History on the Rails
I have read numerous articles that state one of the main reasons for tourist travel is to visit historical sites. Most travelers seem intrigued by the prospect of seeing the way many locations and buildings contributed to the annals of the past.
Fortunately for those in this area, one does not have to travel far to experience an event that was routine more than a century ago. I am speaking of the historic V&T Railway that currently operates from Carson City to Virginia City along the same route early-day pioneers travelled. The train runs from Mother’s Day through the summer with a special train at Christmas called the Polar Express.
Ticket and schedule information can be had by contacting the V&T website, vtrailway.com or by phone at 775-291-0208. Since there is room for little more than two hundred passengers on each trip, early ticket purchases are recommended.
The trains depart at 10 a.m. on the dot and after the little more than one hour trip to Virginia City, passengers are given a four hour window to explore the many charms of the liveliest ghost town in the West. Most patrons choose to have lunch at one of the many fine restaurants in the town and visit the numerous shops that display all manner of things.
I have made scores of trips to Virginia City starting in the middle of the last century and on each visit I generally find something new. My favorite trip occurred when I drove actress Marie MacDonald up the hill to have lunch with her admirer, Lucius Beebe. At the time, I was most impressed with the mansion that Beebe lived in, which had been restored to its former opulence. Since Beebe was a newspaper publisher and I was a former journalist, we had much to talk about.
In 1870, Nevada’s first shortline railroad, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad (V&T) was completed between Carson City and Virginia City. Two years later the track was extended to Reno to connect with the transcontinental Central Pacific Railroad. The V&T was the brain child of William Sharon, William Ralston and D.O. Mills of the Bank of California in San Francisco. They feared that Adolf Sutro’s plan to drain the Comstock mines of water through an ingenious tunnel would adversely affect the bank-held monopoly of mills along the Carson River. William Sharon petitioned the Nevada legislature and received funds to build the railroad. This calculated move stalled the tunnel’s completion for many years. The line served to haul ore from Virginia City to the mills in Carson City, lumber from the Sierra Nevada, and passengers traveling between Virginia City, Carson City, Reno and Minden (south of Carson City). The V&T operated from 1869 until 1950.