Railroad museum exhibit like reality in miniature

Parked on a section of 1/24th-scale track in a glass case at the Nevada Railroad Museum is an exact model of the No. 22 Virginia & Truckee Rail Road's locomotive "Inyo."

With its red driving wheels, white tires and polished brass running board, bell and handrails, the wood-burning steam engine hauled passengers between Carson City, Virginia City and Reno.

"Look at the perfection," said Jacqueline Semerau Flick as she gazed at the well-lit model Saturday. "It just looks like you could climb on and run it if you were miniature."

The model "Inyo," along with a model No. 18 "Dayton," and 15 others, were made by rail fan George Richardson more than 30 years ago. He donated the models to the Nevada State Museum system before his death at age 68 in 1974.

"He's a genius in my book," said Semerau Flick, of Pasadena, who donated a collection of Richardson's parts to the museum's new exhibit, "Locomotive Stories of the V&T."

The exhibit opened Saturday and will run through December 2004.

"They've just done a wonderful job," she said. "I hope it's here for a long time because it certainly honors his work."

Richardson estimated he spent 600 hours on each of the 17 models. He made 16 locomotive models and one of the McKeen Motor Car. The real McKeen is being fixed in the back shop of the museum.

In a letter he wrote to the museum Richardson described seeing the V&T station yards and engine house in 1937.

"They were like stepping back into the 1870s and to me very fascinating," he wrote.

Fascinating enough for him to begin work on the models -- with a melted-lead molding technique that remains a mystery.

"We don't know if it was the lost wax technique or something else," said museum volunteer Mark Butler of Carson City.

Richardson did not use kits -- he created each locomotive and all their parts on his own.

"There is not a single piece in any of the engines that was not made by myself," he wrote.

The Curator of History and Collections Manager for the museum, Jane O'Cain, said there is no way to put a value on the collection of models.

"We consider them to be priceless," she said.

Displayed in a glass case of its own along the west wall of the museum is the surveying equipment used by Isaac E. James in designing the path of the original V&T rail line.

Jim Hall, a volunteer who drives an hour and 20 minutes from Smith Valley to the museum, described how James used the very same "transit" and "plumb bob" to design the tracks with their maximum grade of 106 feet rise per mile.

Hall said James had a V&T locomotive named after him, the No. 9 "I.E. James" which worked the wood yards in Carson City. It was one of the 17 recreated in "perfection" by George Richardson.


What: "Locomotive Stories of the V&T," a new exhibit

Where: At the Nevada Railroad Museum on the corner of Fairview and Carson streets

When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily

Cost: $2 adults children are free

Call: Call 687-6953


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment