V&T officials are betting on a historic payback

The Virginia & Truckee Railway is historically known as the "most crooked shortline in America," because its run from the Carson City border to Gold Hill is full of twists and turns. Construction on its span across the Overman Pit, phase one, is under way.

Tourism and government officials promise the train will bring a $40 million boost during the construction phase, and $16 million annually after the railway is completed. Area business owners yearn for the 160,000 annual passengers the V&T is expected to attract. The $30 million tourist attraction could be a boom - or a bust, just like the Comstock lode it once serviced.

As tourist lines close across the U.S., what makes Carson City officials so sure it will succeed?

They're betting on history.

"The V&T is a remarkable opportunity," said state Historic Preservation Officer Ron James. "Train enthusiasts love the history of the railroad and steam locomotives. The V&T is arguably the most famous shortline in the nation, if not the world."

The Comstock Lode has a mystique associated with vast amounts of wealth.

"It's just highly regarded in the railroad world. And any opportunity to ride on the V&T right-of-way is an automatic sale."

The McCloud Railway of McCloud, Calif., learned that the locomotive didn't always sell - it started to lose money, so the owner sold its only operating locomotive to the V&T commission this year. Now the McCloud company focuses more on its diesel engines which run specialty events, such as the Shasta Sunset Dinner Train. Customers line up for the gourmet food and the smooth trip to Mount Shasta and back.

The question: Can Virginia and Carson cities uncover a bonanza where others have failed?


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