“It doesn’t seem real: this apparition of a steam locomotive and two coaches bursting out of the darkness and into the dawn of the Nevada desert. But this is indeed a ghost train of the legendary Virginia & Truckee, the filthy-rich gold-and silver-hauling short line that beguiled followers, back from the dead. After an investment of more than $40 million, 17 miles of it is among the living again despite being torn up almost 70 years ago. How it came back is one of the most amazing tales of American railway preservation.”
So began the piece by Jim Wrinn, and what followed was a six-page spread with glorious photos detailing the background of the famed railroad’s reconstruction and recent opening along the original route between Virginia and Carson cities and its role as the area’s newest major tourism attraction. The monthly magazine reaches an audience of 92,110 readers and the advertising equivalency – what the space editorial space would have cost if purchased as advertising, was $22,032. The story also details the dedication of the Gray family through the years to keep the V&T operational, as well as the efforts over the past 15 years for its “back to the future” saga. A sidebar included information on the numerous appearances of V&T trains in Hollywood films, including Cecil B. DeMille’s classic, Union Pacific,” as well as mention of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City where two engines, the Inyo and No. 25 reside.
The story, entitled, “Virginia & Truckee Lives!” waxed poetic of those original days in 1859 when the discovery of gold, then silver, started the boom. Mills processing ore needed better transportation than horse and wagon to remain economical, hence the birth of the V&T in 1869 to haul lumber, mining timbers, and fuel into Virginia City and the ore out. After its completion in 1872 between Reno, Virginia City and Carson City, the V&T stretched over 52 miles and averaged 36 trains daily, including first-class that connected with Central Pacific to San Francisco. It earned the nickname, “richest railroad in the world” paying dividends of $15,000 a month. By 1875, when most of the finds played out, the region’s economy plummeted. The Great Depression forced the railroad to abandon the line between Virginia City and Carson City in 1938, with the tracks lifted in 1941. Hollywood saved the railroad in the ‘30s and ‘40s, highlighting the antique steam locomotives, but it wasn’t enough, with thelast train running to Reno in 1950.
Lucius Beebe, railroad author, journalist and syndicated writer, who edited the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, wrote, “Railroads such as the V&T do not die, but live on in the hearts of men forever.” He called it right: The V&T is living large. To read the V&T article in Trains, THE magazine of railroading, click: