Minden's wealth began with V&T line

The Virginia & Truckee Railroad locomotive No. 27 at the Minden Depot.

The Virginia & Truckee Railroad locomotive No. 27 at the Minden Depot.

A hundred years ago, the economic fortune of a small agricultural community was established by the tracks of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.

The town next door sort of stewed in its own misfortune.

It was mid-April 1906 when construction began on the 14-mile extension into Douglas County. The Comstock Lode had played out and V&T President Henry Yerington was looking for a new revenue stream, said Peter Barton, Nevada State Railroad Museum director.

"He thought the railroad should try to extend and reach new mineral strikes below Douglas County, but in reality, something different happened," he said. "The railroad didn't have the resources to build a line over the Sierra, or down to Tonopah, so they settled in March of 1906 with building a line down to Minden."

According to local lore, the train never made it to Gardnerville because of bad blood between the founder of Minden and its neighbor to the south.

H.F. Dangberg came to Gardnerville with the dream of establishing a beautiful park similar to one in his home of Minden, Germany.

"He spoke to the people of Gardnerville and they said no," said Hap Fisher, of Gardnerville, a railroad buff who grew up riding the V&T and the Carson & Colorado.

"So he built the town of Minden with a central park, just like what you find in Minden, Germany. Now it's celebrating its 100th year."

The railroad was extended from the Carson City depot at Washington Street to a station built near Third Avenue in Minden. Dangberg donated the land the right-of-way was built on.

"It really established Minden as a community," Barton said.

Fisher said Gardnerville was not really hurt economically by Minden's fortune, but "it caused a hard feeling that lasted many, many years."

Greek workers began building the track, but they went on strike about three miles later. Barton said it took the railroad a few weeks to find replacements. They finished the line to Minden by July 1906. A month later, train service began.

Fisher, now 87, rode the railroad into seven Western states before he graduated high school. His father was a strong believer in education through travel. G. Walter Fisher was the Minden station master from 1923-1948. Before that, he was the V&T station manager in Virginia City.

In its heyday, as many as three freight trains a day pulled into the Minden station. They carried tank cars full of fuel and oil, and stock cars, Fisher said. Box cars were loaded with automobiles for the C.O.D Garage, which sold Chevrolets. Douglas County grain was shipped out. Fisher described the rail line as a "geometric Y," which enabled the train to turn around back to Carson City.

Fisher said many people believe the town founder purposely had the railroad stop short before Gardnerville. Barton said this could be true, he's heard the story enough. A railroad charter was established in 1909 for the Gardnerville and Southern. It never came to fruition.

The Minden line was abandoned on May 30, 1950, and the track was taken up afterward.

"He had been with it since 1906 and was really dedicated to it," Fisher said about his father.

The train to Minden's last cargo: an automobile.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.


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