by Joe Thompson
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by Joe Thompson unless otherwise credited. All rights reserved.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We saw a small herd of wild horses on the return trip, but my pictures did not come out.
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.
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.
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Copyright 2011 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.
Last updated 31-Aug-2011