Engine 29 getting ready for next season | NevadaAppeal.com

Engine 29 getting ready for next season

Karen Woodmansee

Appeal Staff Writer

Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal V&T Railroad employees Dennis Nelson, front, and Norman Nicht clean the engine jacket of V&T's Engine 29 at the V&T yard in Virginia City on Tuesday afternoon. The railway is in the process of readying the engine for use this spring.

After five years of work, Engine 29 of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad should be ready for next season.

Tom Gray, whose father, Bob, bought and reopened the historic line in 1975, said the engine had passed preliminary tests and should be ready to roll.

“It’s ready to go,” he said. “There will be some bugs we’ll have to work out after we run it up and down the tracks a few times.”

The engine, built in 1916 by Baldwin Locomotive Co. in Philadelphia, was put in the shop back in 2002, at the behest of the Federal Railroad Administration, which took over regulating steam engines from the Interstate Commerce Commission several years earlier. FRA officials required more work to be done on the engine, which Gray said was needed anyway.

Gray had hoped to have the steam engine back on the tracks for 2007, but said the work took longer than expected because he lost some employees, and “we had to redo a lot of the work that was done on it.

“We ran the steam engine for 27 years,” he said. “It needed work. It ended up costing more than buying a new engine would have.

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Engine 29 is an oil-burning steam engine, what Gray called “a 2-8-0” which means it has two guide wheels behind the cow catcher, then eight driving wheels. It weighs 55 tons empty, and the eight drivers give it better traction. On top of the engine is a sand trap that feeds sand to the wheels to provide that traction.

The tender stores 4,000 gallons of water, which is heated to 380 degrees for the steam that powers the train. The engine heats to 200 pounds of pressure per square inch.

“It used to haul logs in Oregon, pulling 30 to 50 log cars,” Gray said, but added it would only pull three or four cars up the steep winding grade on the Comstock.

“This is a steep mountain railroad,” he said, adding that the area off of F Street where the shops are located is one of the few flat areas around Virginia City.

Joining the steam engine and the railroads two open passenger cars will be two new passenger cars with heaters and bathrooms that he bought with some other train lovers at a railroad convention.

“There are people trying to help us out,” he said.

He said the cars are 68 feet long and about the same age as Engine 29. Right now they’re in Green Bay, Wisc., and Gray hopes to move them out here sometime in January.

He said they would be ready by next season and would be called the “Virginia City” and the “Gold Hill.”

Gray said his railroad is still negotiating with the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T, which is building a line from Gold Hill to Carson City and seeks to tie into his line, either by purchase or lease. He expects to hear something from them in June or July.

Gray said the railway commission made an offer and he made a counter-offer, and now the commission is doing a survey and appraisal of the V&T’s real estate, business and intellectual property.

Originally the commission signed a contract that had the Grays running the V&T, but canceled that in November after choosing Sierra Railroads to operate the line to Carson City, expected to be completed in 2010 but running behind schedule.

“I don’t want to run it if they don’t want me to,” he said. “But they have to pay to use our tracks. We want them to use the track. The train needs to go to Virginia City.”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.