The summer season for the V&T Railroad opened Saturday with nearly 190 excited people boarding three historic passenger cars lined up behind the V&T No. 18 steam engine. For many, the one and half hour ride from the depot in Carson City to Virginia was a first on many levels. First train ride, first steam engine ride, first ride along the historic route, first time seeing wild horses and first time in Virginia City.
“It was great kick-off for the season,” Kevin Ray, project coordinator for the V&T, said soon after the train departed at 10 a.m. “It was pretty much sold out.”
He knew of passengers from Colorado, Texas and Florida.
“There area so few steam engines out there in operation,” Ray said.
The excitement of the V&T guests rubs off on those working in the depot, selling tickets and explaining the history of the rail line. There are people there seven days a week.
“It’s fun, it’s a lot of fun. Families come with kids, older people come; people celebrate birthdays.
“It’s amazing how many people make the whole trip based on riding the steam train,” Ray said, noting how fun it is to work at the depot. “When people come in they are always smiling. You see it, the energy they bring.”
The train returned to Carson City a little after 4 p.m. Many disembarked with bags of souvenirs from their day in Virginia City while others stopped in at the depot gift shop.
Linda Taylan and her husband Chris Jensen, from Salinas, Calif., picked out train-print shirts, before heading back to Lake Tahoe for other weekend activities. It was not their first time on a train ride in the Comstock.
“This is the first time we’ve been on this train,” Taylan said.
The couple had been on the V&T many years ago when there was only a short train ride from Virginia City to the first tunnel, Jensen said.
What was their favorite part of the longer ride?
“We enjoyed the nice little narrative along the way,” he said.
Rodica Bisic, from Sacramento, came with a large group of family and friends just to ride the train. Ten kids and a dozen adults in the group took in the experience of the train ride and the Memorial Day weekend activities in Virginia City.
“This was something new for us,” Bisic said. “The kids have never been on a train before.”
“It was pretty fun,” said her son Daniel, who especially enjoyed the parade in Virginia City. And the wild horses were “pretty cool.”
Memorial Day weekend is the big kickoff to the summer season on the V&T, although the railway conducts special rides throughout the year from Mother’s Day to the Christmas-season Polar Express.
Last year, the V&T carried 20,000 passengers for the various runs, Ray said.
“The main focus is bringing people to Northern Nevada,” he said. “We showcase Carson City as being the center of all the activity in the area” including Lake Tahoe and Virginia City, as well as the history within the Capital City itself.
The V&T Railroad will operate steam engines on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 20 and diesel engines on Fridays from June 7 through Sept. 6. Each 24-mile round trip leaves the Carson City depot at 10 a.m., arriving at the Virginia City depot at 11:30 a.m. The return trip starts in Virginia City at 3 p.m., arriving back in Carson about 4:20 p.m. One way tickets from Carson City to Virginia City are also available.
Shorter 4-mile runs are offered daily from the Virginia City depot to Gold Hill and back. The 35-minute round trips depart hourly from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
The V&T also offers canyon tours on Saturdays in July and August. The Toast of the Canyon tours include wine-tasting as they journey south of the Carson City depot through the Carson River Canyon.
For fares and more information about the V&T Railroad, go to vtrailway.com or call 877-724-5007 or 775-291-0208. For more information on the Virginia City depot and short tour, go to virginiatruckee.com or call 775-847-0380.