Engine 18 makes first V&T run
Engine 18, the steam locomotive purchased seven years ago for the V&T Railway, made its debut last weekend, carrying passengers between Virginia City and Eastgate Siding on Saturday and Sunday.
“She did great,” said spokesman Kevin Ray. “We’re real excited how well it went for us.”
He said not only was the oil-fired locomotive smooth, it was strong enough to easily handle a third passenger car.
“It will be able to easily pull the three cars and, since we’ve been selling out every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the two cars, we’re excited to soon bring out a new car,” Ray said.
He said he expects the engine will be used every weekend from now on unless it needs maintenance.
It took nearly six years to get the tracks extended far enough to open the V&T to tourists and other passengers. The McLeod River Railroad engine was finally brought to its new home last July.
Candy Duncan, director of the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau, said being able to handle more passengers on the round-trip runs each weekend will be a big boost to what officials are all saying should be the key to making Carson City a tourist destination.
Ray said it’s already proving a great tourist draw.
“It seems 80 percent of the people riding are from out of state, many of them from out of country,” he said. “People are saying they’re coming out here to ride this. One family planned their trip to the United States to go to Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and the V&T Railway.”
Ray said one passenger from Germany told him the V&T was number eight of the top 10 short-line railroads he wanted to ride, and the only one in the U.S.
“He came from Germany to ride,” he said.
Each of the two cars currently operating carries 75 passengers. With a one run each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That makes a total of 450 paying customers every weekend, Ray said.
Adding the third car will raise the total to 675 passengers each weekend and that, he said, doesn’t count the 50-75 people each weekend riding the one-way runs between Virginia City and Eastgate, located at Carson City’s eastern border.
“There’s such demand for it that we’re working as fast as we can with the V&T Railroad Co.,” he said.
That operation, owned by Tom Gray and his family, has the contract to actually operate the railroad and take care of the rolling stock. According to Ray, Gray will hopefully have that third car ready for the tracks within the month.
He said, however, since the trains are selling out every weekend, those wishing to ride should make their reservations as soon as possible each week. They can do so at visitcarsoncity.com, the website operated by CCCVB, which has the contract to handle marketing, operations and the depot this season.
The Railway Commission still is working to extend the track from Eastgate down the Carson Canyon to Carson City itself. Contractors recently completed another stretch of the track past Eastgate which will enable the train to travel into the canyon to Eureka Siding – the most scenic part of what will eventually be a more than 15-mile ride.
Ray said anyone wishing to support the railroad project can do so by contacting the V&T Railway Commission, the Grays at the V&T Railroad Co., or the convention and visitors bureau.