Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Atomic Las Vegas

If you remember duck and cover, mushroom clouds, and bomb shelters, you’ll definitely want to visit the Atomic Testing Museum at 755 E. Flamingo. Even though I was born about the same time above-ground testing was banned in 1963, the artifacts on display took me back to a time when the threat of nuclear war loomed large; when I was a kid growing up in Las Vegas, the underground tests still shook our breakfast table periodically. For those whippersnappers who think the Cold War was a battle fought in the Arctic, the Atomic Testing Museum will fill in the holes in their education.

Arranged in chronological order from the beginning of the atomic age during the last years of World War II to today, the museum offers a rich variety of displays that include hands-on exhibits and video. To get a taste of what witnessing an above-ground atomic test was like, visit the Ground Zero theater for a shaking, ear-shattering re-creation. “I think my hearing is damaged,” my son said after we viewed the film. I told him that watching an actual test would have been far louder and scarier. (This led us to a discussion of the Pepcon explosion, which I remember well.)

My favorite display was the information on the Jackass and Western Railroad, a short railway used at the Test Site to transport nuclear powered rockets. A couple of years ago, I wrote some material for the folks at the Boulder City Railroad Museum, where the historic locomotive from that railroad now lives. Being the museum geek that I am, I was dancing with excitement when I discovered this connection.
Photo Information: My picture of the exterior of the Atomic Testing Museum. Photography is not allowed inside the museum.

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