Las Vegas is not shy when it comes to knocking down casinos -- historical landmarks are few and far between. However, Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino has survived -- and even thrived -- for the past 80 years. A monument was erected outside the casino in 2009, designating this longest continuously running Nevada casino as an historical landmark. The casino houses the Heritage Room Museum, which boasts more than 80 vintage photographs and several artifacts.
I first visited the Railroad Pass Casino in the early 1980s. It hasn't changed much since those days. My father, who worked for the railroad, enjoyed this casino due its railroad significance. Many people, especially those who favored railroad travel, are intrigued by its history.
Railroad Pass, a property of MGM Resorts International, is located on Boulder Highway in Henderson, Nev., between Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. It would not exist today had it not been for the thousands of Hoover Dam workers and their families who flocked to the area to work on the dam's construction.
Union Pacific Railroad, in anticipation of the beginning of the dam's construction in 1931, began laying tracks two years earlier. In January of 1931, the first train went through Railroad Pass, carrying lumber that was to be used in the creation of housing for the workers.
Gov. Fred Balzar signed a bill in 1931 authorizing licenses for legalized gambling in Nevada. Railroad Pass Casino -- with its one room and one roulette wheel -- opened its doors on Aug. 1, 1931. Dam workers socialized at the establishment, enjoying drinks, music and nightlife. A bar was added in the 1940s and in the '70s and '80s the casino expanded to include hotel rooms and restaurants. The restaurant names commemorate the railroad: the Box Car Buffet, the Iron Rail Cafe and the Conductor's Room.
Railroad Pass caters to many regulars, especially those from Boulder City, who have patronized the casino for many years. The workers know the patrons well -- right down to how many grandchildren they have and when they celebrate birthdays. Some of the employees have been there for over 20 years. If you read reviews of Railroad Pass Casino, the friendly employees are often mentioned. Betty Francis has been working in the gift shop for 29 years, and she has lots of stories to tell those eager for a bit of history.
The Henderson Chamber of Commerce announced that about 80 community and state V.I.P.'s and lawmakers were on hand on Monday to commemorate the hotel/casino's significance. The casino is offering specials to its patrons in honor of its 80-year history.