V&T has potential to solve Northern Nevada’s most pressing problems | NevadaAppeal.com

V&T has potential to solve Northern Nevada’s most pressing problems

Sam Flakus

In the year 2006, Northern Nevada finds itself in a dire, complicated situation. Its population is booming, but with it comes a huge housing market in the form of subdivisions that are destroying the agriculture and natural beauty of the desert. Expenses have run high for the farmers, who, to break even, now have to sell the valuable land to the contractors who build the subdivisions. As the houses have covered such a vast expanse, the only viable means of transportation is the private vehicle. The Nevada Department of Transportation cannot build freeways and highways and roads or maintain them fast enough to serve the demand, making it dangerous to do simple, everyday tasks. And it is costly. Not only does the taxpayer pay hundreds of millions of dollars to finance the inefficient practice, but it is paid with the pollution of the air.

Business, especially privately owned, does not prosper. Small stores are not easily seen, it is not hard to drive directly past them, and it is difficult to compete with the larger chains of supermarkets and warehouse stores, which have the support of their parent corporations. While the gasoline-dependent commuting public is greeted by open, spacious, cheaply built places to dine and shop, the downtown areas struggle to survive. With no business to occupy the historic buildings of the town or city, many of the buildings have been demolished or may soon face the same fate. Thorough construction and aesthetically appealing architecture is considered a rare art form, but should it interfere with the welfare of the monetary income, it is often disregarded.

The tourism industry, so vital to the economy, is going under. Gaming is being lost to either Las Vegas or Indian casinos in other states. The high-desert landscape that has attracted generations of people has been paved over by parking lots, houses and condominiums. The cottonwood trees that have separated Nevada from the rest of the country are all too often cut down. The hazy air has certainly not caught the appeal of the common traveler, and it is difficult to travel from place to place if one does not have a vehicle. It is theorized that Nevada’s character and recreational opportunities are the big moneymaker for the state economy, but is becoming more evident that its character is looking more like the housing developments and concrete canyons of Los Angeles.

It is difficult to debate that people should give up their cars to clean up the air. How does one argue that sprawling growth should be limited so as to preserve open space? This complicates the passing of laws and restrictions meant to fix the problems. The laws themselves don’t always work, for there is always the other side of the matter that has lost. However, it is interesting to note that the relationship between agriculture, business, tourism, housing, mining and the economy all on its own, all boils down to transportation.

In 1869, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad was built to accommodate the mining industry in Virginia City, connecting to Carson City. The rails dropped 1,575 feet within 131Ú2 miles, thus winding through the mountains and along the Carson River in a curvature equivalent to 17 complete circles. In 1870, the line was extended out of Carson City to what is now Reno, connecting to the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad. In 1906, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Co. supplemented its mining and lumbering business to agricultural interests when it built south from Carson City into Minden. In 1950, the now world-famous “Queen of the Short Lines,” which helped to build Nevada, saw its last train roll out of Minden with a 21-gun salute on May 31.

In 1975, a man by the name of Bob Gray rebuilt the three-mile section between Virginia City and Gold Hill. For over a decade now, a widespread effort has been made to rebuild the line between Gold Hill and Carson City.

This holds the solution to the “dire, complicated situation.” Rebuild all 67 miles of the Virginia and Truckee, not just the Virginia City line, and it shall protect the open spaciousness of the undeveloped land, for use will be made of the historic buildings where the business is; downtown. Biodiesel fuel and roller bearings are among the few small things needed to let the 10 original steam locomotives in existence operate on the railroad with no help from modern motive power, allowing both the tourism industry to flourish and the general commuting public to do everyday tasks in an efficient manner. The new passenger cars would be built based on the original Pullman designs used by the Virginia and Truckee, but would have modern features built into the design, including steel frames, heating and air conditioning, and restrooms.

A railroad like this is achievable because the blueprints are in the historical evidence. The route has been pre-plotted, and the roadbed pre-graded. Many of the buildings used on the Virginia and Truckee that have been demolished have had their lots left empty, simplifying their reconstruction. The closer the attention paid to the authenticity, the more money the railroad will bring in, without overly commercializing the points of interest. Rebuild the Virginia and Truckee, and it shall solve the major problems of the places it serves as a whole in a manner that allows all sides to benefit by the use of economics.

• Sam Flakus, 16, was born in Carson City, and now lives in Markleeville, Calif. He is a sophomore at Douglas High School in Minden.