32nd annual V&T rail symposium a success

The 32nd annual Virginia & Truckee Railroad Symposium wrapped up Sunday with a restoration shop talk and a hike along historic rail lines above Lake Tahoe.

"The only complaint I heard was, one guy said he was sorry he missed the first 31" seminars, said volunteer Katie Pollock at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, where much of the three-day symposium took place. About 160 people attended, according to museum coordinator John Frink.

This year's theme was railroads that supplied the Comstock mining boom. Several prominent historians spoke on lines such as the Carson & Colorado, which ran from Mound House to California, and the Carson & Tahoe Lumber & Fluming Co.

Sunday's guided hike above Lake Tahoe followed the former Carson & Tahoe line from Glenbrook up to Spooner Summit. Guides explained how timber cut from the west shore of the lake was floated across to Glenbrook, milled into finished lumber, hauled by train up to Spooner then sent by flume down to Carson for distribution -often to the mines of the Comstock.

The line served a vital role in the fledging Nevada society, explained 250-plus-hour volunteer Stan Cronwall. Everything was steam-powered by wood fuel, he said.

"The hoisting mechanisms in the mines ran on cord wood, the pumps in the mines ran on cord wood, the steam engines ran on cord wood, and obviously everyone heated their homes with cord wood."

Other highlights of the symposium included an address by Dr. Sue Fawn Chung of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, History Department.

"She spoke about the effect of the Chinese on the construction of rail lines -not just the continental railroad, but also on the Virginia & Truckee, the Carson & Colorado and even on railroads up in Canada," said Cronwall.

During Sunday's restoration talk, Chris Dewitt described the progress made on restoration of the 1910 McKeen car. The crew is working on powering it with an engine connected directly to the front axle. They have yet to put in the seats and paint the car. Recent accomplishments include exact, sheet-metal copies that craftsmen made of an elegant, original intake for the ventilation system.

Tickets for the full symposium, including the three days of activities, a Friday night reception and a banquet dinner at the Nugget Ballroom, cost $80. All proceeds will go to the Friends of the Nevada State Railroad Museum, which organized the symposium.

"That means that, for all practical purposes, it goes to the museum," said Cronwall. The Friends have very few expenses, and members volunteer all their time, he said.

But raising money is not the point of the symposium, he added.

"The intent is for it to be an educational outreach, as opposed to a fund-raiser."

The 33rd annual symposium is scheduled to take place about the same time next year. Its theme has not yet been decided.

"We're toying with several different ideas, and at this point there's nothing definitive," Cronwall said.

The co-chairmen of this year's symposium were Charlie Siebenthal and Bryan Berry -both of the Friends -and the co-chairs for next year's will be Dan Thielen of the museum and Elaine Cronwall, Stan Cronwell's wife


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