Caliente’s Heritage Box Museum did not start as a museum for railroad memorabilia. Director Janet Gray said when first opened in the early 1980’s by Mary Ellen Sadovich, it was mostly a museum for geological things related to the surrounding area of Caliente. “Many of the items came from the local caves,” she said. “Mary had tons of material, plus a lot of stuff from Las Vegas, Clark County and California.”
Gray explained, “It was called the Box Car Museum and a person would make an appointment, and Mary Ellen would have you come, and she would have you sit on a bench and she would lecture.”
When Gray got involved in the museum around 2000, the committee decided they wanted it to “represent more of the impact the railroad had on the community, with history of our families that were here. So we have several albums with family pictures. As many pictures as people donate dealing with the forming of the railroad, those who worked on it, railroad artifacts, pictures of the original wooden railroad depot that burned down, blueprints for the existing (1923) building, different personal items that have been donated and more.”
The museum today is more of a self-guiding tour, “We have things you can touch and look at,” she said.
“We run on donations,” Gray said, “and the money goes back into maintenance. We are trying to get a heating and cooling system right now. We are usually open the three days a week, April through October.”
Gray said although the museum is set up to be self-guided, “any one of us on the committee will take you on a private tour, even on the off days, or different hours. Just give us a call.”
She said many visitors, even foreign tourists, and anyone especially interested in railroading, will come and take picture after picture of the things inside. “I had a couple from Great Britain last week, and I gave them a private tour. They were the most interesting people and took many pictures. Another couple came from Salt Lake City, specifically to see the museum.”
Efforts are being made to turn the little caboose, next to the boxcar, ready for display as well. “Right now, the kids are just tearing it apart. We want to make either a kiosk out of it, or at least be able to be viewed from the outside, without having it destroyed.”
A side note, the caboose is not Union Pacific equipment, Gray said, “It’s Southern Pacific, but we didn’t care, we’ll take whatever we can get.”
Union Pacific merged with Southern Pacific in 1996.