LAS VEGAS (AP) — The historic Railroad Museum of Northern Nevada is mourning the death of its resident cat, who became an unexpected internet sensation.
Dirt, short for Dirtbag, died Wednesday in the town of Ely at the age of 15, the railway said on its website.
The semi-feral feline was a staple at the museum. His online notoriety, stemming from a Facebook photo an employee posted five years ago, led to the creation of Dirt Merch, including key chains, T-shirts, mugs and even his own coffee blend.
Dirt was free to come and go at the museum, which is 240 miles (386 kilometers) north of Las Vegas. He was born in the railroad roundhouse, Railroad President Mark Bassett said. His name comes from his orange and white robe, always stained with dirt and grease, and disgusting bathrooms.
When Dirt’s footage first hit the internet, social media treated the cat less like trash and more like a dignitary.
“We had a family that flew from China to Los Angeles, to Las Vegas, rented a car, and drove to Ely to see Dirt,” Bassett told the newspaper. “And it’s like, ‘He’s a cat! He’s not on display.’”
The museum is known for offering train rides pulled by century-old steam engines and tours of the machine shop and powerhouse. Bassett said Dirt would always come out during the tour, much to the delight of visitors, who wanted their photo of him.
He said the cat undoubtedly increased attendance.
The museum plans to honor Dirt with a funeral and two bronze statues, Bassett said.
Meanwhile, Dirt Jr., or DJ, another rescue cat, still resides at the museum.