Planes, trains and automobiles changed the face of Dayton
December 27, 2006
Trains, planes and automobiles – they are all a part of Dayton’s history. The narrow-gauge train that ran through Dayton from the 1880s to the 1930s left its mark in history. Called the Carson and Colorado Railroad, it ran from Mound House to Keeler, Calif.
Today, the original station house at Main Street and Highway 50 East is a home, but will one day be rehabilitated into the historic landmark the C&C RR station was in its heyday.
On its route to Keeler through central Nevada, the little train carried passengers, supplies and produce into the Owens Valley, which was a garden for the Comstock. Los Angeles changed that when it bought the water rights in Owens Valley, and farms and ranches dried up.
American Indians could ride the train for free, but they had to ride on top of the cars. It’s said they rode up and down the line going nowhere in particular, but just for the ride.
The Virginia & Truckee Railroad was important to the area, too. It carried everything imaginable to and from the Comstock. People in Dayton relied on the V&T to deliver their mail (it arrived in Mound House at the main terminus), and the Carson & Colorado carried it on to Dayton. The V&T also brought coal as far as Mound House, where it was picked up and hauled to Dayton or Como in the 1920s and ’30s.
One winter in the 1930s, the V&T was stranded in Washoe Valley for several days. Extra engines were brought out to the valley to help get the train out of snowdrifts; meanwhile, the mail and other goods had to go to Fernley, back to Dayton and Carson City.
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Airplanes were an oddity in the 1920s and ’30s. When a plane went over Dayton, everyone ran out to see it. Dayton pioneer Fannie Hazlett took her first “aeroplane” ride in a biplane when she was 84 years old.
Emma Nevada Barton Loftus reported in her diaries that the first flight from San Francisco to Manila carrying the mail in the 1930s had arrived safely, this being a milestone in aviation history.
With the advent of World War II, there were a lot of aircraft for Nevadans to see along with a training airstrip in Silver Springs.
There weren’t too many automobiles in Nevada in the 1920s, and mechanics were practically nonexistent. Chester Barton, Emma’s son, saw the need and opened a repair shop in Dayton, one of the first garages in Nevada. He was a self-taught mechanic, and also acted as a new-automobile dealer in the area.
Emma was proud of the old Hudson she drove. She noted that Chester bought her a Ford Coupe in the 1930s – but she called it “the puddle jumper.” She drove it up Clear Creek Canyon to Whispering Pines at Lake Tahoe. Eventually, Emma got too timid to drive and gave her cars to the Hankammer children.
The Dayton Museum is on Shady Lane and Logan Street in Old Town Dayton. It’s also the location of the Dayton Chamber office. The museum is closed December and January. Call 246-5543, 246-0462 or 246-0441 for an appointment or group tours. The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets at noon on the third Wednesday of the month at the Dayton Valley Community Center. Visitors welcome. Check out daytonnvhistory.org.
• Ruby McFarland is a board member of the Dayton Historical Society, a docent at the museum and has lived in Dayton since 1987.