814 Victorian Ave. Sparks, NV 89431

Sparks Museum is Proud to be a Blue Star Museum


The Sparks Museum is one of more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to military personnel and their families this summer in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the Department of Defense.

Sparks, Nevada – May 24, 2014 – Today the Sparks Museum announced the launch of the Blue Star Museums, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Defense Department, and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2014. Leadership support has been provided by MetLife Foundation through Blue Star Families. The program provides families an opportunity to enjoy the nation’s cultural heritage and learn more about their new communities after a military move. The complete listing of participating museums is available at arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums.

The free admission program is available to any bearer of a Geneva Convention common access card, a DD-Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card, which includes active duty U.S. military – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps – and up to five family members.

The Sparks Heritage Foundation and Museum, Inc., (dba Sparks Museum and Cultural Center) is the only local history museum in the Truckee Meadows area. Located conveniently off of Interstate 80, in Nevada’s Reno Tahoe Territory, the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center inspires dynamic connections to Northern Nevada’s unique heritage through creative programs, exhibits and publications.

Sparks’ proud railroad heritage is apparent in its historic downtown where the Museum is located. A vintage steam locomotive, cupola caboose and Pullman executive car are displayed along with a depot replica, the restored one room Glendale Schoolhouse and a monument to the Chinese rail workers. Inside the Museum visitors explore 4000 square feet of engaging exhibits. Using vintage artifacts to tell the story, the exhibits give one a good sense of the rapid changes the region has undergone from ranching and mining to the introduction of the railroad and into modern times, including the significant role the region has played in the Space program.

Using vintage artifacts along with interactive iPad kiosks, the Museum’s exhibits tell the story of the Truckee Meadows from the earliest settlers to modern day.

California bound immigrants parties following the Truckee River found fresh water and feed for their cattle in the Meadows east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1855, a trading post was established in the meadows which Sparks now occupies. A culture of ranching and mining ensued.

Against the backdrop of sepia toned photographs, the next gallery explores the development of Sparks as a railroad town. Sparks was officially founded in 1904 when the Southern Pacific Railroad moved their Roundhouse and locomotive erecting shop from Wadsworth, Nevada, in an effort to shorten travel routes. The City of Sparks sprung up overnight as employees literally picked up, moved and reassembled their homes in a matter of days lured by the promise of a deeded plot of land for $1 as a reward.

Visitors are able to immerse themselves in life in a railroad town as many of the exhibits are not behind glass, giving one the feeling that they are actually in the old dispatcher’s office or inside the original general store. Lifestyle dioramas depict a music room, living room, dining room and laundry room from the early days.

The next gallery focuses on Transportation. The Intercontinental Railroad, the Lincoln Highway, Route 40 and Interstate 80 have all brought travelers from across America and across the world to the local area. All of these travelers pass directly in front of the historic buildings which house the Museum.

Special exhibits pay tribute to the local schools, children and sports. Toys over 100 years old enrapture us, while the Sparks High exhibit including a poodle skirt brings a flood of memories to many.

To this day the Aerospace industry, fueled by the Military, has played a significant role in the economy of Northern Nevada. Sparks’ proud history of supporting the military is depicted. The newest exhibit highlights the role Sparks played in getting the first man on and off the moon through the testing and development of rocket engines for the Lunar Lander.

The Sparks Museum and Cultural Center’s Changing Gallery features unique displays focusing on the arts, sciences, history, and the rich diversity of the region and its people. A variety of educational programs for adults and families are offered throughout the year.

The Museum’s major annual event is the Western Heritage Festival held in Victorian Square each year. This year it will be held October 2-3, 2014.

Tours of the Train and Museum are available to the public on Saturdays and Sundays between 1 and 4 pm and are included in the price of admission.

Outdoor Exhibits

Across the street from the Museum in Lillard Park is

  • A preserved railroad bridge built by Chinese immigrants
  • A memorial to the Chinese railroad workers
  • A replica of a Southern Pacific Depot
  • The Bicentennial Train display consisting of a

Southern Pacific Steam Locomotive #8 built in 1907

Radio equipped Cupola Caboose built in the 1941

1911 Pullman Car that was converted to an Executive Car in the 1920s

  • The Glendale Schoolhouse built in 1864 and home to famous students such as Senator McCarran

Behind the Museum in the Memorial Park are

  • Statues of police and firefighters
  • Memorial plaques listings Sparks residents who gave their lives during the Korean War and in the line of duty as police officers and firefighters.

Free parking is located behind the museum off C Street.