For more than 80 years, the Virginia & Truckee (V&T) Railroad linked Reno, Carson City, Virginia City and Minden in western Nevada. This rail system was a lifeline during the mining days in the late 1860s and for dozens of years after. In western Nevada it was Comstock ore that needed to be hauled through the sometimes dusty and dry desert to quartz reduction mills along the Carson River.
The mining production came to a halt dozens of years ago, but today visitors can travel by train on the V&T Railroad from Caron City to Virginia City, located about 14 miles apart. The Wild West is alive and thriving in this part of the state, and it all begins at the ticket depot where people are dressed in appropriate time period garb. The train is made up of the locomotive and three cars from back in the day, complete with springy seats and hard-to-open windows.
On board, passengers are invited to sit wherever they’d like for the duration of the hour-and-a-half ride. (If you’d like to take photos, your best choice for seating is a forward-facing seat on the right side of the car next to a window.) With a few long whistles from the locomotive, the train takes off for Virginia City, an old mining town fashioned with character and complete with old-time photo shops, saloons and stores selling Western gear.
The ride on the V&T Railroad is much more than simply a means for transportation; it’s a journey back in time. You could drive to Virginia City, but why bother when you can hop aboard a train and immerse yourself in history? The ride is leisurely, crawling along the tracks at just a few miles per hour, but the guide on board offers an informative talk about the Comstock while pointing out places of interest on both sides of the tracks. From mining frames and boarded up mining caves to rusted out equipment, mill sites and other abandoned buildings, the history of the mining era is now just a whisper in Nevada’s past. American Flat, site of a once-bustling mining town, is one such sleepy village on the route.
While it was in operation, the V&T Railroad was known around the world, and it is still noted today for its incredibly windy path. It makes several sharp turns practically unheard of for trains and passes through two tunnels and under one trestle along the way. The train stops briefly at Gold Hill, home to a popular restaurant, then continues on to Virginia City. A convenient shuttle bus transports passengers from the train depot to the town and back again several hours later.
Anyone interested in stepping back in history will appreciate a ride on the V&T Railroad. The train runs late May through October. On Thursday and Friday, passengers enjoy the diesel train, and on Saturday and Sunday, passengers ride the steam engine. (Though it costs more to ride the steam engine, it’s worth the splurge.) For more information, visit the company website.
My ride on the V&T Railroad was paid for by the Nevada Commission on Tourism, but all opinions are my own.