By the time the Virginia & Truckee steam locomotive is chugging over 19 miles of track between Carson City and Virginia City in 2010, Bob and Fay Leonard will be looking down on it from their Victorian house in Virginia City.
"We're building a house and that will be our scenic view," Fay Leonard said Tuesday afternoon as she sipped red wine from a "V&T Lives" wine glass.
The Leonards joined about 250 other rail fans and local officials at the Nevada State Railroad Museum to celebrate the completion of phase 1 of the V&T Railway reconstruction.
The first phase of the tourist track, which eventually will run about 19 miles between Virginia City and Carson City, was completed in September. About $4 million of the construction cost was paid for by room tax revenue bonded by the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The ceremony focused on honoring Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who helped secure $10 million attached to the federal transportation bill for phase 2 of the $40 million project. Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira called Reid a man "who has his fingerprint all over the state of Nevada."
Reid was presented with two framed silver railroad spikes and a watercolor painting by Dayton artist Steven Saylor. The artist painted Reid into the picture of several well-known Nevadans - Paul Laxalt is reading a copy of The Morning Appeal in the foreground - clustered at a turn-of-the-century train depot in front of a V&T engine.
Reid lauded the efforts of all those who have contributed toward the project and the two cities that will be connected by the tourist track. The V&T is expected to bring in $18 million annually after it's completed.
He called Virginia City "a place known all over the world" and important to Nevada's history leading up to the Civil War. The senator often calls himself a history buff.
The crowd not only applauded Reid and other important officials, some also blew wooden train horns.
"I thought I might have my own car," he said after the ceremony, joking about the perks a senator might have for a project he helped to fund.
A new one-eighth-cent sales tax from Carson City will raise $15 million for the project, which fully funds the construction.
The cost of the project doesn't mean much to 3-year-old Alex Johnson, who attended the event with his family, which is vacationing here from Boston.
He was preoccupied with the Thomas the Tank Engine play table.
"We have a little boy who loves the trains. He calls them 'choo-choos,'" said his mother, Sarah Johnson.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.