Putt-putts on parade: Motorcar operators to convene on the V&T
NOTE: This article has been changed from the original to reflect the correct date of the event: Saturday, Oct. 2
Members of Motorcar Operators West will converge on the V&T railroad Saturday, Oct. 2 for their annual meeting.
Spokesman Mike Mitchell said at least 45 members are bringing their vintage motorcars to run on the V&T tracks.
He said the group was invited by V&T Railroad operator Tom Gray and V&T Railway Commission Chairman Dwight Millard to hold their annual meeting in Virginia City and run the tiny cars, which were originally built as track maintenance vehicles for railroads across the
He said the annual general meeting usually draws about 25 cars, but interest in the V&T has drawn 45 cars so far.
Mitchell said a caravan of the cars will follow the train from Eastgate Siding to Virginia City at about 10 a.m. Oct. 2. Then, Mitchell said the group will hold its annual meeting at the Fourth Ward School, have lunch and do some sightseeing before heading back down the track about 3 p.m.
He said once the V&T is put away for the night, Gray has given them permission to run up and down the track between Eastgate and Gold Hill.
“They’re kind of unique,” Mitchell said.
He said the cars were used by railroads until they began switching to “high rail” pick-up trucks that could drive on the highways as well as the rails in about 1970.
“They used them for maintenance away. The car would take workers to fix a section of track, a signal or a switch,” he said.
The cars themselves are tiny. Mitchell is bringing one only 7 feet long with seats for four railway workers.
The cars are powered by small gas engines – usually about 20 horsepower. He said they’re all unique because each owner paints and decorates his car differently.
“They’re called speeders, putt-putts, motorcars,” he said. “When they break down, we call them all kinds of other stuff.”
He said only four countries allow the association to run their cars on existing tracks – only on short lines like the V&T, not main lines. He said the group has run its cars in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia.
He likes the short lines in the western U.S.
“We’re pretty lucky out here in the west because we’ve got mountains, rivers and lakes,” he said. Traveling through the back country, he said he has also seen moose, a bobcat, numerous cows and other animals.
After switching to pickups, he said the cars were being sold for salvage until a few train enthusiasts like him started saving and restoring them.
They formed the first club in Sacramento but he said there are now about 1,500 members in the North American Rail Car Operators Association and upwards of 600 motorcars.