This sturdy yet unassuming building at 401 E. Fourth Street dates back to the late 19th century, subtly evoking Reno’s rich railroad heritage. It was constructed in 1889 as the locomotive house for the Nevada-California-Oregon (NCO) Railway, a narrow gauge line founded in Reno in 1880 as the Nevada and Oregon Railroad Company. A massive fire had burned down the company’s previous holdings earlier in 1889, requiring the rapid construction of a fire-proof brick and iron shop and engine house in the company’s existing rail yards.
Single-story with a foundation of rubble stone, the building was planned in sections, with the eastern wall constructed of wood to provide for easy expansion as needed. A turntable located just north of the shops allowed crews to rotate railroad cars and engines to enter the building for maintenance and repairs, while four skylights in the gable roof provided natural light. Tracks ran from the turntable just a few yards eastward to the company’s wooden roundhouse, nestled along what is now Valley Road.
The building underwent multiple reconfigurations over the next few decades, with a temporary wooden addition on the east side providing space for painting and woodworking. After the wooden car shop was removed and a new eight-stall brick roundhouse was constructed adjacent to the original locomotive house, the building was used exclusively as a machine shop.
The decline of the NCO prompted the sale of its Reno holdings, including the roundhouse, the machine shop, and the depot at 530 E. Fourth Street, to the Western Pacific Railroad in 1917. Since the narrow gauge facilities were incompatible with the new owner’s standard gauge equipment, the company leased the old locomotive house and machine shop to various businesses. These included the Crane Company of Nevada, a branch of the large plumbing supply firm headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, which operated its business out of the structure from 1921 until 1963. A small brick addition was constructed in the 1940s.
The Western Pacific sold the old locomotive house and machine shop in 1957 to the Yancy Company of Reno, and the building has changed hands several times since then. In 2019 it became the home of Nevada's first meadery, the Black Rabbit Mead Company.