The bang, rattle and grind of equipment at Nevada's license plate factory wasn't enough to deter Janice Ayres, president of the Northern Nevada Railway Foundation.
She was all smiles Friday morning as she carefully pushed two large black buttons, activating the embossing machine. It whined and, just a minute later, out came two copies of V&T license plates numbers 0001 and 0002.
The plates are duplicates of those now available at the Department of Motor Vehicles for fans of reconstructing the Virginia & Truckee Railroad between Carson and Virginia cities. Friday's printing was done to chug up more interest in the plates.
A portion of the registration fees from each plate sold is going toward restoration of the V&T Railroad line. It's a project Ayres has been working toward for more than 10 years. Ayres expects to sell about 2,000 of the plates in the next six to eight months.
"This will be a terrific ongoing stream of revenue for the V&T. With every renewal, we will get more money, so it's never over," Ayres said. "It's taken more than three years and three legislative bills, to get this far. We needed 250 applications to qualify for the printing of the plates, and it took almost another year to order the materials -- things move slowly."
Located at the Nevada State Prison, the license plate, or TAG factory, was bustling. About 40 inmates worked and watched quietly as the machines whirred, stamped and bumped.
Some who had fought for the creation of these plates gathered for the event, including Sen. Mark Amodei R-Carson City, Stephen Lincoln, vice president of the foundation, and Marsha Burgess, secretary/treasurer of the foundation -- who reached up to help Ayres set things in motion.
"I've seen this done before. It's a great way to raise funds," Lincoln said. "There are lots of rail fans, hobbyists and supporters out there and these plates will be a collector's item."
Built between 1869 and 1872, the V&T Railroad supplied the mines of Virginia City with material and transported ore to the mills in the valley below. The train was built by private investors to facilitate the movement of ore to the processing mills in the Carson River Canyon and became known as the only railroad ever to carry its entire weight of locomotives, track and equipment, in silver.
The completion of the V&T ushered in an economic boom of unparalleled proportions, its stockholders rewarded with dividends as high as $100,000 per month. If this project is successful, history could repeat itself.
A regional impact study compiled for the Northern Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railroad shows the project will add $40.9 million to the regional economy, a number the study says is equal to 885 full-time jobs, for just the two construction seasons.
After the first ticket is sold, the study says, the region will benefit from increased ridership on the train that now runs between Virginia City and Gold Hill during the summers. Spending by the new passengers alone could generate $16.5 million a year.
Available now through the Department of Motor Vehicles, the license plates cost $61 over registration costs. Of that fee, $25 goes to the Commission. Renewal will cost an extra $30, with two-thirds of that going to the railroad project. Once the project is completed, the money will be dedicated to maintenance.
Souvenir plates are also available for $10 each. For information, call the Foundation at 885-6833 or stop by the office at 105 W. Telegraph St.