Railroad Museum celebration gathers steam

Several of the mighty iron horses that helped build Nevada will muscle down the tracks Saturday through July Fourth at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.

Transportation Fair-2000 takes place each day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission and most public activities are free.

"This will be our biggest event ever," said Richard Reitnauer, sales and promotions manager for the museum. "You will rarely see such a variety of railroad equipment in one place at one time."

That equipment includes not only the museum's iron horses, but also an antique steam shovel, different railroad cars and visiting locomotives from Las Vegas and California.

"This is the first time in probably 100 years that there will be nine steam locomotives operating in Carson City," said John Ballweber, museum curator.

Besides standard equipment, miniature scale trains, known as live steamers, will chug merrily each day on special track laid for the fair.

Local railroad enthusiasts acclaim this exhibition of railroad history.

"This is an opportunity for the public to see some equipment that has never been seen before and may never be seen again," said Ron Allen, president of the Friends of the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Allen's father, Patrick Allen, was the last roadmaster for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, the line that used much of the museum's equipment.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the last run of the Virginia & Truckee. Allen's mother, Almeda Allen of Carson City, was a passenger on that historic ride.

Fair visitors can relive the heyday of the Virginia & Truckee by riding the line's coaches and cars for a small fee.

Visitors who want to travel under their own steam can take advantage of self-propelled railroad handcars.

Scheduled events for children include steamboat races, a scavenger hunt, a coloring book station and other hands-on activities designed to explain the development and science of railroads.

"It's a fun way for kids to see history in action," said Maria Sanchez, the museum's curator of education.

The Marine Corps League and Carson City's Warren Engine Co. No. 1 volunteer firefighters will offer food concessions on different days with proceeds benefiting each group.

"This is one of the things we do to help restore old fire engines and keep the engine company museum going," said Don Blanchard, president of the organization.

Whether they eat, ride, tour or do a little of each, Ballweber encourages folks to come to the fair:

"It's a rare opportunity to experience and connect with a part of Nevada history. Before the railroad, what you needed had to be brought in on your back, on a mule, on a wagon. The railroad opened up Nevada."

If you go

What: Nevada State Railroad Museum Transportation Fair

When 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. beginning Saturday

Where: 2180 South Carson St.


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