Millennium Countdown: 1991
Paper: Nevada Appeal – 8 days to the millennium – Thursday, May 23, 1991
Founder: Donald W. Reynolds
General Manager: Dale C. Wetenkamp
Editor: Don Ham
City Editor: Sue Morrow
Advertising Director: David Clipson
Circulation Director: Tom Berner
Business Office Supervisor: Peggy McGuire
Press Foreman: Tom Schiapkohl
Composing Supervisor: Anna Maple
Published each evening Sunday through Friday at 200 Bath St.
A Nevada owned member Donrey Media Group
V&T Shop death is a battle lost – war wages on
By Kelli Du Fresne
The demise of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad’s engine house at the corner of Stewart and Washington streets had several beginnings.
It began in 1972 when the building was first left vacant, abandoned.
It continued in 1982 when transients started a fire that damaged the roof and the timbers supporting it.
On Jan. 15, 1991, demolition began with the removal of the smoke jacks for safe keeping by the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
“Smoke jacks hang fairly high off the ground and you park steam locomotives under them,” said railroad museum Curator John Ballweber. “When you back a steam locomotive indoors, you need to get the smoke stack of the locomotive underneath the smoke jack that’s in the building. The heat creates a natural draft and most of the bad stuff leaves.”
Ballweber said museum staff was on site during the demolition to photograph and retrieve what they could as the building came down.
In addition to the smoke jacks, the railroad museum saved two sets of doors, wooden cranes and a variety of smaller pieces and components.
“Most of the stuff on the walls and the ceiling was gone,” Ballweber said. “When they stopped using it in 1950 there were several different offices that least space. The neatest thing we found was beneath the floor boards. Beneath the floor were some of the original shaft lines used to drive the belt-driven machinery.
“We knew about the ones in the ceiling,” he said. “We could see the mounting brackets where they used to be, but we didn’t know they were in the floor.”
Ballweber said the death knell of the shops was a loss and a blessing for Northern Nevada.
“Carson City lost a pretty significant piece of its history,” he said. “That’s the downside. On the upside, the (1991) Legislature did respond and create a program that’s been funded ever since for the preservation, rehabilitation, and reuse of significant historic structures in Nevada. In some ways, we lost the battle and won the war.
“We lost the shops and Northern Nevada lost a really significant historic building, but the state of Nevada gained a program to help guarantee that that doesn’t happen again.”
The Commission on Cultural Affairs gets $2 million a year until 2005 to rehabilitate historic buildings.
Early in 1991, the Nevada Appeal reported the sandstone quarried by early Carsonite Abraham Curry was to be sold to wineries in California.
The names of the wineries remain a secret even now as most instead tell of how the sandstone borders and pillars were shipped over from Europe.
The Appeal made the following last-ditch attempt to save the building Jan. 9, 1991.
The headline read “Maybe last-ditch effort can work.”
“It’s been almost a week since it was revealed that the sandstone blocks that make up the V&T Railroad Shops have been sold.
On Tuesday, the city issued a demolition permit for the company hired to take the place apart, block by clock, and ship many of the blocks to California.
What’s worse, the Nevada Appeal has learned that the blocks of the unique historic structure are being “given away” by property owner Paul Larquier for the cost of demolition.
In a Monday editorial, the Appeal urged that if the V&T Shops can’t be saved on the existing site – which Larquier hopes to develop – that Carson City and state officials try to intervene, buy the building, dismantle it and move it to another site, where it could be reconstructed later.
We haven’t given up. And according to several sources, city officials are frantically trying to save the day.
We wish them luck.
Those who are interested in supporting such effort should contact city hall.
We wouldn’t be surprised if money was on the needs list.
We know that vocal community support is an absolute necessity if the building is to be saved for future generations to enjoy.
Today only the memories of Carson old-timers, paintings and snapshots can bring to life the former building.
But Ballweber said the building’s owner, Paul Larquier gave the city, state and residents about a year’s warning that he needed to do something with the building.
“Somebody needed to buy it or he needed to demolish it because of its poor condition,” Ballweber said. “A lot of folks looked at the building to try to find ways to save it and use it, but one by one the options sort of fell by the wayside.
Appeal reporter Lisa Kirk on Monday, Jan. 14, 1991, the day before the railroad museum began its salvage work, wrote: It felt like a funeral.
No on wore black or sent flowers, but as one man said, it felt like a close friend died.
Perhaps one had.
More than a dozen people paid their last respects to the old Virginia & Truckee Engine Shops Sunday.
the word is out – the shops are coming down this week, and within two months, the land where the massive stone structure stood for 117 years will be barren.
Sunday’s gathering wasn’t an organized affair.
Rather, it seemed like a silent pull from an old, dilapidated heap of quarried sandstone that symbolizes the greatness of the Old West and uniquely Nevada memories of steam, smoke and golden dreams.
The public’s interest in the shops likely wavered within a week as the Jan. 17, 1991 front page headline declared “U.S. AT WAR!” – Desert Storm had blown in.