Motor car listed as historic landmark
October 17, 2012
One of Nevada’s most significant historic treasures is now the nation’s newest historic landmark with action today from the United States Department of the Interior. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar listed the McKeen Motor Car at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City as a National Historic Landmark.
“The McKeen Motor Car is a wonderful piece of history and Nevadans should be proud the car is now a National Historic Landmark,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said. “As we begin to celebrate Nevada’s 150th anniversary of statehood in 2014, this is yet another opportunity to attract tourists to our great state.”
The McKeen motor car in Carson City is the nation’s only survivor of its kind that is able to move under its own power. Approximately 160 McKeen motor cars were built from 1905 to 1920. Nevada’s example of the McKeen motor car served on the famed Virginia and Truckee Railway after the turn of the 20th Century. Once retired in 1945, the vehicle was converted into restaurant and then retail space in Carson City. In 1995 it was donated to the Nevada State Railroad Museum, where staff spent years restoring the vehicle.
“The McKeen motor car is now the eighth Nevada resource to receive this distinction,” said Ron James, Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer. “There are only a little more than 2,500 National Historic Landmarks in the nation, so this is a noteworthy distinction. Bert Bedeau deserves a special nod for volunteering to write the nomination.” James also serves as the chairman of the National Historic Landmarks Committee for the National Park Service, the federal agency which maintains the landmark list. Other Nevada landmarks include Hoover Dam, the Comstock Historic District, Fort Churchill, and the Nevada Northern Railway Complex in Ely.
The newly named landmark will be in operation at the museum on Nevada Day, Oct. 26. The famous car operates four times a year, on National Train Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day and Nevada Day.
The McKeen motor car is significant as a rare example of William McKeen’s path-finding effort to use internal combustion engines for rail travel, which previously had primarily used steam propulsion. McKeen also experimented with streamlining and use of lightweight metals for his motorized railcars. This resulted in lower capital and operating costs and had the effect of preserving passenger and express service on lightly-populated railroad branch lines across the United States.
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“I couldn’t be more delighted by the secretary’s action,” said Peter Barton, Administrator, Nevada Division of Museums and History. “Listing of the McKeen motor car will boost our efforts to gain national recognition for our facility and for this important resource.” The car has been recognized for years as a valuable artifact through its inclusion on the list of National Register of Historic Places.
The nomination was drafted by Michael “Bert” Bedeau, district administrator of the Comstock Historic District Commission.
James noted that the restoration of the McKeen motor car was made possible thanks to the efforts of U. S. Representative Mark Amodei. “While he served in the Nevada legislature, State Senator Amodei played a pivotal role in making certain the restoration of the McKeen motor car moved forward. I am grateful to the congressman for his efforts,” James said.