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The Tour of the Nevada State Railroad Museum and Virginia & Truckee Railroad 5/17/2023

by Chris Guenzler

Trip information - The First Railway and Locomotive Historical Society/Southern Pacific History Centre/National Railway Historical Society event of the 2023 joint conference

This tour will board at 8:00 AM and leave the hotel at 8:15 AM and head south to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City with an estimated time of arrival of 9:00 AM. You will be at the museum about two hours. While there you can see the displays, ride the restored Virginia and Truckee McKeen Motor Car and ride a steam train pulled by Virginia and Truckee 25.

The bus will load at 11:15 AM and depart at 11:30 AM, arriving at noon in Virginia City. The committee was successful in negotiating with the Virginia & Truckee Railroad to provide a steam locomotive for our charter as originally planned. We are grateful to V&T Owner Tom Gray and his crew for accommodating steam for our event!

Due to the addition of steam at the V&T, we have decided to offer at least two photo runby opportunities during the trip, which will be coordinated by the conductor on the excursion train. This will add time to the excursion and effort for those who wish to leave the train and form a photo line. Please remember proper photo runby etiquette and your bus captains will be there to help with management of the photo line. We have added a guided Virginia and Truckee shop tour. We will leave 1:50 PM and return to the shop area at 3:00 PM. Everyone will need to be back to the Virginia and Truckee station at 4:00 PM and the bus leaves at 4:15 PM returning us to the hotel at 5:00 PM.

The Start of Our Day

Elizabeth and I awoke then went to breakfast at Rosie's Cafe where I had French Toast and she had Cinnnamon Roll French Toast with berries. We returned to our room, caught up on our e-mail and regular Internet browsing then walked down to where the buses were. We boarded the first bus and soon were on our way to Carson City. After Scott Inman, our bus host pointed out the Virginia and Truckee station in Carson City, we pulled into the parking lot at the Nevada Railroad State Museum.

Our Visit

Virginia & Truckee 12 "Genoa" built by M. Baird & Company in 1873. It was sold in a corporate sale to the Virginia and Truckee as 12 then in 1938, to the Eastern Railroads Conference and restored to look like Central Pacific 60 "Jupiter" for the 1939-40 New York World's Fair. In 1940, it was presented to the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society and in 1960, to the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. In 1969, it was donated to the State of California. It is on a two-year lease to the Nevada State Railroad Museum starting in 2022.

Virginia & Truckee 22 "Inyo" built by Burnham, Parry, Williams & Company Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1875. "Inyo", the name applied, is Indian meaning "dwelling place of a great spirit" and is also affixed to a lengthy mountain range and a large county in eastern California. 22 is nicknamed the Brass Betsy and gained the admiration of many of the road's veterans and rightly so, as it came furnished with an enormous amount of highly polished brass work including the bell and bell stand, steam dome and sand box casing, boiler jacket bands, cylinder jackets and running board edging.

By 1879, the brass-bedecked engine was employed in the V&T's regularly scheduled mixed passenger and freight service. At other times it substituted for the "Reno" and "Genoa" engines when they were in the shop. Beginning in the 1890's, No. 22 handled the road's crack Virginia City express train and saw extensive use during the Tonopah mining boom soon after 1900. In 1910, the "Inyo" was next to the last of the V&T iron horses to be converted to burn oil. From 1926 on, the engine was considered to be retired, although she did replace the "Reno" occasionally. The Brass Betsy became the first of many V&T cars and locomotives acquired by Paramount Pictures.

In 1937, 22 starred in "High, Wide and Handsome" followed by roles in "Union Pacific", "Red River" and Disney's "The Great Locomotive Chase". She last operated in 1965 for the television series "Wild, Wild West". Four years later, the "Inyo" participated in the Gold Spike Centennial at Promontory, Utah. Starting in 1970, the engine appeared as a replica of the Central Pacific's Jupiter at the Gold Spike National Historical Site. The State of Nevada purchased the 4-4-0 in 1974 and when it was no longer need for display, the former V&T engine returned home to Carson City. After more than a year of restoration work, the "Inyo" made her debut on May 29, 1983. Since then, the wood-burning Brass Betsy has operated on numerous occasions and participated at the grand opening of the Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas during April 1984. It was also one of the stars at the 1996 4th of July Transportation Fair.

I walked to the station but stopped for a picture.

Wabuska Southern Pacific station built in 1906.

Darndanelle & Russellville 8, nee Denver, Texas and Fort Worth Railroad Company 9 built by Cooke Locomotive & Machine Works in 1888. It was renumbered 114 then sold to St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway in 1890; in 1906 it was sold to the Dardanelle & Russellville Railroad as their 8 in Dardanelle, Arkansas. In 1940, the engine was became the property of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation in Malibu, who sold it to Shortline Enterprises at Cucamonga, California in 1971. It was then moved to Virginia City, Nevada as V&T 28 in 1975, then moved to Jamestown in 1977, to Sacramento in 1982 and finally ended up at Carson City.

Photo runby 1.

Virginia & Truckee 4-6-0 25 {2nd} built by Baldwin in 1905. It hauled both passenger and freight trains between Reno, Carson and Virginia City. From 1911 to 1947, the busy 4-6-0 ran eighty percent of the time, averaging as many as 30,000 miles a year. No. 25 made a niche in history by pulling the last scheduled passenger train to Virginia City in May 1938. When that line was scrapped in 1941, the contractor hired the engine to assist in its dismantlement. As railroad cars became heavier and longer, the V&T sought a more modern engine as a replacement and sold 25 to RKO Pictures in 1947 for $5,000. For the next ten years the steam engine starred in a number of motion pictures. No. 25 last operated under its own power in 1955 when the fifty-year-old locomotive hauled a special train between Los Angeles and San Pedro, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Union Pacific Railroad's Salt Lake Route.

Following the 1958 purchase of the old RKO movie studios, which included No. 25, by Desilu Productions, Inc., the locomotive was sold to Hurlbut Amusements of Buena Park six years later. In 1971, the State of Nevada acquired the steam engine for $16,000, preceding an effort by rail fans to bring home vintage V&T equipment.

I walked back over to the station and boarded the train and Elizabeth soon joined me for the trip.

The trip around the museum and out onto the train lead.

The engine ran around the train.

My proof that I rode over this line. We returned to the station where I went exploring and photographing.

Virginia and Truckee coach 4 built by the Kimball Carriage and Car Manufacturing Company of San Francisco in 1872 for the Virginia & Truckee Lightning Express passenger train between Virginia City and Reno. The new train provided first class service between the mines of the Comstock and the Central Pacific Railroad, with connections to San Francisco and the world. More coaches arrived on the V&T in 1890 and 1906 but the Kimball coaches continued in regular service, including receiving electric lights in 1917. In 1925, the express train made its last run and the Kimball coaches were relegated to special excursion service. Change came in 1938 when both coaches were sold to Paramount Pictures for use in the movies. They remained in Hollywood until 1972 when Short Line Enterprises acquired them and resold coach 4 to the State of Nevada. In 1984, this coach was restored to its appearance in the mid-1880's when it ran in the Lightning Express.

Virginia and Truckee caboose/coach 9 built by the Kimball Manufacturing Company of San Francisco in 1873 at a cost of $1,900. Like the earlier coach 8 and later coach 15, 9 worked in caboose and third class passenger service at the end of freight trains. Sometime between 1875 and 1890, the car was modified by removing the side doors and its passenger compartment was extended through the former baggage compartment, making it a simple coach, or miner's car.

The car continued in regular use on freight trains until the downturn in Comstock mine business in the 1890's. After that it was only used occasionally until being converted to V&T maintenance- of-way sleeper 9 in 1908 with the addition of a small clestory. In 1913, the car was converted again, this time to a traditional caboose with the addition of a cupola. In 1938, 9 began a new career when Paramount Pictures purchased it for $200 for Cecil B. DeMille's epic "Union Pacific", although they removed the cupola. Used for occasional movies after that, 9 was finally purchased by the State of Nevada in 1971, and in 1982/83 was carefully restored to its 1873 appearance. It operated in 1986 at Steam Expo in British Columbia and is currently on display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 22 "Inyo".

Virginia & Truckee 2-4-0 21 "J.W. Bowker" built by Baldwin in 1875. It was named after V&T's master mechanic John William Bowker. However, in 1876, Bowker was fired for drunken, disorderly conduct and four months after the engine was delivered, it was renamed "Mexico". It worked as a switcher in Virginia City and around the Comstock Mines. In 1896, it was sold to the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company in Truckee and re-numbered 3. In 1932, the steam engine was transfered to the Hobart Southern Railroad Company. It was donated in 1937 to the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society who restored it to its original identity as V&T 21 finally in 1964, it was donated to the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Pacific Coast Chapter who moved it to Sacramento in 1978. It is on a two-year lease to the Nevada State Railroad Museum starting in 2022.

Virginia and Truckee wooden box car 1013 built by Wells, French & Company in 1874. After the construction of the 15 mile line to Minden in 1906, No. 1013 was moved to the terminus and served as a temporary office and quarters for the station agent. With the completion of the station facilities, No. 1013 returned to the active roster. In 1909, after more than 30 years of active service, the boxcar was completely rebuilt, including new siding and additional safety features, to extend its serviceable life until 1938. In that year, Paramount Pictures purchased the car for a roll in their film "Union Pacific". Although it was deliberately wrecked in the picture, the studio repaired the former V&T car and reduced the roof height by several inches to match its other railroad equipment. When not in use, No. 1013 was stored at the Union Pacific Railroad yards in East Los Angeles. It last saw movie work in 1958.

Following a rapid succession of sales in late 1971 from Paramount to Old Tucson Studio to Short Line Enterprises to the State of Nevada, No. 1013 was trucked to Mound House. Here the boxcar remained in storage under the jurisdiction of the Nevada Division of State Parks until 1977 when it was brought to the new V&T facility at Carson City. Legislative action in 1979 conferred ownership of the 105-year-old relic to the Nevada State Museum. Three years later, the boxcar was reconstructed utilizing four of the six original underframe sills, several purlins and all of the old cast iron components. After almost three months of painstaking work by Short Line Enterprises beginning in December 1981, V&T boxcar 1013 now reflects its appearance soon after the 1909 rebuilding.

Tucson, Cornelia & Gila Bend motor car 401 built by Edwards Motor Car in 1926 which operated out of Ajo and Gila Bend, Arizona, a distance of 43 miles. The motor car operated regularly until December 31, 1947 and travelled over 783,000 miles while in service. It was traded to Mr. Lindley Bothwell for two Los Angeles trolley cars at Travel Town. In 1975, it was acquired by Short Line Enterprises and was restored and operated in Virginia City during the 1976 season as Washoe Zephyr 50. The motor car was moved to Jamestown, California and stored until it was moved to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in spring 1988. The motor car is now owned by the museum.

Virginia & Truckee coach-caboose 8 was built in 1869 for $3,822 by the V&T shops, then located in Virginia City. Originally it was Virginia City & Truckee Railroad (the name at that time) No. 1. It was designed for caboose service, which in those days included carrying third class passengers and brought up the rear of the first train between Carson City and Virginia City in January 1870. After the V&T's Reno extension was completed in 1872 and the railroad purchased new cars Nos. 1-4 for the first class passenger train, the old caboose was taken into the shops for refurbishing, and returned to its old service in 1873 as No. 8.

As years went by, No. 8 saw less and less service. In 1915 it was converted to a combination sleeper, work room and diner for the the Interstate Commerce Commission valuation crew. In March and April 1923, the side doors were removed and the car was converted to V&T maintenance-of-way construction cook and dining car, still as No. 8. In October 1945 it was resurrected as a club car and given the name Julia Bullette (misspelled for Julia Bulette of Virginia City) for a Lions Club excursion.

The car was sold to Metro-Goldwin-Mayer in August 1947 for $1,550. On May 16 1970, it was auctioned to Ronald G. Steiner for $3,250 and it was restored as V&T passenger caboose No. 8. Transferred April 10, 1973 to Short Line Enterprises and restored for continued movie service, the Nevada State Railroad Museum acquired it in 1988. It is now operated for special events by the Museum and is awaiting its turn for a full historical restoration.

Virginia and Truckee 28 foot combination box car 1005 built by the Central Pacific Railroad in 1872 at a cost of $800. The choice of this particular type of car, with its open and/or closed style of doors and windows, proved superior very early to transporting not only merchandise, but perishable supplies and livestock. Since the V&T had very little rolling stock of its own and rented locomotives, passenger and freight cars from the Central Pacific in the first years, it is not surprising that when the need arose for cars that the V&T chose to order them from the CP.

Identified as a combination boxcar, the yellow painted 1005 was one of five CP built boxcars that enabled the V&T to carry a multitude of loads. Originally furnished with hazardous link and pin couplers and hand operated brakes, new ICC rules laid down in the late 1890's compelled the V&T to equip the car with a safer type of coupler and Westinghouse air brakes. It was also during this decade the 30,000 lb. capacity car lost the distinctive vented side and end doors when shop crews converted it into a more conventional style.

Because of its restricted carrying capacity, No. 1005 saw limited service after the early 1900's. By 1916, records indicate the 43 year-old boxcar was no longer listed on the roster as the V&T's freight business fell short to warrant upgrading the car. No. 1005 was then detrucked and used as a tool house at Scales for the next 20 years. Then in 1933, to fulfill Paramount Pictures' request for vintage railroad rolling stock for their film epic "Union Pacific", the wooden car body was resurrected, placed on trucks and shipped to the movie location in Utah.

Virinia and Truckee coach 12 built by J.G. Brill in 1874. Purchased for $2,500, it entered service in April 1874 following minor alterations and additions by the V&T shop crew. Operating only a few years in the Lightning Express, it was relegated to secondary and picnic train service by the late 1870's. After 64 years of use, Paramount Pictures acquired this and another car for $500 each in 1938. Their first role before the cameras was in the Cecil B. DeMille railroad epic "Union Pacific". After some 30 years of film chores, the cars returned to Carson City in 1971. Both of these cars are awaiting restoration by the Museum.

Virinia and Truckee mail and baggage 13 built by Oxford in 1874.

Carson & Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company 2-6-0 1 "Glenbrook" built by Baldwin in 1875 and was renumbered to 2 in 1890. Nine years later, it was transferred to Lake Tahoe Railway & Transportation Company when the two C&TL&F rail lines were taken up and, with the Glenbrook and other equipment, barged to the north shore at Tahoe City. From there, the Bliss family built the new Lake Tahoe Railway & Transportation (LTR&T) line to the Southern Pacific station in Truckee. In Tahoe City, the trains met the LTR&T steamships, including the famous Tahoe, that crisscrossed the lake serving the many resorts and other settlements around the lake shore. In 1926, the Bliss family sold the LTR&T to the Southern Pacific, who promptly converted it to standard gauge. Although the SP acquired the other locomotives, the Bliss family kept the No. 1, storing it at Tahoe City.

Finally, in 1937 they sold the locomotive to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge to supply spare parts for its sister, the Tahoe. NCNG was abandoned in 1942, and it looked like the old Glenbrook would finally be scrapped. Enter Miss Hope Bliss, who in 1943 convinced the family to purchase the historic engine from the scrap company, and then presented the locomotive to the Nevada State Museum in the old mint building in Carson City. For years, the engine sat displayed beside the Museum, played on by generations of kids. In 1980 the State created a new Railroad Museum at the south end of Carson City,and in 1981, the "Glenbrook" was trucked there in preparation for the long work of restoring it to original 1875 factory condition.

A trackmobile used by the museum.

Dayton, Sutro & Carson Valley Railroad 0-4-2T 1 "Joe Douglass" built by H.K. Porter in 1882. During the first Comstock boom of the 1860s, Dayton, Nevada, on the Carson River at the foot of Gold Canyon was a favored location for milling operations for the ore from the mines around Virginia City. In 1869, mill owner Frederick Birdsall built a short horse-drawn railroad to haul tailings from Gold Canyon to his Lyon Mill in Dayton. When the narrow gauge Carson & Colorado Railroad reached Dayton from Mound House in late 1880, Birdsall built a new connecting railroad of the same 3 foot track gauge, completing it in June 1881. Replacing the horses were two small steam locomotives, the first of which arrived in Dayton on July 11.

In early 1882 Birdsall became interested in a new railroad development in California, and in April sold his mill and railroad to J. M. Douglass. Birdsall's two original engines were not included in the sale, so the new company, under the name of the Dayton, Sutro & Carson Valley Railroad, ordered the JOE. DOUGLASS. from the well-known builder of small locomotives, H. K. Porter & Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. The 0-4-2T type engine, with four drive wheels and two small wheels behind supporting an attached water tank and wood bunker, was completed on June 12, 1882, and raised its first steam in Dayton on September 14. With that the railroad was back in business with steam power. Douglass quickly extended his railroad empire. By November the rails were approaching the town of Sutro, and by February 1883 the line was in regular operation beyond there to the tailings reservoirs of the old Carson Valley Mill site. The JOE. DOUGLASS. remained the only locomotive on the Dayton, Sutro & Carson Valley RR throughout the life of the operation, shuffling back and forth with cars of ore for the several mills along the line.

In 1900, it was sold to Lake Arrowhead Development Company and in 1947, to James Fouch at Palm Springs, California. In 1955 Al Anthony of Palm Springs acquired the steam engine and ten years later, it was sold to Bill Van Wyck. Circa 1966, it was sold to Benton Lefton at Pioneer Town, California and in 1968, Robert Walton became the owner. Walton moved to Los Altos on the San Francisco Peninsula in the mid-1970s, and kept the JOE. DOUGLASS in his back yard. Concerned about the ultimate disposition of the little engine, he felt it was fitting and appropriate that it return to Nevada, its working home for so many years. Turning down higher offers Walton agreed to a sale to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in September 1994. The acquisition was made possible by the generous support of Meadowood Mall in Reno, who provided a grant to the Railroad Museum covering the costs of acquisition and transportation back to Nevada. On November 17, after receiving a new paint job and other minor repairs, the JOE. DOUGLASS. was placed on display-in the center of the mall for the Christmas season, the centerpiece of an exhibit promoting the Railroad Museum.

Virginia & Truckee replica 2-6-0 1 "Lyon" built by Stan Gentry of Mason City, Iowa and donated to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in 2020. The original locomotive was built in 1869, operated on the V&T until 1880, and scrapped in 1900.

Museum scene.

Virginia and Truckee McKeen Motor Car 22 built by McKeen Motor Car in 1910. When the Virginia and Truckee Railroad completed its branch line between Carson City and Minden in 1906, passenger service was provided by a mixed passenger and freight train. It was soon apparent that additional passenger service was desirable, but adding a passenger-only steam train was too expensive. The Virginia and Truckee looked at motorcars as a more cost-effective solution and in 1910, purchased a 70 foot gas powered McKeen motor car to provide twice-a-day passenger service between Minden and Carson City.

The McKeen Motor Car Company of Omaha, Nebraska was organized under the sponsorship of E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads. It was one of the most successful of the early motor car manufacturers. The cars featured ultra-modern steel stressed skin construction, "dustproof" porthole windows and the distinctive knife-shaped wind-splitter front. By 1932, passenger traffic on the V&T was declining all over the railroad. The McKeen car was rebuilt in the shops with expanded mail and express space, and placed in service all the way from Reno to Minden, making a round trip once per day. The car final made its last run in September 1945, one of the last unmodified McKeen cars running in the nation. In 1946 the body was sold to become a diner, and later Al's Plumbing Supply office in Carson City. It was donated to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in early 1996. The official unveiling of the restored car was May 9, 2010, one hundred years exactly from the date it was delivered to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the museum's crew, it was not operational due to needing an alternator.

Interior of this unique car.

Elizabeth in the rear seat.

The author in the rear seat. We walked outside to take a picture of the train.

Photo runby two.

The sign above the entrance to the main museum building which houses the gift shop.

Western Pacific caboose 657 built by Pullman Company in 1943 and donated to the museum in 2009.

A restored velocipede using the parts of a former Western Pacific velocipede found north of Reno.

The legend of Whistlin' Billy.

Children who visit the Nevada State Railroad Museum often rush to play with the wooden Thomas the Train rail set in the display room, their attention distracted from the real steel and smoke stack locomotives. The museum's director gives a simple explanation for this: They can't play with the real things. Visitors can't climb aboard the historic Virginia & Truckee No. 18 locomotive, or any other train on display in the museum. But as of 2005, children have had their own train to climb aboard when Whistlin' Billy debuted in the museum on July 22nd. The interactive locomotive is child-sized and educational and represents an 1886 Porter locomotive built for the Eureka Mill Railroad.

Track maintenance car.

Railroad map of Nevada.

Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 22.

Everyone reboarded the buses and we left the Nevada State Railroad Museum bound for our second and last stop of the day, Virginia City, where we would ride the train and be given a shop tour at the Virginia and Truckee Railway.

Virginia and Truckee history

Nevada's most famous short line is the Virginia & Truckee Railroad which connected Reno with Carson City, Virginia City and Minden. Operating for 80 years, the V&T was Nevada's Bonanza Railroad as it hauled valuable Comstock ore to quartz reduction mills located at Silver City and along the Carson River. Today visitors to Virginia City enjoy a ride over nearly three miles of the original line amidst encouraging prospects that rails my soon once again reach the outskirts of Carson City. The name "Virginia & Truckee" is recognized the world over: V&T locomotives and cars have appeared in scores of feature-length motion pictures and the historic equipment is preserved and exhibited in museums in Nevada, California and as far away as Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The V&T enjoys an international constituency.

The Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company was organized in Nevada on March 5, 1868. The objective was to connect Comstock ore producing mines with quartz reduction mills and, on the return trip, to bring in needed lumber, mining timbers and cord wood for fuel. Surveyed by local surveyor Isaac E. James, the 21-mile standard gauge line was completed on January 29, 1870 between Carson and Virginia City. A 31-mile extension north from Carson City through Franktown, Washoe City, and Steamboat Springs connected the Comstock with transcontinental rail service at Reno in August 1872.

Primarily controlled by William Ralston, Darius O. Mills and William Sharon on behalf of the Union Mill & Mining Company and the Bank of California, the Virginia & Truckee was efficiently managed by General Superintendent Henry M. Yerington and immediately became a paying success. The completion of the V&T permitted the further development of Comstock mines by allowing the economical reduction of lower grade ores through reduced freight rates to the mills and by increasing the essential supply of lumber, mining timbers and cord wood for fuel. In addition, well-appointed passenger service to Carson and Virginia City was a by-product of the short line’s connection with transcontinental rails at Reno.

For nearly twenty years, the V&T was a major political and economic factor in the growth and development of Western Nevada and Eastern California. During the late 1870's, V&T stockholders divided handsome dividends in excess of $100,000 monthly. Additional financial returns provided the capital for nearly 40 other V&T-affiliated concerns. The 300-mile Carson & Colorado Railroad was built from Mound House, Nevada to Keeler, California and was operated by principals of the V&T from 1880 to 1900. V&T dividends funded the establishment of Hawthorne, Nevada, the Hawthorne Water Works, lumbering operations at Lake Tahoe and Southern Nevada, the Columbus Wagon Road to Bodie, a large soda plant at Keeler and dozens of mining ventures at Aurora, Bodie, Hawthorne, Candelaria, Belleville, Columbus and Cerro Gordo.

Headquartered at Carson City, a massive complex of railroad shops were erected under the direction of Abraham Curry. The shops were proclaimed by the Central Pacific to be equal to or better than their great locomotive and car building facilities at Sacramento. From these shops poured nearly every conceivable type of essential machinery for communities throughout Nevada, Eastern California and even Mexico. For decades the Virginia & Truckee was hailed as the wealthiest short line railroad in the world!

With revenues derived from the twentieth century Tonopah boom, a new Virginia & Truckee Railway Company was incorporated in Nevada on June 24, 1905 to purchase the predecessor company and to construct a 15-mile branch south from Carson City to Minden. This branch offered transportation facilities to a growing agricultural and grazing district and resulted in substantial new revenue to the railway until such time as a surface highway was constructed between Reno, Carson City and Minden in the years 1921-1922. Known today as U.S. Highway 395, the concrete highway completely paralleled the V&T between Reno and Minden and ultimately was the cause of the railway’s red ink operations beginning in 1923. Prior to that time, the V&T was the only efficient means of transportation for freight and passengers between these communities.

During the period 1932-1937, Ogden L. Mills, one of the major stockholders, loaned the railway nearly $95,000 to balance operating deficits until the line was forced to enter voluntary Federal receivership on April 27, 1938. Solid corporate status was not established again until January 18, 1946, under the financial direction of former V&T Auditor Gordon A. Sampson. Starting in 1937, the railroad began selling capital assets to meet monthly working capital obligations. The disappearance of Comstock traffic and the caving of several wood-lined tunnels ushered in the closing of the Carson-Virginia City line in 1938. The rails were removed and sold in late 1941. The resulting $52,000 revenue was again applied as working capital on routine maintenance which had been deferred for over a decade. Additional working capital also came from selling old V&T locomotives and cars to Hollywood studios for use in motion pictures.

For the twenty year period from 1928-1947, the V&T had a net income deficit of $440,605.75 by U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission accounting practices. As early as 1932, officials of the V&T seriously considered total abandonment of the railway in the face of annually mounting loses.

After 80 years of continuous operation, the Virginia & Truckee finally succumbed to the increasing competition of highway truck traffic. The Bonanza short line's last official revenue train operated on May 31, 1950 between Reno, Carson City and Minden. Following the local sale of the railway’s structures and properties, the rails between Reno and Minden were finally removed and the famous V&T became but a legend.

Our visit

We debussed and walked over to the boarding area.

Virginia & Truckee 0-4-0 11 "Reno" built by M. Baird & Company in 1872. It was the first locomotive purchased by the V&T specifically to pull passenger trains and was delivered during construction of the extension of railroad between Reno and Carson City. The locomotive had the honor of pulling the first scheduled train from Reno to Virginia City. In 1945 it was sold to Loew's Incorporated at Culver City, California (which later became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM) and in 1970, it was sold to the Old Tucson Studios of America. In 1995 Old Tucson Studios burnt to the ground and the Reno lost all of its wood, including the cab. She was cosmetically retored and sold back to the Virginia & Truckee Railway, she was returned to Virginia City for the first time in 83 years.

150 Year Old Steam Engine Reno No. 11 Returns To Its Home in Virginia City banner.

Here came our train reversing down the tracks toward the station with a consist of Virginia and Truckee 2-8-0 29 and coaches 101 "Gold Hill", ex. Kettle Moraine 7, exx-Erie Lackawanna Boonton open-platform coach, nee Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 500 series built by Pullman in 1914, and 103 "Carson City", ex-Erie Lackawanna 3317, exx. Delaware, Lackawnna and Western 2317, nee Delaware, Lackawanna and Western heavyweight coach trailer 665 built by Pullman the same year.

All of us boarded and we departed the station with the engine reversing south down the railroad.

The buses which brought us here from Sparks.

Virginia and Truckee drink holders affixed to the wall at each set of seats. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the views on a trip to American Flats.

The trip to Gold Hill.

Virginia and Truckee 80-ton switcher 1605, ex. Sacramento Southern Railroad 1605, nee United States Air Force 1605, built by General Electric in 1953.

Santa Maria Valley 2-8-2 100 tender. Now enjoy the trip to American Flats.

The journey to American Flats.

The area around the new mine.

The look ahead to a portion of the railroad we will hopefully ride in the future. The steam engine would run around the train.

Virginia and Truckee 29 going down the siding the first time.

Reverse move one.

The unexpected second pass of Virginia and Truckee 29 on the siding. It then reversed to couple on the rear of our train and we went to the next grade crossing for two photo runbys.

A poster inside the train.

Reverse move one.

Photo runby one at American Flats.

Photo runby two. Everyone reboarded the train and we proceeded back to the shops.

Gold Hill station built in 1872.

We ran through Tunnel 4 and over to the grade crossing at the Virginia and Truckee Railroad shops, where there were two more photo runbys.

Virginia and Truckee 2-8-0 29, ex. Willamina and Grand Ronde Railway Company 680 1954, exx. Longview, Portland and Northern Railway Company 680 1922, nee Louisiana and Pacific Railway Company 252 built by Baldwin in 1916. In 1977, it was sold to Robert Gray as Virginia & Truckee Railroad 29.

Reverse move two.

Photo runby three at the Virginia and Truckee grade crossing.

Reverse move three.


Photo runby four.

Reverse move four.

One does not normally see a website written on a tank car body.

Wooden coach body.

Richfield Oil one dome tank car 905 built in 1923.

Union Pacific tank car 6968 built in 1924.

Virginia and Truckee observation car 644 "Jersey Lil", ex. Yuma Valley 644 "Jersey Lil", exx. Apache Railway "Alchesay", exxx. White Mountain Scenic (McNary, Arizona), nee Missouri-Kansas-Texas coach, number unknown, built by American Car and Foundry in 1923. In 1969, the car had its vestibule removed, an open platform installed and the rear end converted to a parlour car. In 1972, it was used in the film "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean".

Fillmore and Western S6 1059, nee Southern Pacific 125 built by the American Locomotive Company in 1956.

Virginia and Truckee SW1200 D-4, ex. BNSF 3540, exx. Burlington Northern 205, nee Northern Pacific 146 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1957.

McCloud Railroad 2-8-2 18, ex. Sierra/McCloud 18, exx. McCloud 18, exxx. Yreka Western 18, nee McCloud 18 built by Baldwin in 1914. Before going into service, it joined a display at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco celebrating completion of the Panama Canal. McCloud River, the Weed Lumber Company and the Red River Lumber Company jointly sponsored the display, the centrepiece of which was a house built entirely of products from the three companies' sawmills. The consist comprised two flatcars loaded with the finest specimens of Ponderosa Pine the McCloud Company could find, a boxcar loaded with lumber from the mill, and caboose 15. After the exposition, 18 returned to haul freight on the McCloud River Railroad.

The MCRR was chartered in 1897 as a common carrier connecting Mount Shasta and McCloud, California. It owned all the rails used by the lumber company and leased most of the motive power, all the log cars and most of the service cars. It also ran passenger services until 1952. Steam power ended on the McCloud River Railroad in 1956 and that year, after forty-one years service on the railroad, 18 was sold to the Yreka Western, a northern California tourist operation.

After eight years in service on the Yreka Western, in 1964, the locomotive blew a cylinder head hauling a special excursion. It then went into storage at Yreka until bought by the new McCloud Railway Company in 1998. Restored to operating condition, 18 hauled its first excursion on its home rails on 18th February 2001, doubleheading with McCloud Rivfer 25. In 2005, however, the railroad applied to abandon its line and 18 hauled its last MCR excursion on 7th August that year.

Santa Maria Valley 2-8-2 100 built by Baldwin in 1926 for Charles R. McCormick Lumber Company as their 4 at Port Gamble, Washington. In 1942, it became Santa Maria Valley 100 and in 1962, became White Mountain Scenic 100. In 1976, it became Wasatch Mountain Railway 100 before becoming part of the Fred Kepner collection in Merrill, Oregon. In 2021, after Mr. Kepner's passing, the steam engine went to the Oregon Coast Scenic Railway and finally, in 2022, was sold to the Virginia and Truckee. It last ran in 1984 on the Heber Valley Railroad.


Southern Pacific 0-6-0 1251 by the railroad in 1919. In 1957, it was donated to the City of Stockton then in 1984, sold to the Virginia and Truckee.

Virginia and Truckee S4 D-2, ex. Pennsylvania Power and Light Company 101, nee Minnesota Transfer 101 built by American Locomotive Company in 1951.

Viriginia and Truckee open air car 52 created from Union Pacific caboose 25852 built in 1979.

Virginia and Truckee 44 ton switcher D-3, ex. Yuma Valley Railway 3, nee United States Marine Corps switcher built by General Electric in 1943. It arrived in May 2013 and was repainted to V&T colors in July 2017.

Virginia and Truckee "Boonton" coach 102 "Silver City", nee Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 5xx (number unknown) built by Pullman in 1914.

Virginia and Truckee caboose 25, nee Northern Pacific caboose 1741 built by Pacific Car and Foundry in 1921.

Virginia and Truckee 80 ton switcher D-1, ex. Feather River & Western 80, ex United States Air Force 1694 1971, nee United States Navy 65-00387, built by General Electric in 1953. It was initially based at the Naval Supply Center in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania and acquired by the V&T in 2003.

Western Pacific 40 foot box car 0351T built by Mt. Vernon Car Company in 1916.

Those two tank cars again.

Burlington Railway Express Agency combine 507 built by Edwards in 1926.

Three wooden passenger cars, details unknown.

Virginia and Truckee business car 100 "Ardelle Mae", nee Bangor and Aroostook 1000 built by American Car and Foundry in 1907.

Southern Pacific coach 1165 built by Pullman in 1910. In 1952, it became Southern Pacific 7403E crane tender. On the other side of the car was "Tehachapi Railroad 'Roaring Camp'.

I returned to the train after this then Elizabeth joined me and once everyone was back aboard, we returned to the Virginia and Truckee depot and this finished our visit.

The bus took us the way I drove back to Reno in July 2022. We returned to the hotel and I checked my e-mail then the two of us met Steve Ferrari and Jon Porter of the Central Coast Chapter, NRHS for dinner. Jon drove us to BJs Restaurant where I had regular pork chops and Elizabeth had the glazed pork chops. We had good conversations then returned to the hotel where I started this story but only finished the first half before calling it a night.