Column: Laxalt marks passing of the V & T

In the past, significant space in this column has been dedicated to reprinting segments from a series of articles that appeared in the Sacramento Bee in May of 1950.

The articles were written to commemorate the significant role that the V&T played in one of the greatest mining episodes of the American West. Although these articles preceded the V&T's last official day of operation, an IP article penned by Nevada author Robert Laxalt, appeared on the front page of the Oakland Tribune on the very day the old V&T puffed its way over the horizon for the last time.

Following is a copy of the article that appeared in the Tribune on May 31, 1950.

"Rail Link to Roaring Past Makes Last Trip"

By Robert Laxalt

Carson City, Nev., May 31

-(IP)- Another chapter in the passing history of the old west was closed here today when the Virginia and Truckee railway made its last run.

The 81-year-old shortline, whose story is the story of Virginia City, was laid to rest - the loser in a hopeless battle with the modern age, its highways, its faster modes of transportation.

As in the days of its birth, the Virginia and Truckee's yellow wooden coaches were filled with passengers for its last trip.

But the ride was not a joyous one. For one and all, the "last ride on the V and T" carries the sadness of farewell.

As the railway's last locomotive tugged its way laboriously up the grade from Carson City to Lake View Hill and across the Washoe Valley, farmers in their fields stopped their work to watch the train go by.

For as long as many of them can remember, the piping blast of the V and T's whistle had marked a new dawn, and its return in the late afternoon across the shadow of the looming Sierra had been the signal that the day's work was done.

They can remember how the ox-teams labored to pull the first shining locomotive up the precipitous Geiger Grade to Virginia City for the first welcome; they can remember the V and T's first trip in that year of 1869 amid the tumult of cheers from Virginia City's teeming thousands in the lusty heyday of the Comstock Lode; they can remember the proud days of the railways' glory, when it carried the rich gold and silver ore - "the wealth that built San Francisco;" they can remember President U.S. Grant's gasp of admiration at the gaudy yellow coaches, the plush-lined seats, and the shining new track.

And they can remember the time when the V and T began to die, when Virginia City's thousands had vanished, when its mines lay abandoned, when voices sounded hollow in the once-roaring saloons. And finally, they can remember the deathblow - when the track to Virginia City was abandoned, when the railway fought for survival, selling its locomotives and coaches to movie studios, to world fairs, to museums.

And now as they climbed down from the little shortline for the last time, they had the memory that ends the chapter - "the last ride on the V and T."


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