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Virginia and Truckee Railroad

Virginia and Truckee Railroad
Reporting mark VT
Dates of operation 1870–present
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Virginia City, Nevada
Website .com.virginiatruckeewww
Engine No. 18, Baldwin 2-8-2 built in October 1914. Photo at Tunnel #4, 2011.
V&T train at (collapsed) Tunnel 1, around 1940 and in 2014. Note shoofly around old tunnel in both photos.

The Virginia and Truckee Railroad (reporting mark VT) was built to serve the Comstock Lode mining communities of northwestern Nevada. At its height, the railroad's route ran from Reno south to Carson City, Nevada. In Carson City, the mainline split into two branches. One branch continued south to Minden, while the other branch traveled east to Virginia City. The first section constructed from Virginia City to Carson City was constructed commencing in 1869 to haul ore, lumber and supplies for the Comstock Lode.

The railroad was abandoned in 1950 after years of declining revenue. Much of the rail infrastructure was pulled up and sold, along with the remaining locomotives and railcars. In the 1970s, with public interest in historic railroads on the rise, the old lines were rebuilt by private investors, with an eye towards re-opening the lines.

Today, the privately owned Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company operates as a heritage railroad, headquartered in Virginia City. The present route is 14.1 miles (22.7 km) long. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad owns and uses the service mark "Queen of the Short Lines." The V&T Railroad runs up to 7 trains per day, many in steam behind locomotive #29, a 2-8-0 Consolidation, or an ex-US Army GE 80 ton diesel from Virginia City from Memorial Day until the end of October each year.

The public Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway has rebuilt the line from Gold Hill (connection with the current V&T Railroad) to Carson City, running the first train over the line in 68 years on 14 August 2009.[1] The Commission acquired a 1914 2-8-2 Mikado steam locomotive (The McCloud no. 18), which had been in use by the Sierra Railroad, out of Oakdale, California on special lunch and dinner trains. When the no. 18 arrived on the V&T, boiler problems were discovered, and the locomotive awaited repair at the Virginia and Truckee shops in Virginia City. She went to Hollywood for the filming of Water for Elephants. She returned after her scenes were filmed and finally had her first revenue run on July 24, 2010. Cars and locomotives from the original railroad are on display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, at the Comstock History Center on C Street in Virginia City, at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento and at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.

In order to ascend the mountain to Virginia City it was necessary to build an enormous trestle. Popular Nevada mythology says Crown Point Trestle was considered to be such a feat of engineering that it is featured on the Nevada State Seal. This myth is mentioned by Lucius Beebe.[2]

Former Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha debunks this myth on the state's Myth-a-Month page, pointing out that the state seal predates the trestle and shows a viaduct, not a trestle.[3]


  • History 1
    • The Comstock Lode 1.1
    • Early years 1.2
    • Expansion and prosperity 1.3
    • Decline of the railroad 1.4
  • Historic equipment 2
    • Other Historic designations 2.1
  • Restoring the line 3
  • Current equipment 4
    • Steam locomotives 4.1
    • Diesel locomotives 4.2
    • Motor cars 4.3
    • Passenger cars 4.4
  • See also 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The Comstock Lode

Restored V&T railroad

Gold was discovered in Nevada (then western Utah Territory) in the spring of 1850, by a company of Mormon emigrants on their way to the California Gold Rush. These early travelers only lingered in Nevada until they could cross the Sierras. By 1858 prospectors were soon permanently camping in the area around what is now Virginia City.[4]:12 In 1859, gold was found in outcroppings in the hills and canyons just outside what is now Virginia City. Among the gold ore in these outcroppings were bluish chunks of silver ore which clogged the rockers. Silver was not recognized in this form, so initially it was overlooked in favor of the gold, and later found to be quite valuable.[4]:12 This was the first of the silver from what came to be called the Comstock Lode.

Numerous mills appeared along the Carson River from Dayton to Brunswick (toward Eagle Valley) to process the ore from the Comstock Lode. Low interest rates enticed mine and mill owners alike to finance through the bank. Many of these mills and some mines were built with loans from the Bank of California, whose Nevada agent, William Sharon, would foreclose upon the mines or mills when their owners defaulted on payments. Thus, the bank gradually came into possession of many important mining and ore-processing facilities.[5]:136 Sharon, along with business partners Darius Ogden Mills and William Ralston,[6]:8 formed the bank-owned Union Mill & Mining Company to process the ore from the mills that had been foreclosed upon.[4]:12[5]:136

Initially, the Comstock Lode was a boon for the Virginia City area, as the city grew to over 20,000 persons at its height, and was among the largest and wealthiest cities in the West.[4]:12 However, from the beginning, the costs to transport Comstock ore to the mills from points on the Lode (as well to return with wood and lumber to supply the mines)[5]:136 became so great that many mines were closed and only the higher quality ores were worth processing.[4]:13 Being in control of mines and mills with his partners, Sharon realized that a cheap form of transportation between the mines, the mills, and the cities would allow the banks holdings to be more profitable.[5]:136

Early years

There were many propositions starting as early as 1861 for railroads to service the area and decrease costs. Sharon eventually (with the addition of $500,000 in county bonds to move the railroad), envisioned a railroad to run from Virginia City,[5]:136,137 through Gold Hill where the first of the Comstock Lode was mined, passing the mills along the river, ending at the state capital, Carson City.[4]:13 When finished, this route would cover 21 miles, descend 1,575 feet of elevation and have so many curves as to make 17 full circles in the thirteen and a half miles from the river to Virginia City.[5]:137 Ground was broken on February 18, 1869, two miles below Gold Hill on American Flats when grading crews went to work. There were seven tunnels on the line requiring 2 – 5 months each to hole through and an 85 ft tall, 500 ft long trestle to be built over the Crown Point ravine. The first track and ceremonial first spike was driven on September 28, 1869 by superintendent H. M. Yerington, with the first passenger train pulling into Virginia City on Jan. 29, 1870.[5]:138

Named the Lyon,[6]:13 engine No. 1 was one of three 2-6-0's purchased from H.J. Booth by the fledgling railroad, along with engine No. 2, the Ormsby[6]:14 and No. 3, the Storey.[6]:15 The railroad placed orders for five locomotives, three from H.J. Booth and two from Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, PA. The first three of the five original locomotives purchased were named after Nevada counties. The last two of the five were built by Baldwin and were named Virginia engine No 4 and Carson engine No 5, after the respective towns. The Baldwin locomotives, Virginia and Carson, were dis-assembled at Reno on a Central Pacific siding then hauled up the Geiger Grade from Reno to Virginia City, thus reassembled. They had the distinction of being the first locomotives in Virginia City. The Lyon, with the distinction of being the first locomotive for the V&T RR, was also the engine that pulled the work train, finally arriving in Virginia City on January 28, 1870, completing the initially planned route.[5]:138 The line was opened in its entirety on Jan 29 with regular passenger service starting on Feb 1, 1870[5]:138,154

On Nov. 12, 1869 V&T Engine no. 2, an H.J. Booth 2-6-0, pulled the first car of revenue for the company from Carson City to Gold Hill, a flat car loaded with lumber for the Crown Point Company. This milestone was also marked by the opening of the Crown Point Ravine bridge and the first crossing of the work train, engine No. 1 plus four cars, followed closely behind by engine No. 2, plus four cars (1 revenue). It is assumed that from the 12th to the 18th the railroad laid track (spurs) to service the local mines of Gold Hill, for without the track, you can't get cars in to load. Without cars, you have nothing to haul, and this WAS primarily a freight road. (There is nothing in print to reference this). However, on Nov. 18 1869, engine No. 1 hauled the railroads first revenue train of ore from the Yellow Jacket mine. By December 21, regular scheduled trains were running between Gold Hill and Carson City, hauling wood and lumber up the hill and ore back down to the mills.[5]:138

The first lot of ore from the Yellow Jacket mine and in fact from the Comstock ledge - yet shipped over the railroad was sent down yesterday to the Yellow Jacket mill on Carson River. There were seven car loads of it, about eight and a half tons to the load, not far from 60 tons. This was from the 700 foot level of the old north mine, and dumped directly into the cars, the railroad passing within a few feet of the shaft. It is low grade ore, assaying $26 or $28 to the ton, and will yield under the stamps not far from $17 per ton. It is ore which heretofore was considered too poor to work and was accordingly used to fill up drifts with. The railroad now affords for the first time a chance to work this low grade ore profitably. - Gold Hill Daily News, The first Ore Shipment - Nov 19, 1869.

    • (I don't know how to add hyperlinks to these pages for references, so if you look up, then click on 'In The News' you can read newspaper clips from the Territorial Enterprise, Gold Hill News and Carson Appeal, newspapers of the day reporting on the progress of the railroad.)

In the chapter above from the Gold Hill Daily News, it states that low grade ore is valued at $26 – $28.00 to the ton. It also states that (after transportation and milling costs, 'yield under the stamps') the result would be around $17.00 to the ton coming back to the mine. Milling rates were about $7/ton. Based on an average of $27/ton of low grade ore, that left a freight cost of $3/ton. That one ton of ore could pay the wages for 3 experienced underground miners and a carpenter for a day. So you use your low grade ore to pay expenses, and reap the profits from the high grade. With the coming of the railroad, a reduction in freight rates for lumber by almost half occurred,[5]:154 and the railroad could haul more material by the trainload, so mining activity would increase, creating more business for the railroad. Sharon's idea of low cost transportation paid off.

The railroad had cost $1,750,000 to build, not including the cost of rolling stock or buildings.[4]:14 The V&T ran 30 - 45 trains per day at the height of the Big Bonanza from Carson to Virginia City and Gold Hill. Still primarily a freight railroad, there were 22 locomotives and 361 freight cars in use at the peak of the Virginia and Truckee operations (1876 & 1877), which carried over 400,000 tons of freight per month.[4]:14 This was in contrast to a mere 10 passenger cars.[4]:23

Expansion and prosperity

CPRR issued ticket for passage from Reno to Virginia City, 1878

In late 1871, a line extension to Reno was begun, to connect the V&T line with the Central Pacific Railroad. This would allow through train service between Virginia City and San Francisco.[6]:12 Construction began with track being installed starting at the Reno end of the line.[6]:101 The first train to run end-to-end from Virginia City to Reno took place on August 24, 1872,[6]:11 pulled appropriately by the road's newest locomotive at the time, No. 11, the Reno.[4]:14 This milestone marked the completion of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. In 1875, the railroad was earning a profit of over $100,000 per month and started paying annual dividends of $360,000 (or $30,000/month) to investors.[5]:157

Virginia & Truckee Railroad Right of Way, Reno, Nevada Historical Marker No. 248. This grade was constructed in 1871, and in use until 1950.[7]

In 1880, the V&T built a

  • Virginia and Truckee Railroad V&T Operations
  • Northern Nevada Railway Foundation
  • Friends of the Nevada State Railroad Museum
  • Nevada State Railroad Museum
  • Virginia & Truckee Historical Society
  • Kent Kristiansson's V&T History Site History, Facts, Stories
  • Road Trip America visits the V&T Railroad
  • V&T Route Map
  • V&T Locomotives No. 18, the Dayton, and No. 22, the Inyo
  • The Studio Trains — Virginia & Truckee in Films
  • Guide to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company Records, 1872-1950 at The Bancroft Library
  • Photos of the V&T

External links

  1. ^ "Virginia & Truckee reopens", TRAINS Magazine, November 2009: 13, retrieved 2009-11-28 
  2. ^ Lohse, Jim. "Popular Nevada and V&T Myths: Comstock Silver and the Civil War, State Seal". Train Arts. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  3. ^ Rocha, Guy. "Myth #8: The "Trestle" on the State Seal". Nevada State Library and Archives. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Wurm, Ted (1992). Rebirth of the Virginia & Truckee R.R. May-Murdock Publications.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Myrick, David F. (1962). Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, Vol 1: The Northern Roads. Howell-North.  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Koenig, Karl R. (1980). Virginia & Truckee Locomotives. Chatham Publishing Company.  
  7. ^ Nevada Historical Marker No. 248
  8. ^
  9. ^ "V & T Locomotive Roster". Nevada State Railroad Museum. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  10. ^ Haight, Abby (June 21, 2009). "Oregon No. 1 chugs through its golden anniversary party".  
  11. ^ #NPS–04001198
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ Reno
  14. ^ Genoa
  15. ^ Empire
  16. ^ Dayton
  17. ^ Tahoe
  18. ^ J.W.Bowker
  19. ^ Inyo
  20. ^ Unnamed
  21. ^ Unnamed
  22. ^ Anderson, Tim. "V&T Railroad project marks milestone". Reno Gazette-Journal. Retrieved 2006-01-06. 
  23. ^ "Voters reject tax for Virginia & Truckee project".  
  24. ^ "Existing Equipment Roster". VIRGINIA & TRUCKEE RAILROAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  25. ^ "Gold Hill Historical Society". GOLD HILL HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 


  • Steamcars To The Comstock, Lucius Beebe & Charles Clegg, Howell-North, 1957
  • Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, Vol. 1 The Northern Roads, David F. Myrick, Howell-North, 1962
  • Rebirth of the Virginia & Truckee R. R., Ted Wurm, May-Murdoch Publications, 1992
  • The Silver Short Line: A History of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, Ted Wurm & Harre Demoro, (1983, Trans-Anglo Books) (ISBN 978-0-87046-064-7).
  • Virginia & Truckee: A Story of Virginia City and Comstock Times, Lucius Beebe & Charles Clegg, Howell-North, 1949
  • Virginia & Truckee, The Bonanza Road, Mallory Hope Ferrell, Hundman Publishing, 1999
  • Official Guidebook of the Virginia & Truckee, Stephen E. Drew, Virginia & Truckee Railroad, 2011


See also

  • No. 25: Combination Car. Ex-San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad No. 37, later Northwestern Pacific Railroad No. 37. Arrived in 1975. Used as the Virginia City Ticket Office 1976-2013. Built in 1888 by Harlan & Hollingsworth.
  • No. 50: Ex-Western Pacific Railroad bay-window caboose. Built in 1916. Entered service in 1977. Serviceable and in daily use.
  • No. 55: Ex-WP Box Car. Converted into an open-air gondola. Built in 1916. Entered service in 1977. Serviceable and in daily use.
  • No. 54: Ex-WP Box Car. Converted into a tunnel car, but capable of carrying passengers. Possibly built in 1916. Last used in passenger service in 2001. It is, however, still used on the Labor Day and Civil War trains. Serviceable.
  • No. 100: Ex-Bangor & Aroostook parlor car No. 100. Named "Ardelle Mae", unofficially "Reno". Built in 1907 by American Car & Foundry. Stored on the runaround track at Virginia City Monday-Wednesday.
  • No. 101: Ex-Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad coach. Built by Pullman Company in 1914. Named "Gold Hill". Arrived in July 2008 and entered service in May 2009. Serviceable.
  • No. 102: Ex-DL&W coach. Built in 1914 by Pullman. Named "Silver City". Entered service in May 2009. Serviceable.
  • No. 103: Ex-DL&W coach. Built by Pullman in 1917. Named "Carson City". Entered service in September 2010. Serviceable.
  • No. 104: Ex-SP coach No. 1165. Built in 1909 by Pullman. From Tehachapi, California. Serviceable; used as a work coach.

Passenger cars

Motor cars

Diesel locomotives

  • No. 18: Ex-McCloud River Railroad No. 18. Baldwin 2-8-2 built in October 1914. Leased by the commission to the V&T Railroad. Operable. The locomotive still wears her old McCloud lettering and number.
  • No. 29: Ex-Longview, Portland and Northern Railway No. 680. Baldwin 2-8-0 built in October 1916. Acquired by V&T in 1977. Restored 2001-2008. Named "Robert C. Gray". Operable.
  • No. 30: Ex-Southern Pacific No. 1251. Built at SP Sacramento Shops in November 1919. On display in Stockton, California from 1957 to 1984. Arrived in Virginia City in July 1984. Inoperable and partially dismantled. Funds are short to restore the locomotive to operation & is stored in a siding awaiting funding.
  • No. 8: Ex-Feather River Short Line No.8, née Hobart Southern. Stored operable in Mound House, with no plans to return to service on the V&T in the near future due to legal issues. Baldwin 2-6-2 built in 1907. Currently owned by the Gold Hill Historical Society. Was steamed up on Memorial Day 2012.[25]

Steam locomotives

The following is a list of the locomotives currently owned by the reborn V&T.[24]

V&T Engine No. 29, 2009.

Current equipment

The railroad hosted its first Day Out with Thomas event on October 24, 2015, utilizing the three Pullmans and D-2. The observation car Ardelle Mae, several of the privately-owned cabooses, and the observation car from the YVRR were used to create a makeshift event center with arts and crafts, and a meet-and-greet with Sir Topham Hatt.

In May 2013, the railroad acquired a GE 44-tonner and three passenger cars from the defunct Yuma Valley Railway. The diesel has been given the tentative number D-3, but is not currently in operation due to brake issues and the fact that the railroad really has no use for it. The passenger cars are in good condition, with two stored at Scales Siding and the third at Gold Hill.

In mid-2013, the V&T acquired the original 1870 passenger depot, which had been a private residence with several cabooses and a V&T speeder on display. All ticketing and gift shop operations moved from coach No. 25 (which had been used as the depot since 1976) to the depot. The tracks were also slightly extended to the depot, and a new waiting area with a lawn and benches was built. Short trips now originate and terminate at the depot, rather than next to coach No. 25. Long trips continued stopping on the siding directly next to F Street during the 2014 season, before another siding was added in the depot area in 2015. Originally, operations were to have been moved to the historic freight depot at E and Sutton Streets, which would see Tunnel #6 reopen. This plan was eventually abandoned for being too expensive.

Also in 2011, a permanent water tank was built at the switch to the enginehouse.

D-1 was fitted with a rare Hancock 4700 air whistle for the 2011 season so it would be more pleasant-sounding than the loud, booming Nathan horn it previously. The whistle was rebuilt by the Rizzoli Locomotive Works in Niles, CA for the 2014 season.

In December 2010, an ex-CB&Q railcar was trucked into Virginia City. It was to be operational in time for the 2011 season, but is still undergoing restoration work. The V&T had previously acquired a motorcar in 1976, No. 50 Washoe Zephyr. It is currently at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in historical paint.

On July 24, 2010, the No. 18 steam locomotive was brought on-line for revenue service. The locomotive had recently come back from Hollywood, appearing in the movie Water for Elephants.

In May 2010, an ALCO S-4 was acquired from Montana in operable condition. It has been numbered D-2 (the number previously used for the locomotive used for the 2003 season).

The railroad is currently building up its collection, acquiring passenger cars from the nations museums and other private owners.

On August 14, 2009 the ceremonial first run from Virginia City to Mound House (mistakingly referred to as "Carson City Eastgate" in official material) occurred for VIPs. On the 15th and 16th the line opened to the public. Funds raised from these runs will be used to pay for the tracks through the Carson River Canyon, and will continue throughout the fall, every Saturday from August 22 through October 31. The runs will use the V&T Railroad's equipment (such as steam locomotive #29) and not that of the V&T Railway (owned by the Commission). Ticket price is set at $48.

In June 2008, #29 returned to traffic after a significant overhaul.

It is estimated that completion of the line from Gold Hill to Carson City will cost in excess of $55 million, and it is hoped that the line, which was originally abandoned in 1938, was planned be completed and operational once again in 2012.[22][23] However, as of 2013, trains only go as far as Eastgate Station.

Officials with the Commission held a "silver spike" ceremony January 3, 2006, in Carson City to commemorate the completion of two miles of track near Gold Hill. The construction, completed in September 2005, is part of an effort to restore the V&T's mainline from Virginia City to Carson City for operations. Then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), who was instrumental in securing $10 million in federal funding for the project, and Nevada Lieutenant Governor Lorraine Hunt, who secured an additional $1 million in state funding for the project, both spoke at the ceremony. The completion of the first phase of the extension saw the last train of the day venturing beyond Gold Hill and to American Flats, over a massive fill of the Overman Pit (which is near the Crown Point Ravine).

In 2005, the Commission acquired a 1918 Baldwin 2-8-2 from the McCloud Railway. The locomotive, #18, is owned by the commission, but operated by the Grays operation.

As early as 1993, interest in rebuilding the route beyond Gold Hill had been expressed by the State of Nevada itself. The state set up a commission to rebuild the line known as the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway.

For the 2004 season, a more permanent diesel was acquired in the form of ex-US Army GE 80-tonner #1694. It was repainted in the same paint scheme as the first D-2 and given the number D-1. The locomotive served as the mainstay of the fleet while #29 and #8 were down (as it would happen, #8 never ran on the V&T ever again due to a legal dispute with the Gold Hill Historical Society, the true owners of the locomotive).

By 2001, #29 and #8 were out of service in need of work, as well as compliance to the FRA's new boiler regulations outlined in 49 CFR Part 230. After the 2001 season, both locomotives were taken out of service. No other steam locomotives were available, so, for the first time in V&T history, a diesel was used. For the 2002 season, the railroad leased ex-Quincy Railroad #3, a GE 44-tonner, from the Portola Railroad Museum (now Western Pacific Railroad Museum) in Portola, California. In 2003, another GE locomotive painted in V&T Yellow and Green and numbered D-2 (not related to the current D-2) was used. This locomotive's disposition is currently unknown, though it is known it had a standard 44-tonner horn.

The line was reopened to Gold Hill in 1991 and marked by a double-header pulled by #29 and #8. Regular service between the two stations began soon after.

The 1980s also saw the addition of ex-Feather River Short Line #8, a 1907 Baldwin 2-6-2. The locomotive arrived in operable condition, and was used alternatively with #29. During its career on the V&T, its number and lettering were never changed.

In 1984, the railroad acquired a former SP 0-6-0 locomotive (#1251) from a park in Stockton, CA. Tracks had to be built through the park to pull the locomotive on to a truck. Since arriving in Virginia City, the locomotive has been given the tentative number of 30, but has been partially dismantled, and no noticeable work is currently occurring due to lack of funds.

Work to re-open Tunnel #4 continued into the 1980s. The tunnel was finally reopened in the late 80s. Work had started on Tunnel #3 (which had a history of instability to the point that regular passenger cars could no longer fit by the time the last trains ran in 1938), but a large boulder shifted and buried the tunnel. A shoehorn was built around the tunnel, just enough as to not be too sharp for the locomotives, opening up a fantastic view of the valley. Conductors narrating the trip often erroneously state the tunnel collapsed in 1938, though recently, the correct information has been given.

During the 1977 season, Bob Gray won an auction at the Longview, Portland and Northern Railway and walked away with 1916 Baldwin 2-8-0 #680. The locomotive was trucked to Virginia City and arrived safely (after many blown tires and having to sneak through Washoe due to trucks being forbidden in town on weekends). The locomotive was in good condition, and ran a charter train while still wearing its old identity. A month later, the locomotive was renumbered 29.

For the 1977 season, the railroad faced a motive power shortage. The only locomotive available was ex-Pacific Portland Cement Company #3, a small Porter 0-4-0T locomotive that was very small, lacking in pulling power (only being able to pull one car at a time), and produced so much smoke, an extension had to be added to the smokestack. It was also around this time that the railroad acquired three pieces of ex-Western Pacific equipment from a siding in Reno (two boxcars and a bay window caboose). One of the box cars was converted into an open-air car, the caboose was modified for passenger service, and the second box car was converted into a tunnel car, which proved very instrumental in reopening Tunnel #4.

In 1972, Robert C. Gray, who was one of the passengers on the last train to Virginia City in 1938, sought to rebuild the V&T as a tourist line. After gaining approval from Storey County, reconstruction of the line began from F Street to the Eastern portal of Tunnel #4. The railroad's first operating season was 1976, utilizing former Dardenelle and Russellville #8 (renumbered to #28 to continue the old V&T numbering series), two open gondolas, and V&T caboose #10. The equipment had been leased from Short Line Enterprises, and it was too expensive to renew the rent, so the equipment was returned at the end the 1976 season. Locomotive #28 and Caboose #10 have since found their way to the Nevada State Railroad Museum, where #28 was given back its old D&R number.

Winter excursion, south end of Virginia City, March 2010
Train operating on the restored line

Restoring the line

Other Historic designations

No. Name Type Builder C/N Built NRHP[11] Ref. # Remarks
H.J. Booth
11 (orig.)
1869 (orig.)
Replica currently under construction in Mason City, IA.
On display at Old Tucson Studios
On display at the California State Railroad Museum
On display at the California State Railroad Museum
CP's Sacramento shops
Sac 6
On display at the Comstock History Center at Virginia City, Nevada.
On display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
On display at the California State Railroad Museum.
Operational, on display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
25 (2nd)
Operational at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
On display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

The Virginia and Truckee's locomotives and other equipment appeared in numerous Westerns over the years since the railroad operated otherwise obsolete equipment well into the "cinema age." Many of these pieces have been restored, and are currently on display at museums throughout the country.[9] In addition, an operating 5/8-scale replica of the V&T locomotive, Reno, has been running on the Washington Park and Zoo Railway since 1959.[10]

Virginia & Truckee "Tahoe", 1875, on display at Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Historic equipment

Lucius Beebe, a noted railroad historian, settled in Virginia City with Charles Clegg, a photographer and helped to revitalize the town and interest in the railroad by writing books about the Virginia & Truckee as well as other Colorado narrow gauge railroads, such as the Carson and Colorado Railroad. See below in Bibliography.

The sole owner of the railroad in 1933 was Ogden Livingston Mills, grandson of original co-founder Darius Ogden Mills.[4]:31 He personally paid the deficits in the railroad's operating costs as a nod to the past and his family's involvement in the early days of Virginia City.[4]:31 In 1938, a year after Mills' death, the railroad went into receivership, and its management began making plans to cease operations,[8]:31 with the Virginia City branch already having been dismantled during that year. At the time of the railroad's closure, it had only three locomotives operating, the second no. 5 (2-8-0 built by ALCO in 1925), as well as numbers 26 and 27 (both 4-6-0's built by Baldwin in 1907 and 1913, respectively). The #26 was originally was scheduled to haul the last train, but after making its run on May 1, 1950, the single-stall locomotive shed it was stored in had caught fire. The 26, deemed as a total loss, was scrapped, and the road instead restored no. 27 for the occasion. On May 30, 1950, the no. 27 pulled the Virginia and Truckee's final train, rather fitting as experts considered, since the 27 was the last engine purchased new by the road.

The Virginia and Truckee's decline began as early as 1924, the first year in which the railroad had failed to make a profit.[4]:27 Mining revenue had dropped off to very low levels, though revenue from the Minden line continued to flow. Passenger revenue was on a steady decline, due to the increased use of the automobile on the ever-expanding highway system in the US.[4]:27

Decline of the railroad

In 1904, the corporation changed its name to the Virginia and Truckee Railway.[4]:24 In response to agricultural and cattle ranch concerns, the V&T built a short branch line to Minden, NV, about 26 miles south of Carson City, in 1906. This branch line brought in increased freight traffic; as a result the V&T purchased three new ten-wheelers from Baldwin: No. 25, 26, and 27, in 1905, 1907, and 1913 respectively.[4]:24

Shortly after the sale of the C&C, however, silver was discovered at Tonopah, Nevada. The C&C became prosperous for the Southern Pacific, as wagon trains would run for miles through the desert to reach the narrow-gauge line, which would then carry it back to the V&T at the Mound House junction.[4]:23 Because of the break of gauge between the C&C and V&T, the Tonopah ore had to be unloaded from the narrow-gauge cars and into the standard gauge cars at the C&C northern terminus. Southern Pacific officials did not like this arrangement, so in 1904 they converted the entire narrow-gauge line to standard gauge, now renamed the Nevada & California Railroad.[4]:23 In addition, the Southern Pacific (controlled at the time by the Union Pacific Railroad) offered to buy the Virginia & Truckee, but the V&T officials set their price too high (according to U.P. president Harriman). Instead, the Southern Pacific built their own line from the closest junction on the former C&C. The line ran 28 miles from Hazen to Fort Churchill and connected their own main lines, thus bypassing the V&T entirely.[4]:23

, "Either we built this line 300 miles too short or 300 years too early" reflected V&T's attitude towards the railroad. Ogden Mills in 1900. In the words of Southern Pacific Railroad A liability to the V&T, the "slim princess" was sold to the :23[4]

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