Chinese laborers who helped to build the old Virginia & Truckee Railroad in 1869 were honored Thursday at a Nevada State Railroad Museum reception that focused on a $40 million revival of the V&T and a $50 million museum complex to commemorate the workers.
Gov. Kenny Guinn said in remarks to Peng Keyu, consul general of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, and others at the event that the efforts of the laborers made it possible to complete the Comstock Lode-era short line in less than a year.
But Guinn said the workers, including many who hoped to "find mountains made of gold" in the West, instead faced "a mountain of barriers" in the form of discrimination.
The governor said the revived V&T Railway will be a major tourist attraction, and the museum that will be linked to the train station in east Carson City will honor the Chinese workers who built the historic railroad.
Peng said he hoped the two projects will help to bring China and the United States closer.
"I highly commend the people of Nevada. This is a good memory for the Chinese people," Peng said. "I think this is a good step to promote a better understanding of our two peoples. It will also promote the business trade and tourism for the state and for China."
The V&T was a key supply line to Comstock Lode mines in Virginia City, transporting passengers, property, goods and lumber to the mines and hauling out gold and silver ore. The Virginia City line was abandoned in 1938 because of the decline in the mining industry, and the entire railroad was pulled up in 1950.
The railroad reconstruction project should be completed in four to six years. The ceremony also served as a platform for discussion of the proposed Chinese Worker's Museum.
Organizers of the museum project say they hope to make it an attraction for tourists and scholars alike, as well as a repository for early Chinese American artifacts.
Plans call for the 250,000-square-foot complex to feature a six-story conical building with windows that reflect gold, flanked by two six-story buildings that resemble ancient Chinese gateways.
Cheryl Lau, chairwoman of the Chinese Workers Museum Committee, said the ceremony offered an exciting opportunity to honor the workers and further elaborate on the museum. She also said Peng was excited about the project as well.
"He's very excited especially with what the Chinese accomplished and went through for the railroads," Lau said.
Lau also told the crowd of about 100 people that Charles Crocker, chief of construction for the Central Pacific, when cautioned about hiring Chinese workers because they appeared too frail, said, "They built the Great Wall of China, didn't they?"