V&T Railroad: where the past is present
Appeal Staff Writer
Virginia City – The railroad goes a little more than a mile to nowhere – dead ending at a pile of dirt in the desert of American Flat. But to the tourists aboard the little diesel train, this new track is proof that the rails will be extended.
The 100 passengers on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad’s Sunset Wine Train Saturday evening wanted to be a part of history, rather than reach any particular destination. The ride over 1.4 miles of recently reconstructed track was the destination.
“(We wanted) to be one of the first people on the new tracks,” said Helen Townsend, accompanied by her daughter, Kathy Argust.
Passengers tipped back Sauvignon, sang campy folk songs, and reveled in the love of track and train. One more mile along the historic Comstock-era right-of-way means there will be another mile after that.
And another and another, until the completion of the 16 miles of twisting track from the Gold Hill Depot, the end of the two-mile Virginia & Truckee Railroad, to a future multimillion dollar train depot in Carson City by 2009.
Tourists will be transported by a locomotive purchased by the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway.
Some passengers just came for the Chateau Routon wine and the evening train ride, not knowing that the rail line would one day cut through Lyon County, cross Highway 50 East and then snake beside the Carson River.
“I think we’re going to have to come back for that,” said Kara Maxcy, of Crestline, Calif. She and her husband, Mark Maxcy, had come to Virginia City to celebrate their six-year wedding anniversary.
Other passengers had intimate knowledge of the V&T and the reconstruction effort.
For Ann Clegg Holloway and Jack Holloway, the V&T is like a relative. Her brother was Charles Clegg, the partner of Lucius Beebe, and wrote more than 30 definitive books on the Western experience and American railroads, including the V&T.
“They would be thrilled by this,” Clegg Holloway said. “They would make it a party”
When the train crossed the Overman Pit, the couple stood to gaze out over Gold Canyon and a cemetery dotted with white crosses.
Last fall, contractors transported 310,000 cubic feet of dirt, laid 140 feet deep, over a 1,000-foot-wide area to fill the old mining pit. Bob Hadfield, chairman of the commission, said filling and laying track across the Overman Pit was the most expensive part of the project.
“Nobody has seen this from a train since 1938,” said Holloway, referring to the abandonment of the Virginia City line when mining declined.
Engineer Jerry Hoover, of Minden, kept the engine going at about five-10 mph as the sun sank behind the Sierra. He called this ride “smooth as silk.”
Passengers sang “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad” and “Happy Birthday” to Bob Gray, the Virginia City businessman who rebuilt the V&T from Gold Hill to the historic mining boomtown. He turned 85 on Sunday.
Pending approval by the state commission reconstructing the railway, he and his son, Tom Gray, hope to continue operating the diesel on the new track at least daily.
“It was a great experience to go on the new track and be a part of history,” said Karla Alltizer, of Carson City.
“And the wine was great,” said her friend, Lena Brezin.
That sentiment was shared by others. Chateau Routon went through five cases – 60 bottles – in two hours.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.