nevada Northern Railway Facebook, it was quite common to find him rolling around in the dust outside the shop.  

All of the shop workers loved Dirt like he was family. He was their own little mascot. He could do no wrong in their eyes, as he ran around the shop as if he owned it.  

So how did he become world famous? 

During the 2018 winter photo shoot, ten years after Dirt was born, photographer Steve Crise was walking through the machine shop. He noticed Dirt, sitting regally (really owning up to his “King of the Shop” title) in front of one of the locomotives.  

That photo lead to Dirt getting his very own publicist, Eric Mencis, who was the Guest Services Manager at the time. Mencis posted Steve’s photo, and the rest was history. 

Stories, videos and articles started to pop up all over the internet. Dirt the cat was featured in the Washington Post, Trains magazine and even newspapers across Europe. Thousands of guests stopped by the Nevada Northern Railway to get a picture of Dirt. Some traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles.  

As part of the experience, the Nevada Northern Railway offers guided tours of the machine shop and engine house.  

Dirt knew the tour schedule. Once the tour arrived, he would pop out into the shop to greet them. When the tour was over, Dirt would wander back to one of his favorite hiding spots until the next tour.  

Dirt the Cat has his own employee I.D. card. (Nevada Northern Railway Museum)

As Dirt got older and started to lose some of his energy, he would curl up on the laps of the shop workers and watch shows on their phones with them.  

Dirt will be buried in a spot on the grounds of the Depot in the shade of pine trees. A life-size bronze statue of Dirt will serve as his gravestone. A second statue has been made to be placed in the machine shop, so that Dirt can continue to watch over the shop.  

The shop is not completely cat-less now that Dirt is gone. Dirt was teaching his protégé DJ (which, fittingly, stands for Dirt Junior) how to be a Boss Shop Cat.  

With Dirt’s legacy, it sounds like DJ’s got some pretty big paws to fill.