Sparks sprang into existence in 1903 as a new division point on the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Engaged in straightening and realigning the old Central Pacific trackage across Nevada, the Southern Pacific Company moved its shops and headquarters from Wadsworth to this location.  Employees were assigned lots and their houses were freighted to the new town

Sparks, originally known as Harriman, came into official existence in April 1904.   In 1905, the state legislature incorporated the town, named in honor of John Sparks, rancher and governor of the state of Nevada.

Sparks boasted one of the largest roundhouses in the world during the steam era.  It was the western Nevada base for a vast stable of steam locomotives, particularly the famous cab-in-front articulated type known as Mallets.  These huge steamers hauled both freight and passengers over the steep grades of the Sierra between Roseville, California and Sparks.