Carson City, Nevada, is all about trains.
Just down the mountain from the famous Comstock Lode and Virginia City, Carson City was a huge part of the silver bonanza that was discovered over a century ago.
The Comstock Lode earned Nevada its description as "The Silver State". Countless wealth in gold and silver was taken out of the ground there, through a maze of mining tunnels networking under Virginia City as well as nearby Silver City and Gold Hill.
The mine shafts had to be shored up with timber. A railroad was needed to ship the lumber up hill, and to bring the precious ore down the mountain.
In 1868, The Virginia and Truckee Railroad was created to climb the mountain from Carson City to Virginia City. With no computers to track the 40-some trains a day, the busy operation used flags for signals and watches for timekeeping.
Carson City is also home to the Nevada State Railroad Museum, with an impressive collection of equipment no longer used on the Virginia and Truckee.
Both the railroad and the museum own steam engines which are used, on occasion, to carry passengers.
The V&TRR engine One of the Nevada State Railroad Museum's engines
Driving down Carson Street provides a rail photographer with amazing opportunities.
These rail-themed inns are a reminder that many out-of-towners come to visit the Nevada State Railroad Museum, and to ride the Virginia and Truckee Railroad from Carson City to Virginia City.
These murals grace the side of a restaurant on Carson Street called Heidi's.
The Back on Track Inn displays this wind-activated decoration.
On the south side of town is the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
Run almost entirely by volunteers, it fields an impressive collection of vintage equipment operated by people who know how things were done back in the heyday of steam.
Ted Blishak demonstrates a hand-operated Scooter from a century or more ago.
Closely associated with the historic Virginia and Truckee Railroad, the Museum maintains vintage cars and engines donated by the nearby railroad.
In the Museum's collection, a steam engine is scheduled to provide rides around the property. In addition to passengers, it is equipped to handle riders in the cab with the engineer by prior arrangement. Lessons in how to run the engine are also available.
Volunteers have kept the old art of operating a steam engine alive. Here, two of them steady the arm of the old water tower to fill the engine's tender with water.
This unusual boxcar was presented to the State of Nevada by France after World War II ended. The grateful French Government gave one to each state, and they were filled with gifts. Called "Merci Cars" (French for "Thank You") they came across the Atlantic by ship.
The Nevada State Railroad Museum may be reached at www.nsrm-friends.org or http//museums.nevadaculture.org. Call them at 1 775 887 6953. The 2011 schedule shows them open weekends between April and September. The steam engine operates on Saturday and Sunday once a month. On other weekends the Edwards Motorcar is used.
The Museum is at 2180 South Carson Street.
Keep driving south from the museum. Take Highway 50 East (William St.) past Eagle Valley Golf Course. Turn right on Flint Drive. After 2/3 mile, turn left and follow the signs to the Eastgate Depot, the Virginia & Truckee Station. You'll see this sign:
These days, the rail line that twists and turns and tunnels up the mountain carries only tourists from Carson City to Virginia City.
Locomotive #18 is getting ready to pull the V&TRR train up the mountain.
The engineer is decked out in the traditional steam engine costume.
On Fridays during the season, this vintage diesel provides the power.
The track is steep, with sharp curves and tunnels.
Picturesque relics abandoned at the old mines are nearby. Most of the mines closed long ago, but there is speculation that precious ore still exists near Virginia City, and some parties would like to resume mining. Local residents have objected.
The old station at Gold Hill, partway up the mountain, is under restoration.
Sylvia rests on a bench made from old wheels and axle.
These days, the V&TRR uses modern crossing signals.......
..........but vintage equipment.
The Virginia and Truckee steam engine prepares to hook on to its train of coach cars.
Why do you run it backwards?" Ted Blishak asks Charlie Cross (left side of photo)
"Running it continually through the same curves in the same direction wears the wheel flanges unevenly", explains Cross, the railroad's Chief Mechanical Officer. "So we alternate. Sometimes we run it forwards, too."
Upon arrival in Virginia City, passengers will find lots of activities to pursue, such as a ride in this horse-drawn carriage...
...or a visit to the Bucket of Blood Saloon
The train remains here long enough for passengers to stroll around town, enjoy lunch at a restaurant, and then climb back aboard for the train ride back down to Carson City.
For V&TRR reservations (and you'll need them as the train sells out) please visit www.virginiatruckee.com or call 1 800 NEVADA.1 or 1 775 687 7410. The Virginia & Truckee train runs daily from May 27 to October 30 in 2011. The diesel train operates on Fridays and the steam engine powers the train on Saturdays and Sundays.