On the edge of the Mojave desert, Laws Railroad Museum sits in mute testimony to a different and lost way of life on the railroad.
Here is where the tracks come to an abrupt end after the railroad was abandoned in 1959. The village of Laws has been painstakingly rebuilt and stocked with exhibit after exhibit - each showing every aspect of life in a bustling railroad town at the end of the 19th century.
The museum grounds include the 1883 depot, original water tower, and a station agent’s house where every single agent lived from the mid-1800s until the trains stopped running. The other buildings have been salvaged from the surrounding areas or are replicas built for wild west movies that were then donated to the museum to house all of the artifacts and exhibits that they offer. In each building, there is a different theme - and the houses and barns host everything from a completely stocked mill to a turn of the century doctor’s office, a general store, a barber shop and much, much more.
When the feet get tired or the heat overcomes you, it is possible to buy a train ticket in the original station house and go for a short ride on a beautifully restored train. This is the only time you will be guided in the museum, as you are free to wander the buildings at will and for as long as you like. The guides on the train are storytellers who are brimming with knowledge of the area and the rails - and they double as train conductors and line switchers, hopping off to change the tracks for the train whenever the driver rings a bell. Truth be told, you could walk the tracks faster than the train rolls and it only goes for a couple hundred feet - but it’s amazing how much information they can pack into that short journey - and how long they can stretch those minutes out with fascinating stories of the town that was Laws.
The museum is open daily and is entered on a donation basis. It is operated by the Bishop Museum & Historical Society and has been gifted the 11 acres of land, the original buildings and the last train to arrive in Laws by the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Know Before You Go
Laws Railroad Museum is located 4.5 miles north of Bishop, off U.S. Hwy 6.