GOLD HILL - Construction of the Virginia & Truckee Railway over the Overman Pit officially began Wednesday afternoon with a few shovelfuls of dirt cast into a slight indentation in the ground.
It'll continue with the transportation of 310,000 cubic feet of dirt, laid 140 feet deep, over a 1,000 foot wide area. The railroad tracks will follow the right-of-way of the original V&T line.
The pomp and circumstance of the ceremony culminated with a small group of railway officials sticking their specially made red-handled shovels into the dirt and posing for pictures in front of the V&T Railroad train, which is a privately owned tourist track that runs from Gold Hill to Virginia City.
The railway, which is a project of the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway, will run from Gold Hill to Carson City when completed. This construction phase is administrated by the Nevada Department of Transportation. The state awarded the $3.8 million bid to Granite Construction to reconstruct 1.3 miles of V&T Railway. Construction on this phase is expected to be completed at the end of August.
In the distance, a lone bulldozer began the steady cutting into a small mountain, which Granite Construction will use to level out the site and fill a portion of the pit. With every push, rocks would tumble down the hill, finally coming to rest near a line of parked cars.
V&T officials and supporters arrived at the place where the track will start in the grand ole style of the railroading days: aboard the V&T tourist train serenaded by a fiddle player.
Ray Anderson, who dressed in all black except for white suspenders and American flag hat, was one Virginia City resident who came down on the train.
"I'm glad to see this phase getting started," he said.
He isn't the only one. Several officials unleashed a litany of praise for those who have seen the project through more than a decade of research, fund-raising and design.
"NDOT has been involved for 12 years and finally we've reached the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel," NDOT Director Jeff Fontaine said to some laughter from the audience. "The V&T is finally back on track."
Ron Allen, the secretary/treasurer of the railway commission, said his father was the last roadmaster for the V&T when the line shut down in 1938.
"It was always his dream to see this reality come about," Allen said. "He's not here to see it, but I'll do it for him."
Jake Koch, 12, said he'll ride the line when its done, which won't be until he's in high school. He attended the event with his mother and 9-year-old brother, Josh.
"I'll be historic," Jake said. "And when we have our own kids we'll bring them here and say to them that we rode the train, too."
NDOT Deputy Director Susan Martinovich got into the spirit of the event with a pink lace dress, black boa and purple suede boots. She clutched a bottle of Old Crow Whiskey to complete the costume.
"I've seen this project through my whole career," Martinovich said. "It's so great that it's finally coming together."
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.