The first train will run on a one-mile stretch of the reconstructed Virginia & Truckee Railway in May.
"People want to see that new track," said Tom Gray, co-owner of the V&T Railroad.
He said Monday that the V&T Railroad's 50,000 riders - which is their average annual count - will want to ride down the mile of track south of Gold Hill recently completed by the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway.
Gray's line connects to the segment of track built by the commission, which is in charge of reconstructing the entire 18-mile tourist line from Carson City to Gold Hill. It is expected to be completed by 2010.
Although 1.4 miles may not seem like much, it means a lot to him - and to his father. In 1974, Bob Gray reconstructed the first rails along the historic short line's right-of-way in Virginia City.
The V&T commission decided Monday to allow Gray to run his diesel engine on the track as a test. A steam locomotive will also get its shot to run on the rails. The Grays are restoring a 1916 engine made by Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. Gray expects to have the No. 29 on the track in June. Once again a steam whistle will ring out over the Comstock.
The family-owned-and-operated railroad has been traversed by a diesel engine since the steam locomotive was taken out of commission several years ago.
"We'll cross the Overman Pit, will pass the Gold Hill Cemetery and go into American Flat," Tom Gray said. "It's a lot of work but it'll be neat to see."
The D-1 diesel will test out the rails for a few weekends in May before the steam engine. The agreement between the Grays and the commission still hasn't been hammered out, so dates have not been selected. Once operational, the No. 29 is expected to make daily trips down the entire length with passengers.
"I think running a train on the track is a good thing," said V&T Commissioner Jim Baushke. "That'll be a good shake down on it before we get into operation."
Gray said he isn't nervous about being the first on the new track.
"I suspect it will be less difficult," he said. "The Virginia City track has steep grades and sharp curves and railroad crossings." The new track, on the other hand, "it'll be like a beautiful freeway."
The agreement with the commission requires that all of the railroad's staff - about 12 people - receive certification from the Federal Railroad Administration.
Commissioner John Tyson said it's vital that the railroad workers receive the most current safety and operation training.
"Once they've been issued their engineer cards, get out of their way," he said.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.