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Tahoe Nugget #68:

Resurrecting the Yankee Princess (5 Photos)
April 27, 2006

In its heyday during the 1870s, Virginia City, Nevada, rivaled cosmopolitan San Francisco and the Barbary Coast as the most exciting and wildly indulgent city in the Far West. An important key to Virginia City's reputation as a bustling metropolis teeming with millionaires and high society was the glamorous, but hard-working Virginia & Truckee Railroad. The railroad operation linked the Comstock communities of Virginia City and Gold Hill with Carson City and Reno. The versatile V&T could muscle around tons of ore, lumber and silver bullion, and then caress in comfort the rich and famous who came to see what all the fuss was about. Powered by elegant steam locomotives and decked out with brightly colored coaches, the V&T's fancy rolling stock exuded so much style and romance that she became the darling of Hollywood film makers.

Over its years of operation, most of the V&T coaches and engines were sold to Hollywood movie companies, although a few can be found at western railroad museums. The charismatic shortline's locomotives and rolling stock have starred in more than 100 movies, television shows, and commercials.

With the demise of the Comstock mining boom, ridership fell as businesses moved away and the economy declined. In 1938, the rails between Virginia City and Gold Hill were removed and sold for scrap. The operation hung on until the last train ran from Reno to Minden on May 31, 1950, marking the official end of the line for the 81-year-old railroad.

Well, not quite the end. In 1976, the track between Virginia City and Gold Hill was rebuilt, and until recently, entertained tourists and train buffs with a short two and a half mile ride between the two Comstock towns. But now, big changes are afoot. The V&T operation between V.C. and Gold Hill has been temporarily suspended because the line is being extended 17 miles, all the way to Carson City! The extensive project is following the old railway right-of-way as much as possible and is expected to take three more years. When it's finished, people will be able to ride back and forth while enjoying the V&T's dramatic and picturesque views of rugged mountains and the Carson River Canyon. The terrain is so challenging, engineers were forced to put in a route that contains enough curvature to equal 17 complete circles in a distance of 13.5 miles.

The entire restoration project is expected to cost $28.4 million, with much of the money being raised by a 2% room tax imposed on Carson City lodging facilities and a sales tax increase imposed by Storey County. But it was a lump sum $10 million appropriation included in the federal government's 2005 transportation budget that put the project over the hump. When the reconstruction is complete, it's expected to create one of the top ten short line railroads in the United States, with ridership exceeding 140,000 passengers a year. All aboard!

Photo #1: Virginia & Truckee Railroad. (Denver Public Library)
Photo #2: New ballast, rails and ties running past the old Yellow Jacket Mine are graphic evidence that V&TRR reconstruction is underway. April 24, 2006.
Photo #3: The V&T will pass by old mining equipment and infrastructure, including the head frame of the Yellow Jacket Mine seen here.
Photo #4: Brand new railroad ties loaded and ready to go.
Photo #5: Virginia City perched above 6,000 feet on the shoulder of Mt. Davidson. Note mounds of mining tailings.

Nugget #68 A V&T historic

Nugget #68 B New VTRR tracks

Nugget #68 C VTRR sawblade copy

Nugget #68 D Flatcar railroad ties copy

Nugget #68 E Virginia City copy

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