Virginia and Truckee Railway

by Joe Thompson

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Virginia and Truckee Railway


at VC McCloud River #18 has just arrived at Virginia City. July, 2011.

After we left Disneyland, we made an epic 12-hour drive (including stops) to Reno. I think we covered parts of I-5 that I had never before seen. This was our first visit to Nevada since the 1990s.

Eastgate depot Virginia and Truckee's Eastgate depot, near Mound House. July, 2011.

The next day, we drove to Carson City and visited the Virginia and Truckee Railway. When I had called the Carson City Chamber of Commerce to confirm our reservations, a helpful lady had explained that Eastgate depot was near the garbage dump.

Eastgate waiting line A good crowd waits to board the train at Eastgate depot. July, 2011.

The Comstock Lode was discovered in 1859. Mines in Virginia City and Gold Hill had to use wagons to send their ore down the hill to mills along the Carson River, where there was enough water to process the ore. In 1869, the Virginia and Truckee Rail was built, extending from Virginia City to Carson City, the state capital. In 1871, the line was extended to Reno and a connection with the Central Pacific Railroad. In 1906, the company built a branch from Carson City south to Minden.

The Comstock mines and declined and rose again several times, but the railroad made profits until the mid-1920s. The line to Virginia City closed in 1938 and Reno to Minden became the main line. The whole railroad gave up the ghost in 1950.

car 103 light A lighting fixture on coach 103, Carson City, which once ran on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western. July, 2011.

In 1976, Robert Gray revived the line south of Virginia City. He extended it to Gold Hill in 1992. I rode it when we visited Virginia City in the late 1970s and then several times in the 1980s and 1990s. It is always a good ride.

crossing highway 50 After leaving Eastgate depot, the train climbs a hill, then turns left and crosses Highway 50 on a bridge. July, 2011.

The original path of the line through Mound House has been built over, so the train follows a path a bit to the west until it joins with the old line.

Mound House I was amazed to see how quickly the train climbed to a significant altitude after passing Mound House. Here we look back towards Mound House. I think the red dirt road is the original right of way, which we have just joined. July, 2011.

The Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the Virginia and Truckee Railway connected with the current Virginia and Truckee Railroad at Gold Hill and extended the tracks down to Eastgate. It hopes someday to extend the tracks farther into Carson City along the Carson River canyon. The original right of way into downtown Carson City is blocked by development. The first train from Virginia City to Eastgate ran on 14-August-2009.

Silver City Looking down towards Silver City. The old right of way of the Silver City branch is visible on the hillside to the right. July, 2011.

American Flat/1 Our first view of the huge United Comstock Merger Mill at American Flat. July, 2011.

As the train twisted and climbed up the hill, the conductor spoke quite a bit about the United Comstock Merger Mill at American Flat. The mill, built in 1922 used cyanide to process ore. The mill was abandoned in about 1924. It has been popular with local teens and intrepid explorers for many years. It can be dangerous.

American Flat/2 Another view of the United Comstock Merger Mill. July, 2011.

18 crossing McCloud River #18 whistles for a crossing. July, 2011.

across the way Looking straight out the window at a lower section of track. July, 2011.

18 climbing McCloud River #18 climbing the grade. July, 2011.

American Flat/3 A higher view of the United Comstock Merger Mill. July, 2011.

Scales/1 Looking ahead to Scales, where an old car sits on a siding. The train stops there on the up-trip to give the locomotive a rest and an inspection. July, 2011.

18 climbing McCloud River #18 climbing the winding grade. July, 2011.

Gold Hill cemetery Looking down at the Gold Hill cemetery. July, 2011.

Gold Hill depot Gold Hill depot, which was in terrible shape when I first saw in the 1970s. Note the sign for the "Gold Hill Depot Rehabilitation Project." July, 2011.

Passengers can leave the train at Gold Hill and have lunch at the highly regarded Gold Hill Hotel. They can then take the short-run train to Virginia City.

Gold Hill depot from above Looking down at Gold Hill depot. To the left is a privately owned locomotive which was under steam, but had nowhere to go. July, 2011.

Yellowjacket Looking down at the headframe of Gold Hill's Yellowjacket Mine. On 07-April-1869, a fire in the mine killed more than 39 miners. July, 2011.

Roundhouse The current Virginia and Truckee roundhouse, built on the site of the original Virginia City roundhouse. July, 2011.

Motor car This mine tram trestle crosses the tracks as the train enters Virginia City. I remember it well from previous visits. July, 2011.

18 in vc McCloud River Mikado #18 after arrival at Virginia City. The portable handicapped lift is visible on the left. July, 2011.

As the train arrived at Virginia City, a short-run train to Gold Hill pulled out. It was pulled by a Diesel because Locomotive #29 was down for servicing. A shuttle van carried people up to C Street. We waited for it to return while I took some photos of the locomotive and the train.

18 builder plate McCloud River 2-8-2 #18's Baldwin builder's plate. Number 41709, October, 1914. July, 2011.

18 cab McCloud River #18's after arrival at Virginia City. The portable handicapped lift is visible on the left. July, 2011.

18 broadside A broadside view of McCloud River #18. July, 2011.

train The train after arrival at Virginia City. July, 2011.

Fire train This speeder followed the train up the hill, carrying fire equipment and watching for fires. July, 2011.

We got off the shuttle van at the parking lot next to the Bucket of Blood. We went in and had a soda, then took a walk along C Street.

Piper's Opera House Looking up Union Street from C Street towards Piper's Opera House. The third version of the opera house was built in 1878. The first two versions burned. Many famous performers including Lilly Langtry and Al Jolson played Piper's. July, 2011.

Territorial Enterprise Mark Twain and Dan DeQuille wrote for the Territorial Enterprise, Nevada's first newspaper. Lucius Beebe and his partner Chuck Clegg revived the paper in 1952 and built the present portico. July, 2011.

Firehouse Liberty Engine Company #1's Nevada State Firemen's Museum. Virginia City hosts a big firemen's muster every summer. July, 2011.

foundry The cast iron facade of this building was made by the Pacific Co-Operative Foundry in Gold Hill. July, 2011.

NWP 37/1 The railroad's Virginia City ticket office is numbered 25. I have seen different statements about its origin. July, 2011.

NWP 37/2 The railroad's Virginia City ticket office and a sign directing people down the hill to the train station. July, 2011.

sign Several signs like this direct people down the hill to the train station. July, 2011.

First Presbyterian The First Presbyterian Church stands on C Street near Mill. Built in 1867, it was the only church building to survive the great fire of 1875. July, 2011.

On our way back to the train, we stopped to visit Saint Mary in the Mountains. The interior has been renovated and is beautiful to see. There is a museum now in rooms under the church. I had a nice chat with the docent.

Saint Marys Saint Mary in the Mountains Catholic church. In the background is Saint Paul's Episcopal Church. July, 2011.

Saint Joseph A statue of Saint Joseph, Protector of the Holy Family, and Jesus in from of Saint Mary in the Mountains Catholic church. July, 2011.

Back at the station, we found the cars waiting for the locomotive to return. The original passenger depot is a private home which I forgot to photograph. Its successor was beyond Tunnel #6 which is not presently open. That depot burned many years ago. The freight depot still stands, but I did not get to visit it.

VC Depot The current Virginia City depot is a combination car. The train for Carson City waits on the left. July, 2011.

speeder We found the speeder which had followed the train up the hill, carrying fire equipment. July, 2011.

On the coach Passengers wait on coach 103 as McCloud River #18 backs onto the train. July, 2011.

The coach was very hot after sitting in the sun all day. My family felt the conductor talked too much on the trip down the hill.

Crown Point Crossing the fill that replaced the famous Crown Point trestle, looking down into the open pit mine. July, 2011.

We saw a small herd of wild horses on the return trip, but my pictures did not come out.

crossing highway 50 Crossing Highway 50 on the way back to Eastgate Depot. July, 2011.

18 at Eastgate McCloud River Mikado #18 after arrival back at Eastgate. July, 2011.

I had a great time on the trip. The train left Eastgate at 10am and arrived at Virginia City about 11:30. They told us to be back on the train by 3 or we'd be left behind. I think we got on about 2:30, and it was already fairly full. We left Virginia City at 3pm and got back to Eastgate about 10 minutes early, at 4:20.

speeder Back at Eastgate the speeder gets loaded onto a trailer. July, 2011.

We drove back to Reno and did a little shopping, then returned to the hotel. We stayed at Harrah's, which I had not stayed at since the late 1970s. We walked over to Silver Legacy and Circus Circus. We had a nice dinner while watching the Giants play.

Reno We had a nice view from the 15th floor of Harrah's. July, 2011.

Harrah's entrance The main entrance of Harrah's. July, 2011.

Reno sign The famous sign on South Virginia Street. July, 2011.

Douglas Alley Douglas Alley, shown here from South Virginia Street, was the site of many of Reno's earliest clubs when Nevada legalized gambling in 1931. July, 2011.

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Copyright 2011 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.

Last updated 31-Aug-2011