Storey considers extending V&T tracks

There has been talk about extending the V&T Railroad to Carson, but Storey County plans to extend the rails the other way.

If county commissioners and Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority Executive Director Steve Muniz have their way, the V&T Railroad could once again extend through Tunnel No. 6 and into Virginia City's Railroad Depot. The tunnel is the most significant obstruction standing in the way of opening the track to the depot, where passenger service originated in 1870.

"The Virginia City experience doesn't necessarily include the (V&T) Railroad, because it isn't here. It's on F Street," Muniz said at Tuesday's Storey County commissioners meeting. He emphasized the fact that accessibility to the train's present Virginia City Depot poses a problem, and the V&T's ridership could increase dramatically if the terminal were in a more accessible location.

He said the Tricounty Railroad Commission is presently focused on the Overman Pit in the Gold Hill area, which is the biggest obstacle to completing the line into Carson City. But the best way to develop momentum and enthusiasm for the project would be to extend the line into Virginia City.

"There needs to be other activity and development to generate enthusiasm for the V and T project, to increase visibility, and give investors a better picture."

Storey County Commissioner Chuck Haynes also noted the present terminal on F Street isn't large enough to accommodate more than three cars, limiting the number of passengers per trip and the V&T's ability to grow.

"Only three cars will fit in that switching area, and we need at least eight to make it (the trip) financially viable," Haynes said.

The 600-foot tunnel is a covered ditch running along F Street in front of St. Mary's of the Mountain Catholic Church. It was used until 1938.

"It was partially filled in 1939 when two large brick buildings burned, and they needed to do something with the debris," Haynes said, noting the fill was never compacted and the tunnel was only about half filled at that time. The north end of the tunnel was filled in 1964.

State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James voiced some concerns.

"The tunnel sits right next to St. Mary's, and no one wants that damaged by tons of steel running on daily basis. That needs to be satisfied. On the other hand, the tunnel was probably not properly filled to modern engineering standards. We could have a structure that fails," James said, noting that should the tunnel cave in, buildings nearby could be affected.

"I think it is imperative that we study the issue, and determine what should be done with it for the sake of church and the railroad so we can make an intelligent choice ... My office is ready to do whatever it can in the form of technical advice, or help with the next grant cycle."

Bringing more tourists to Virginia City will no doubt result an increase in tourist dollars, but Haynes sees restoration of this historical structure in the nation's largest historic district an end in itself.

Grant monies for feasibility and engineering studies are presently being sought. The studies are the first step toward completing the grant process for construction.

In other business:

-- Lee McEchney, spokesman for the V.C. Outlaws, addressed the Commission concerning neighborhood noise complaints. He said the V.C. Outlaws have done everything to comply with local codes, and he will speak with the neighbors that have complained. Though happy with his present location, he would consider moving. Noise from V.C. Outlaws plays and the Red Dog Saloon were issues at the previous commission meeting.


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