Steamscape: Historic Virginia City. You are looking north toward the very reason for the existence of the original Virginia & Truckee Railroad. This is Virginia City, Nevada. Built at 6,200 ft MSL, on a hillside in the mountains between Carson City and Reno, this old mining town was the center of the Comstock mining boom in the late 19th century. The V&T was built to serve this town and the railroad was a prominent part of its history. When the mining business died in the early 20th century, the railroad pulled out, and the place just wasn't the same.....until a man named Robert Gray decided to put it back, 30 years later. Since then, most of the original V&T Virginia City Branch has been rebuilt as a tourist line, first by the hands of Bob Gray and his family, and most recently by a Nevada State Commission. Hopefully, the V&T is here to stay.
Virginia City today is a tourist attraction, and therefore prime market for a tourist railroad. Many of the city's historic buildings, including most of the downtown business district have been restored, complete with wooden sidewalks. It looks like an old west town. Dominating the landscape is the tall spire of St. Mary's in the Mountains Catholic Church. Buried under the front of this landmark is V&T's famous Tunnel #6 - "the E-Street Tunnel" which connected the original passenger depot to the newer depot and freight house on the north side of the church. The tunnel is plugged today, but there are those (including this photographer) who would really enjoy seeing that re-opened.
In the foreground, you can see V&T Locomotive #29, running tender first as it begins a southbound run toward Gold Hill with a photo freight. To the right of that, is the new V&T Yard and engine house....coincidentally built on exactly the same spot as the original V&T roundhouse & turntable. The turntable pit and pivot point are still in existence and the railroad someday hopes to revive that facility. The yellow and green coaches that you see are the heavyweight Delaware & Lackawanna cars, painted in original V&T colors, which the railroad uses for its excursions to Mound House, outside Carson City. Several diesel locomotives, which supplement the steam fleet, are also parked in the yard. At the far right, next to the red buildings, sits the hulk of an SP 0-6-0 switcher, which awaits a day when funds are available for restoration.
If you are ever in western Nevada, make it a point to spend a day at Virginia City and ride the new V&T. Not only does this railroad offer some superb scenery, but the history of the place makes it one of the most fascinating tourist lines in the US.