Virginia and Truckee Railroad

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Virginia and Truckee Railroad
Virginia and Truckee Railroad Logo.png
HeadquartersVirginia City, Nevada
Reporting markVT
Dates of operation1870–1950, 1976-present
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Reference no.248
Route map

0 km
3.5 mi
5.6 km
7.1 mi
11.4 km
9 mi
14 km
11.4 mi
18.3 km
Steamboat Springs
16.7 mi
26.9 km
Washoe Valley
21.4 mi
34.4 km
24 mi
39 km
Mill Station
26.5 mi
42.6 km
Lake View
28.3 mi
45.5 km
Sand Cut
31.1 mi
50.1 km
Carson City
33.4 mi
53.8 km
34.5 mi
55.5 km
35.8 mi
57.6 km
36.7 mi
59.1 km
39 mi
63 km
41 mi
66 km
Mound House
44.3 mi
71.3 km
47.4 mi
76.3 km
50.2 mi
80.8 km
Gold Hill
Virginia City
(new station)
52.2 mi
84 km
Virginia City
1915 map showing the route of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad
Engine No. 18, Baldwin 2-8-2 built in October 1914. Photo at Tunnel #4, 2011
V&T train near collapsed Tunnel #1, around 1940, and the same view in 2014, both photos showing the shoofly (detour) around the collapsed tunnel

The Virginia and Truckee Railroad is a privately owned historical heritage railroad, headquartered in Virginia City, Nevada. Its private and publicly owned route is 14 miles long. The railroad owns and uses the service mark "Queen of the Short Lines". The V&T Railroad runs up to seven trains per day, many in steam behind locomotive #29, a 2-8-0 Consolidation, or an ex-US Army GE 80-ton diesel from Virginia City, from Memorial Day until the end of October each year.

When first constructed in the 19th century, it was a commercial freight railroad (reporting mark VT) which was originally built to serve the Comstock Lode mining communities of northwestern Nevada. At its height, the railroad's route ran from Reno south to the state capital at Carson City. In Carson City, the mainline split into two branches. One branch continued south to Minden, while the other branch traveled east to Virginia City. The first section from Virginia City to Carson City was constructed beginning in 1869 to haul ore, lumber and supplies for the Comstock Lode silver mines.

The railroad was abandoned in 1950 after years of declining revenue. Much of the track was pulled up and sold, along with the remaining locomotives and cars. In the 1970s, with public interest in historic railroads on the rise, the old lines were rebuilt by private investors, with an eye towards re-opening the lines.

The public Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway has rebuilt the line from Gold Hill (connection with the current V&T Railroad) to Carson City, running the first train over the line in 68 years on August 14, 2009.[1] The Commission acquired a 1914 2-8-2 Mikado steam locomotive (The McCloud no. 18), which had been in use by the Sierra Railroad, out of Oakdale, California, on special lunch and dinner trains. When the no. 18 arrived on the V&T, boiler problems were discovered, and the locomotive awaited repair at the Virginia and Truckee shops in Virginia City. She went to Hollywood for the filming of Water for Elephants. She returned after her scenes were filmed and had her first revenue run on July 24, 2010. Cars and locomotives from the original railroad are on display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, at the Comstock History Center on C Street in Virginia City, at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento and at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.

In order to ascend the mountain to Virginia City it was necessary to build an enormous trestle. Popular Nevada mythology says Crown Point Trestle was considered to be such a feat of engineering that it is featured on the Nevada State Seal. This myth is mentioned by Lucius Beebe.[2]

Former Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha debunks this myth on the state's Myth-a-Month page, pointing out that the state seal predates the trestle and shows a viaduct, not a trestle.[3]


Comstock Lode[edit]

Restored V&T railroad

Gold was discovered in Nevada (then western Utah Territory) in spring 1850, by a company of Mormon emigrants on their way to the California Gold Rush. These early travelers only lingered in Nevada until they could cross the Sierras. By 1858 prospectors were soon permanently camping in the area around what is now Virginia City.[4]: 12  In 1859, gold was found in outcroppings in the hills and canyons just outside what is now Virginia City. Among the gold ore in these outcroppings were bluish chunks of silver ore which clogged the rockers. Silver was not recognized in this form, so initially, it was overlooked in favor of the gold, and later found to be quite valuable.[4]: 12  This was the first of the silver from what came to be called the Comstock Lode.

Numerous mills appeared along the Carson River from Dayton to Brunswick (toward Eagle Valley (Carson City)) to process the ore from the Comstock Lode. Low interest rates enticed mine and mill owners alike to finance through the bank. Many of these mills and some mines were built with loans from the Bank of California, whose Nevada agent, William Sharon, would foreclose upon the mines or mills when their owners defaulted on payments. The bank gradually came into possession of many important mining and ore-processing facilities.[5]: 136  Sharon, along with business partners Darius Ogden Mills and William Ralston,[6]: 8  formed the bank-owned Union Mill & Mining Company to process the ore from the mills that had been foreclosed upon.[4]: 12 [5]: 136 

Initially, the Comstock Lode was a boon for the Virginia City area, as the city grew to over 25,000 inhabitants at its height, and was among the largest and wealthiest towns in the West.[4]: 12  However, from the beginning, the costs to transport Comstock ore to the mills from points on the Lode (as well, to return with wood and lumber to supply the mines)[5]: 136  became so great that many mines were closed and only the higher quality ores were worth processing in the mines that stayed open.[4]: 13  Being in control of mines and mills with his partners, Sharon realized that a cheap form of transportation between the mines, the mills, and the cities would allow the banks holdings to be more profitable.[5]: 136 

Early years[edit]

There were many propositions starting as early as 1861 for railroads to service the area and decrease costs. Sharon eventually (with the addition of $500,000 in county bonds to move the railroad), envisioned a railroad to run from Virginia City,[5]: 136, 137  through Gold Hill where the first of the Comstock Lode was mined, passing the mills along the river, ending at the state capital, Carson City.[4]: 13  When finished, this route would cover 21 miles, descend 1,575 feet of elevation and have so many curves as to make 17 full circles in the thirteen and a half miles from the river to Virginia City.[5]: 137  Ground was broken on February 18, 1869, two miles below Gold Hill on American Flats when grading crews went to work. There were seven tunnels on the line requiring 2 – 5 months each to hole through and an 85 ft tall, 500 ft long trestle to be built over the Crown Point ravine. The first track and ceremonial first spike was driven on September 28, 1869 by superintendent H. M. Yerington, with the first passenger train pulling into Virginia City on Jan. 29, 1870.[5]: 138  The railroad served as a reliable connection for residents of Carson City and Virginia City. By December, 1869 special rail cars were outfitted to bring theater patrons from Carson City to Virginia City for Piper's Opera House presentations.[7]

Named the Lyon,[6]: 13  engine No. 1 was one of three 2-6-0's purchased from H.J. Booth by the fledgling railroad, along with engine No. 2, the Ormsby[6]: 14  and No. 3, the Storey.[6]: 15  The railroad placed orders for five locomotives, three from H.J. Booth and two from Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The first three of the five original locomotives purchased were named after Nevada counties. The last two of the five were built by Baldwin, engine No. 4, the Virginia and engine No. 5, the Carson, named after the respective towns. The Booth and Baldwin locomotives were disassembled at Reno on a Central Pacific siding. The "Lyon", "Ormsby" and "Storey" were hauled to Carson via Washoe Valley and reassembled in the shops. The "Virginia" and "Carson" were hauled up the Geiger Grade from Reno to Virginia City, thus reassembled. They had the distinction of being the first locomotives in Virginia City. The Lyon, with the distinction of being the first locomotive for the V&T RR, was also the engine that pulled the work train, arriving in Virginia City on January 28, 1870, and completing the initially planned route.[5]: 138  The line was opened in its entirety on Jan 29 with regular passenger service starting on Feb 1, 1870[5]: 138, 154 

On Nov. 12, 1869 V&T Engine no. 2, an H.J. Booth 2-6-0, pulled the first car of revenue for the company from Carson City to Gold Hill, a flat car loaded with lumber for the Crown Point Company. This milestone was also marked by the opening of the Crown Point Ravine trestle and the first crossing of the work train, engine No. 1 plus four cars, followed closely behind by engine No. 2, plus four cars (1 revenue). It is assumed that from the 12th to the 18th the railroad laid track (spurs) to service the local mines of Gold Hill, for without the track, the railroad could not get cars in to load, although no sources have been found to reference this. On Nov. 18 1869, engine No. 1 hauled the railroads first revenue train of ore from the Yellow Jacket mine. By December 21, regular scheduled trains were running between Gold Hill and Carson City, hauling wood and lumber up the hill and ore back down to the mills.[5]: 138 

The first lot of ore from the Yellow Jacket mine and in fact from the Comstock ledge - yet shipped over the railroad was sent down yesterday to the Yellow Jacket mill on Carson River. There were seven car loads of it, about eight and a half tons to the load, not far from 60 tons. This was from the 700 foot level of the old north mine, and dumped directly into the cars, the railroad passing within a few feet of the shaft. It is low grade ore, assaying $26 or $28 to the ton, and will yield under the stamps not far from $17 per ton. It is ore which heretofore was considered too poor to work and was accordingly used to fill up drifts with. The railroad now affords for the first time a chance to work this low grade ore profitably.

— "The First Ore Shipment", Gold Hill Daily News (November 19, 1869)

In the chapter above from the Gold Hill Daily News, it states that low grade ore was valued at $26 – $28.00 to the ton. It also states that (after transportation and milling costs, 'yield under the stamps') the result would be around $17.00 to the ton coming back to the mine. Milling rates were about $7/ton. Based on an average of $27/ton of low grade ore, that left a freight cost of $3/ton. That one ton of ore could pay the wages for 3 experienced underground miners and a carpenter for a day, so the mines could cover their costs selling the low-grade ore to pay expenses, and reap the profits from the high grade. With the coming of the railroad, a reduction in freight rates for lumber by almost half occurred,[5]: 154  and the railroad could haul more material by the trainload, so mining activity increased, creating more business for the railroad. Sharon's idea of low cost transportation paid off.

The railroad cost $1,750,000 to build, not including the cost of rolling stock or buildings.[4]: 14  The V&T ran 30 - 45 trains per day at the height of the Big Bonanza from Carson to Virginia City and Gold Hill. Still primarily a freight railroad, there were 22 locomotives and 361 freight cars in use at the peak of the Virginia and Truckee operations (1876 & 1877), which carried over 400,000 tons of freight per month.[4]: 14  This was in contrast to a mere 10 passenger cars.[4]: 23 

Expansion and prosperity[edit]

CPRR issued ticket for passage from Reno to Virginia City, 1878

In late 1871, a line extension to Reno was begun, to connect the V&T line with the Central Pacific Railroad. This would allow through train service between Virginia City and San Francisco.[6]: 12  Construction began with track being installed starting at the Reno end of the line.[6]: 101  The first train to run end-to-end from Virginia City to Reno took place on August 24, 1872,[6]: 11  pulled appropriately by the road's newest locomotive at the time, No. 11, the Reno.[4]: 14  This milestone marked the completion of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. In 1875, the railroad was earning a profit of over $100,000 per month and started paying annual dividends of $360,000 (or $30,000/month) to investors.[5]: 157 

Virginia & Truckee Railroad Right of Way, Reno, Nevada Historical Marker No. 248. This grade was constructed in 1871, and in use until 1950.[8]

In 1880, the V&T built a three-foot narrow gauge railroad called the Carson & Colorado. The railroad ran from Mound House, just east of Carson City, to the southern part of California, and supposedly to the Colorado River where new mining claims were being struck. This never did pan out, and by 1891 those claim sites were all but forgotten.[4]: 23  A liability to the V&T, the "slim princess" was sold to the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1900. In the words of Ogden Mills, "Either we built this line 300 miles too short or 300 years too early" reflected V&T's attitude towards the railroad.

Shortly after the sale of the C&C, silver was discovered at Tonopah, Nevada. The C&C became prosperous for the Southern Pacific (as well as the V&T, which had intermediate rail access), as wagon trains would run for miles through the desert to reach the narrow-gauge line, or later on the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad which would then carry it back to the V&T at the Mound House junction.[4]: 23  Because the break of gauge between the Carson & Colorado and Virginia & Truckee, the Tonopah ore had to be unloaded by hand from the narrow-gauge cars and into the standard gauge cars at the C&C northern terminus, causing a backlog of traffic, as cars waited to be transferred. The problem caused by this was also apparent in delivering mining equipment and materials to the mines and the town of Tonopah which was in a building boom. Southern Pacific officials did not like this arrangement, so in 1904 they converted the narrow gauge C&C to standard gauge from Moundhouse to Mina, now renamed the Nevada & California Railroad.[4]: 23  This allowed Southern Pacific trains to run along the V&T through to Mound House to the Nevada & California, and on down to Tonopah.[9] In addition, the Southern Pacific (controlled at the time by the Union Pacific Railroad) offered to buy the Virginia & Truckee, but the V&T officials set their price too high (according to U.P. president Harriman). Instead, the Southern Pacific built their own line from the closest available intersect with the former C&C. The line ran 28 miles from Hazen to Fort Churchill and connected their own main lines, thus bypassing the V&T entirely.[4]: 23 

In 1904, the corporation changed its name to the Virginia and Truckee Railway.[4]: 24  In response to agricultural and cattle ranch concerns, the V&T built a short branch line to Minden, about 26 miles south of Carson City, in 1906. This branch line brought in increased freight traffic; as a result the V&T purchased three new ten-wheelers from Baldwin: (the first) No. 25, 26, and 27, in 1905, 1907, and 1913 respectively.[4]: 24 

Decline of the railroad[edit]

The Virginia and Truckee's decline began as early as 1924, the first year in which the railroad had failed to make a profit.[4]: 27  Mining revenue had dropped off to very low levels, though revenue from the Minden line continued to flow. Passenger revenue was on a steady decline, due to the increased use of the automobile on the ever-expanding highway system in the US.[4]: 27  US 395 ran alongside the V&T from Minden all the way up to Reno and US 50 ran from South of Carson City over to Mound House and the turnoff to Nevada State Route 17 (later NV 341), the route to Virginia City.

The sole owner of the railroad in 1933 was Ogden Livingston Mills, grandson of original co-founder Darius Ogden Mills.[4]: 31  He personally paid the deficits in the railroad's operating costs as a nod to the past and his family's involvement in the early days of Virginia City.[4]: 31  In 1938, a year after Mills' death, the railroad went into receivership, and its management began making plans to cease operations,[4]: 31  with the Virginia City branch already having been dismantled during that year. At the time of the railroad's closure, it had only three locomotives operating, the second no. 25 as well as numbers 26 and 27 (all 4-6-0's built by Baldwin in 1905,[10] 1907,[11] and 1913,[12] respectively). The no. 26 was originally scheduled to haul the last train, but after making its run on May 1, 1950, the single-stall locomotive shed it was stored in on the banks of the Truckee River in Reno caught fire. The 26, deemed as a total loss, was scrapped, and the road instead restored no. 27 for the occasion. On May 31, 1950, the no. 27 pulled the Virginia and Truckee's final train, rather fitting as experts[who?] considered, since the 27 was the last engine purchased new by the road.

Lucius Beebe, a noted railroad historian, settled in Virginia City with Charles Clegg, a photographer and helped to revitalize the town and interest in the railroad by writing books about the Virginia & Truckee as well as other narrow gauge railroads, such as the Carson and Colorado Railroad, Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, Rio Grande Southern Railroad, etc. See below in Bibliography.

Historic equipment[edit]

Virginia & Truckee "Tahoe", 1875, on display at Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

The Virginia and Truckee's locomotives and other equipment appeared in numerous Westerns over the years since the railroad operated otherwise obsolete equipment well into the "cinema age." Many of these pieces have been restored, and are currently on display at museums throughout the country.[13] In addition, an operating 5/8-scale replica of the V&T locomotive, Reno, has been running on the Washington Park and Zoo Railway since 1959.[14] On April 18, 2018, The Nevada State Railroad Museum swapped No. 18 "Dayton" for No. 27. 27 will now be in the Comstock Historic Center, and The Dayton will reside in Carson City.[15] On March 2, 2020, The replica of V&T #1 was shipped to Carson City, where it will reside at the Nevada State Railroad Museum and will be completed.[16]

No. Name Type Builder C/N Built NRHP[17] Ref. # Remarks
Lyon (Replica)[18]
H.J. Booth
11 (orig.)
1869 (orig.)
Replica being constructed at Nevada State Railroad Museum
Acquired by the V&T in August 2021.[20] Under restoration. Previously on display at Old Tucson Studios
On display at the California State Railroad Museum
On display at the California State Railroad Museum
CP's Sacramento shops
Sac 6
On display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
On display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
On display at the California State Railroad Museum.
Operational, on display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
25 (2nd)
Operational at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
On display at the Comstock History Center at Virginia City, Nevada.

Other Historic designations[edit]

Restoring the line[edit]

Train operating on the restored line
Winter excursion, south end of Virginia City, March 2010

In 1972, Robert C. Gray, who was one of the passengers on the last train to Virginia City in 1938, sought to rebuild the V&T as a tourist line. After gaining approval from Storey County, reconstruction of the line began from F Street to the Eastern portal of Tunnel #4. The railroad's first operating season was 1976, utilizing former Dardanelle and Russellville #8 (renumbered to #28 to continue the old V&T numbering series), two open gondolas, and caboose #10 from the original V&T. The equipment had been leased from Short Line Enterprises, and it was too expensive to renew the rent, so the equipment was returned at the end the 1976 season. Locomotive #28 and Caboose #10 have since been brought to the Nevada State Railroad Museum, where #28 was given back its old D&R number. An ex-Northwestern Pacific combination car was also acquired, renumbered 25 (also to continue the old V&T numbering series)

For the 1977 season, the railroad faced a motive power shortage. The only locomotive available was ex-Pacific Portland Cement Company #3, a small Porter 0-4-0T locomotive that was very small, lacking in pulling power (only being able to pull one car at a time), and produced so much smoke, an extension had to be added to the smokestack. It was also around this time that the railroad acquired three pieces of ex-Western Pacific equipment from a siding in Reno (two boxcars and a bay window caboose). One of the box cars was converted into an open-air car and given the number 55, the caboose was modified for passenger service and numbered 50, and the second box car was converted into a tunnel car, which proved very instrumental in reopening Tunnel #4. The car, numbered 54, was also used in passenger service until 2001, and reentered passenger service in 2020 to help space passengers out during the COVID-19 pandemic. A second bay-window caboose, numbered 51, was also acquired around this time, and was destroyed by an accidental fire caused by a welder's torch in October 2003.

During the 1977 season, Bob Gray won an auction at the Longview, Portland and Northern Railway and walked away with 1916 Baldwin 2-8-0 #680. The locomotive was trucked to Virginia City and arrived safely (after many blown tires and having to sneak through Washoe due to trucks being forbidden in town on weekends). The locomotive was in good condition, and ran a charter train while still wearing its old identity. A month later, the locomotive was renumbered 29.

Work to re-open Tunnel #4 continued until it was finally reopened in the late 1980s. Work had started on Tunnel #3 (which had a history of instability to the point that regular passenger cars could no longer fit by the time the last trains ran in 1938), but a large boulder shifted and buried the tunnel. A shoehorn was built around the tunnel, just enough as to not be too sharp for the locomotives, opening up a fantastic view of the valley. Conductors narrating the trip often erroneously state the tunnel collapsed in 1938, though recently, the correct information has been given.

In 1984, the railroad acquired a former Southern Pacific 0-6-0 locomotive (#1251) from a park in Stockton, California. Tracks had to be built through the park to pull the locomotive onto a truck. Since arriving in Virginia City, the locomotive has been given the tentative number of 30, but has been partially dismantled, and no noticeable work is currently occurring due to lack of funds.

The 1980s also saw the addition of ex-Feather River Short Line #8, a 1907 Baldwin 2-6-2. The locomotive arrived in operable condition, and was used alternatively with #29. During its career on the V&T, its number and lettering were never changed.

The line was reopened to Gold Hill in 1991 and marked by a double-header pulled by #29 and #8. Regular service between the two stations began soon after.

By 2001, #29 and #8 were out of service in need of work, as well as compliance to the Federal Railroad Administration's new boiler regulations outlined in 49 CFR Part 230. After the 2001 season, both locomotives were red-tagged by the FRA and taken out of service. No other steam locomotives were available, so, for the first time in V&T history, a diesel locomotive was used. For the 2002 season, the railroad leased ex-Quincy Railroad #3, a GE 44-ton switcher, from the Portola Railroad Museum (now Western Pacific Railroad Museum) in Portola, California.

For the 2003 season, a more permanent Diesel was acquired in the form of ex-U.S. Army GE 80-ton switcher #1694. It was repainted in the railroad's passenger paint scheme and given the number D-1. The locomotive served as the mainstay of the fleet while #29 and #8 were out of service.

Locomotive #8 didn't run on the V&T again until Memorial Day 2012 due to a legal dispute with the Gold Hill Historical Society, the true owners of the locomotive, who claimed that the V&T ran the locomotive into the ground.[27]

As early as 1993, interest in rebuilding the route beyond Gold Hill had been expressed by the State of Nevada. The state set up a commission to rebuild the line, known as the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway.

In 2005, the Commission acquired a 1914 Baldwin 2-8-2 from the McCloud Railway. The locomotive, #18, is owned by the commission, but operated by the Grays operation.

Officials with the Commission held a "silver spike" ceremony January 3, 2006, in Carson City to commemorate the completion of two miles of track near Gold Hill. The construction, completed in September 2005, is part of an effort to restore the V&T's mainline from Virginia City to Carson City for operations. Then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), who was instrumental in securing $10 million in federal funding for the project, and Nevada Lieutenant Governor Lorraine Hunt, who secured an additional $1 million in state funding for the project, both spoke at the ceremony. The completion of the first phase of the extension saw the last train of the day venturing beyond Gold Hill and to American Flats, over a massive fill of the Overman Pit, near the Crown Point Ravine. This practice has been abandoned in recent years, though.

It is estimated that completion of the line from Gold Hill to Carson City will cost in excess of $55 million, and it is hoped that the line, which was originally abandoned in 1938, was planned be completed and operational once again in 2012.[28][29] However, as of 2021, trains only go as far as Eastgate Station.

In June 2008, #29 returned to operation after a significant overhaul.

On August 14, 2009 the ceremonial first run from Virginia City to Mound House (referred to as "Carson City Eastgate" in official material) occurred for VIPs. On the 15th and 16th the line opened to the public. Funds raised from these runs will be used to pay for the tracks through Brunswick Canyon, and will continue throughout the fall, every Saturday from August 22 through October 31. The runs will use the V&T Railroad's equipment (such as steam locomotive #29) and not that of the V&T Railway (owned by the Commission). Ticket price is set at $48.

The railroad is currently building up its collection, acquiring passenger cars from the nations museums and other private owners.

In May 2010, an ALCO S-4 Diesel engine was acquired from Montana in operable condition. It has been numbered D-2.

On July 24, 2010, the No. 18 steam locomotive was brought on-line for revenue service. The locomotive had recently come back from Hollywood, appearing in the movie Water for Elephants.

In December 2010, an ex-CB&Q rail car was trucked into Virginia City. It was to be operational in time for the 2011 season, but is still undergoing restoration work. The V&T had previously acquired a motorcar in 1976, No. 50 Washoe Zephyr. It is currently at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in historical paint.

D-1 was fitted with a rare Hancock 4700 air whistle for the 2011 season so it would be more pleasant-sounding than the Nathan K3LA it previously wore. The whistle was rebuilt by the Rizzoli Locomotive Works in Niles, California for the 2014 season; the Rizzoli Locomotive Works also created two separate whistles for McCloud #18, and frequently uses #29 to test whistles.

Also in 2011, a permanent water tank was built at the switch to the engine house.

In mid-2013, the V&T acquired the original 1870 passenger depot, which had been a private residence with several cabooses and a V&T speeder on display. All ticketing and gift shop operations moved from coach No. 25 (which had been used as the depot since 1976) to the depot. The tracks were also slightly extended to the depot, and a new waiting area with a lawn and benches was built. Short trips now originate and terminate at the depot, rather than next to coach No. 25. Long trips continue stopping on the siding directly next to F Street. Originally, operations were to have been moved to the historic freight depot at E and Sutton Streets, which would see Tunnel #6 reopen. This plan was eventually abandoned for being too expensive.

In May 2013, the railroad acquired a GE 44-ton switcher engine and three passenger cars from the defunct Yuma Valley Railway. The diesel has been given the number D-3, and began preliminary testing in April 2016.[30] D-3 entered passenger service in June 2016 to substitute for D-1, which was out-of-service at the beginning of the 2016 season with an unspecified problem, before both locomotives began alternating. D-3 was equipped with a Hancock 4700 air whistle similar to the one used by D-1, and was repainted into the railroad's diesel and passenger car color scheme in July 2017. The passenger cars are in good condition, with two stored at Scales Siding and the third, the observation car Jersey Lil, is used as a diner at the Virginia City depot.

Visiting replica of Thomas the Tank Engine

The railroad hosted its first Day out with Thomas event on October 24, 2015, utilizing the three Pullman cars and D-2. The observation car Ardelle Mae, several of the privately owned cabooses, and the observation car from the YVRR were used to create a makeshift activity center with arts and crafts, and a meet-and-greet with Sir Topham Hatt.

In November 2016, the railroad acquired an EMD SW1200 from Evraz, numbered 3540.[31] The locomotive has since been renumbered D-4, arrived in an operable state, and has partially been repainted into the railroad's colors as of December 2017.

2020 saw the acquisition of a second bay-window caboose, No. 52, from an unknown location. The caboose, a Union Pacific CA-11 steel caboose built in 1979, began being used on daily trains to Gold Hill in August 2021, but is not yet open to the public.

In 2021, No. 29, along with cars 101-103, were trucked out to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to appear in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film, Killers of the Flower Moon. For the film, the Pullmans were repainted in Pullman green, while No. 29 was repainted as Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway No. 729 (the real 729 was also a 2-8-0 Consolidation, and several of its classmates are preserved). No. 29 is the latest in a long line of V&T locomotives to appear in films, as equipment from the original V&T frequently appeared in westerns by Desilu Productions. As of August 28, 2021, the Pullmans are still wearing their movie colors, while No. 29 was quickly given its old identity back upon its return.[32]

On August 25, 2021, the railroad acquired No. 11 Reno from Old Tuscon Studios, with the intention of restoring the locomotive to operation. When restored, she will become the first locomotive from the original V&T to operate on the revived V&T.

Three days later, on August 28, 2021, trains from Eastgate Siding resumed, having not run in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This also marked the return of McCloud #18 to service for the first time since 2015, as she had been undergoing an FRA-mandated 1,472 day overhaul.

Current equipment[edit]

V&T Engine No. 29, 2009

The following is a list of the locomotives currently owned by the reborn V&T.[33]

Steam locomotives[edit]

  • No. 11: V&T No. 11 4-4-0 Baldwin built in 1872. Reno was the first locomotive to run a train between Reno and Carson City. Was considered the Crown Jewel of the V&T and given the affectionate nickname "Brass Betsy". Remained with the V&T until 1945 when she was sold to MGM, who owned her until 1970 when she was acquired by the Old Tucson Studios. The locomotive was converted to run on compressed air from a boxcar in the 1980s, and was seriously damaged by a fire in 1996, receiving a cosmetic restoration shortly thereafter and being put on display at Old Tuscon Studios. The locomotive was acquired by the revived V&T in 2021, and arrived in Virginia City on August 25, 2021; it was the first time the locomotive had been in Virginia City since 1938. Inoperable, planned to be restored to operation.[34]
  • No. 18: Ex-McCloud River Railroad No. 18. Baldwin 2-8-2 built in October 1914. Leased by the commission to the V&T Railroad. Operable.[35] The locomotive still had her McCloud lettering from 2010 to 2016, and upon reentering service in 2021 after an FRA-mandated 1,472 day overhaul, she was stripped of her McCloud lettering and only had her number.
  • No. 29: Ex-Louisiana and Pacific No. 252. Ex-Longview, Portland and Northern Railway No. 680. Baldwin 2-8-0 built in October 1916. Acquired by V&T in 1977. Restored 2001–08. Named "Robert C. Gray". Operable.
  • No. 30: Ex-Southern Pacific No. 1251. Built at SP Sacramento Shops in November 1919. On display in Stockton, California from 1957 to 1984. Arrived in Virginia City in July 1984. Inoperable and partially dismantled. Funds are short to restore the locomotive to operation and is stored at the Virginia City engine house awaiting funding. Its tender is now officially designated as MW 1251, and is used to refill steam locomotives if they need water and are too far from the water tower at Virginia City.
  • No. 8: Ex-Feather River Short Line No.8, née Hobart Southern. Stored operable in Mound House, with no plans to return to service on the V&T in the near future due to it being owned by the Gold Hill Historical Society and not the V&T. Baldwin 2-6-2 built in 1907. Was steamed up on Memorial Day 2012.[36]

Diesel locomotives[edit]

  • No. D-1: Ex-US Army No. 1694. General Electric 80-ton switcher built in 1953. Arrived in 2003. Operable and in daily service. Formerly fitted with a Nathan K3LA, but was later replaced by a Hancock air whistle.
  • No. D-2: Ex-PPL Montana No. 101. ALCO S-4 built in 1951. Arrived in May 2010. Operable.
  • No. D-3: Ex-Yuma Valley Railway No. 3; née USMC. GE 44-ton switcher built in 1943. Arrived in May 2013. Operable and in daily service. Repainted to V&T colors in July 2017.[37]
  • No. D-4: Ex-Evraz No. 3540, nee BNSF 3540, BN 205, NP 146. EMD SW1200; built in 1957. Acquired November 2016. Operable.
  • The railroad also owns a second 44-tonner acquired sometime in 2018 for use as a spare part donor. No information on this locomotive is available, other than that it carries the number 1606, and has an Operation Lifesaver livery.

Motor cars[edit]

Passenger cars[edit]

  • 1st No. 25: Combination Car. Ex-San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad No. 37, later Northwestern Pacific Railroad No. 37. Arrived in 1975. Used as the Virginia City Ticket Office 1976–2013. Built in 1888 by Harlan & Hollingsworth. De-numbered in 2020 after the second No. 25, a cupola caboose, entered service.
  • 2nd No. 25: Caboose. Origin unknown. Acquired from Roaring Camp Railroads in late 2000s-early 2010s. Initially planned to be used on Eastgate trains, the frame was found to be rotting, and thus was bad-ordered. Entered service as part of a photo freight in February 2020. Serviceable.[38]
  • No. 50: Ex-Western Pacific Railroad No. 680. Bay-window caboose. Built in 1916. Entered service in 1977. Serviceable and in daily use. [39]
  • No. 51: Ex-Sacramento Northern Railway No. 1644, nee WP No. 666. Bay-window caboose rebuilt from a box car in 1964. Destroyed in a fire by a welder's torch in 2003.[40] [41]
  • No. 52: Ex-Union Pacific Railroad CA-11 bay-window caboose. Built in 1979. Acquired 2020 from an unknown source. In service as of August 2021, but not yet open to the public.[42]
  • No. 55: Ex-WP Box Car. Converted into an open-air gondola. Built in 1916. Entered service in 1977. Serviceable and in daily use.
  • No. 54: Ex-WP Box Car. Converted into a tunnel car, but capable of carrying passengers. Possibly built in 1916. Last used in passenger service in the mid-1990s; reentered passenger service on June 20, 2020 to aid in social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic; now alternates with Caboose No. 52.[43] Serviceable.
  • No. 100: Ex-Bangor & Aroostook parlor car No. 100. Named "Ardelle Mae", unofficially "Reno". Built in 1907 by American Car & Foundry. Used for special events.
  • No. 101: Ex-Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad coach. Built by Pullman Company in 1914. Named "Gold Hill". Arrived in July 2008 and entered service in May 2009. Serviceable.
  • No. 102: Ex-DL&W coach. Built in 1914 by Pullman. Named "Silver City". Entered service in May 2009. Serviceable.
  • No. 103: Ex-DL&W coach. Built by Pullman in 1917. Named "Carson City". Entered service in September 2010. Serviceable.
  • No. 104: Ex-SP coach No. 1165. Built in 1909 by Pullman. From Tehachapi, California. Serviceable; used as a work coach.
  • The V&T also owns several coaches that are currently stored in the Virginia City yard in a dilapidated state. One of the coaches was the private car of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, while another was a presidential car used by the Mexican Government. Another one was a former outfit dining car for the work crews of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, another famous Nevada shortline. The car was also used in several movies made by R-K-O Pictures with other famous pieces of V&T rolling stock.

See also[edit]


  • Steamcars To The Comstock, Lucius Beebe & Charles Clegg, Howell-North, 1957
  • Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, Vol. 1 The Northern Roads, David F. Myrick, Howell-North, 1962
  • Rebirth of the Virginia & Truckee R. R., Ted Wurm, May-Murdoch Publications, 1992
  • The Silver Short Line: A History of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, Ted Wurm & Harre Demoro, (1983, Trans-Anglo Books) (ISBN 978-0-87046-064-7).
  • Virginia & Truckee: A Story of Virginia City and Comstock Times, Lucius Beebe & Charles Clegg, Howell-North, 1949
  • Virginia & Truckee, The Bonanza Road, Mallory Hope Ferrell, Hundman Publishing, 1999
  • Official Guidebook of the Virginia & Truckee, Stephen E. Drew, Virginia & Truckee Railroad, 2011


  1. ^ "Virginia & Truckee reopens", TRAINS Magazine, p. 13, November 2009, retrieved November 28, 2009
  2. ^ Lohse, Jim. "Popular Nevada and V&T Myths: Comstock Silver and the Civil War, State Seal". Train Arts. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
  3. ^ Rocha, Guy. "Myth #8: The "Trestle" on the State Seal". Nevada State Library and Archives. Retrieved November 23, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Wurm, Ted (1992). Rebirth of the Virginia & Truckee R.R. May-Murdock Publications. ISBN 0-932916-16-3.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Myrick, David F. (1962). Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, Vol 1: The Northern Roads. Howell-North. ISBN 0-87417-195-4.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Koenig, Karl R. (1980). Virginia & Truckee Locomotives. Chatham Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89685-102-8.
  7. ^ Carolyn Grattan Eichin, From San Francisco Eastward: Victorian Theater in the American West, (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2020), 126.
  8. ^ Nevada Historical Marker No. 248
  9. ^ "Southern Pacific at Washoe". Western Nevada Historical Photo Collection. Retrieved September 14, 2021.
  10. ^ "Virginia and Truckee".
  11. ^ "Virginia & Truckee, Locomotive #26".
  12. ^ "Virginia & Truckee, Locomotive #27".
  13. ^ "V & T Locomotive Roster". Nevada State Railroad Museum. Retrieved March 12, 2006.
  14. ^ Haight, Abby (June 21, 2009). "Oregon No. 1 chugs through its golden anniversary party". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon. p. B3. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  15. ^ "Nevada State Railroad Museum, Carson City".
  17. ^ #NPS–04001198
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 30, 2010. Retrieved August 8, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Reno
  20. ^ "The Virginia & Truckee #11 arrived this morning in Virginia City, Nevada for her new owner the V&T". Facebook. Retrieved August 26, 2021.
  21. ^ Genoa
  22. ^ Empire
  23. ^ Dayton
  24. ^ Tahoe
  25. ^ J.W.Bowker
  26. ^ Inyo
  27. ^ "Gold Hill Historical Society". Gold Hill Historical Society. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014.
  28. ^ Anderson, Tim. "V&T Railroad project marks milestone". Reno Gazette-Journal. Retrieved January 6, 2006.[dead link]
  29. ^ "Voters reject tax for Virginia & Truckee project". Trains. November 6, 2008. Retrieved November 6, 2008.
  30. ^ "Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company - Timeline | Facebook". April 28, 2016. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  31. ^ "Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company".
  32. ^ World, Jimmie Tramel Tulsa. "'Killers of the Flower Moon' draws sightseers to Pawhuska, reinvigorates downtown". Tulsa World. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  33. ^ "Existing Equipment Roster". VIRGINIA & TRUCKEE RAILROAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  34. ^ V&T Reno Returns 2021, archived from the original on December 12, 2021, retrieved August 26, 2021
  35. ^ Engine No 18 almost ready!, retrieved August 20, 2021
  36. ^ "Gold Hill Historical Society". GOLD HILL HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
  37. ^ "HIKED out to the TRAIN! Virginia & Truckee RAILROAD". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  38. ^ "YouTube". Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  39. ^ "Central California Rails - Caboose Index Page". Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  40. ^ "3 MINUTES/ A VISIT TO: Virginia City, Nevada Revisited/ Part 3/ 1999". YouTube. RonHamill818. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  41. ^ "SN Mobile ROSTER". Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  42. ^ Virginia and truckee 8/13/21, archived from the original on December 12, 2021, retrieved August 15, 2021
  43. ^ Powell 3 Chime, archived from the original on December 12, 2021, retrieved June 24, 2020

External links[edit]