V&T locomotive named national treasure

Virginia & Truckee Railway locomotive No. 27 was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places on Wednesday, an honor shared by some of the country's most elite cultural treasures.

Housed in the main showroom at the Nevada State Railroad Museum on South Carson Street, the steam-powered, standard-gauge locomotive was built in 1913 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia.

Acquired by the V&T Railroad for $11,875, No. 27 was the last engine that would ever be ordered by the railway that brought more than $300 million in gold, silver and other precious minerals from the Comstock to Carson City.

"Baldwin had the largest locomotive factory in the world at the time," noted John Frink, program coordinator at the museum.

Locomotives No. 25-27 all ran at the end of the life of the V&T.

"There are people still alive today who have fond, first-hand memories of them," says Chris deWitt, restoration supervisor at the museum.

The last train to run on the V&T line, No. 27 was condemned in 1950, shortly after its final revenue trip on May 31 as the bankrupt railroad's assets scattered. It's final burst of smoke came a few months later when it was used in the movie "Roar of the Rails."

It was in terrible condition when the museum got a hold of it in December of 1993, said deWitt. "A real trash heap."

After an exhaustive overhaul and years of restoration work that included taking the boiler off the frame, the 60-ton wreck was transformed into the monstrous, black, steel beauty on display at the museum.

In his "Historical Overview of Locomotive No. 27," historian Kyle Wyatt paints the perspective surrounding the rich piece of local history:

"The years around 1913 were a busy time for the Virginia & Truckee Railway. Traffic tonnage reached levels not seen since before the depression of 1893. Gold and silver production from the Comstock mines also reached a post-1894 peak during 1911-1913."

"V&T locomotive No. 27 left the Baldwin factory on March 26, 1913. While crossing the Great Salt Lake the train encountered a fierce storm, and the locomotive arrived in Carson City on April 17 coated with salt."

Also added to the National Register of Historic Places on Wednesday was Fallon City Hall, designed by preeminent Reno architect Frederick DeLongchamps.

"The building is important because it represents the growth and development of Fallon as a result of a national irrigation program aimed at making the arid far West more productive and open to settlement," according to Mella Harmon, architectural historian with the State Historic Preservation Office.

Contact reporter Peter Thompson at pthompson@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1215.


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