When visiting the California Route 66 Museum, be sure to look around on the outside of the building. There are a few items that reflect some of the local history. One of those items sits along the outer wall and to the left of the main doors of the museum. It is a small grayish headstone that has been place there in the year 2008. For the most part, it is a standard gravesite headstone but with a special story.
The headstone is engraved with the following words:
“A RAILROAD DOG”
A FRIEND AND A PAL
The original location for the headstone was at nearby Forrest Park in Victorville, California. The city decided to close the park and today only a dirt field remains. The placement of the headstone at the museum is to honor a dog that befriended workers at the nearby railroad depot during the 1940s. The railroad depot and the story of this dog is part of the local history and of Route 66.
Brownie the Railroad Dog came to the depot in 1943 and lived there until 1945. The complete story of Brownie has been lost with time, but what is known is that he arrived at night to the depot bruised and bleeding from what seemed to be an encounter with an automobile. It was the night telegraph operator who took care of this wounded dog, providing him with a resting place near a heated stove with blanket and a pan of warm milk.
This stray hound was not the show breed type. He was just a common street dog that one would find roaming any American town. A short hair, long tail, mutt that was believed to have been a mix of terrier and pit bull. The name Brownie was given to him because of his tan colored coat.
Shortly after his arrival at the depot station, Brownie took on the role of mascot and became a permanent resident at the depot. He took on the task of greeting the incoming workers and guests. At night Brownie found a comfortable spot under the telegraph operator’s desk. Gaining the love of the railroad workers, he was well cared for by the railroad employees and many of them would chip in money when Brownie need to be treated by a vet.
Brownie lived at the station 24 hours a day until 1945 when he was sadly hit by one of the trains. This time he did not survive his injuries and passed away. He was placed in a typewriter box and his remains placed in a makeshift grave under the shad of a cottonwood tree; that land became to be known as Forrest Park.
The railroad workers, who had taken care of Brownie, took up a collection to have a headstone at the gravesite. The marker not only became a place to mourn the passing of a loved friend, but a tribute to man’s best friend.