August 08, 2022

Photo Essay: Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the V&T Railroad at the Great Western Steam Up

I'd been wanting to visit the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, Nevada—but there are just too many train museums to visit.  

And with Carson City being a seven- or eight-hour drive from LA, I just haven't wanted to do it alone. Not without a really good reason. 

But I got my chance last month with the Great Western Steam Up...

...a festival celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the completion of the Virgina & Truckee Railroad, hosted by the museum. 

So, I got to explore the museum's collection, which includes the antique V&T caboose No. 9 and the stunning V&T McKeen Motor Car No. 22.
The motor car was built as a self-propelled car and purchased by V&T in 1910 for passenger service between Reno, Carson City, and Minden, Nevada. 

It used to have enough room for 84 riders, but it was remodeled in 1932 to add a railway post office and other non-passenger spaces, reducing its capacity. 

It ran the rails until 1945, when it was relocated and used for commercial businesses like a diner and a plumber's office. 
It was donated to the museum in 1996 and restored in time for its 100th birthday, in 2010. It's now the only restored and fully functional one of these cars— of the 150 that were originally manufactured in Omaha, Nebraska—in the world.
Beyond the museum's indoor exhibits, the Great Western Steam Up also provided the opportunity to witness the largest reunion of existing Virginia & Truckee locomotives assembled in over 75 years. 

That included such out-of-town locomotives as the circa 1910 Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge No. 18, the "Slim Princess," visiting from the Eastern California Museum in Independence, California...

...the circa 1875 Eureka & Palisade No. 4, Eureka, on loan from its Las Vegas-based private owner, and more. 

They shared the rails with some of the museum's permanent collection in the outdoor display...

...including the V&T No. 18, Dayton, built in 1873 by the Central Pacific Railroad in Sacramento (and the only surviving example of its type) and restored to its 1882 appearance by the museum in 1982...

...and a replica of the circa 1869 V&T No. 1, Lyon. 

There were trains constantly encircling the museum grounds, blowing their whistles and ringing their bells, like the narrow-gauge Carson & Tahoe Lumber & Fluming Co., Glenbrook (which unfortunately I just missed the opportunity to ride). 

But I got to watch it go by as I was waiting for the fire equipment demonstration. 

One of the more surprisingly exciting parts of the railroad festival was the locomotive pageant...

...where various rolling stock would be brought out onto the museum's turntable...
...and rotated around so all the spectators could get a good view. 

It was a great way to see all the trains in action, even when some weren't going to be pulling any passenger cars.   
Among the locomotives that were available to ride behind was the standard gauge Bluestone Mining & Smelting Railroad No. 1...

...built by the Heisler Locomotive Works of Erie, Pennsylvania in 1916 and visiting from the Roots of Motive Power railroad and logging museum in Willits, California.

Lines of eager would-be passengers lined up (in some cases, for hours) at the museum's Wabuska Depot... named because it was relocated from Wabuska, Nevada (where it was a stop on the Southern Pacific and Carson and Colorado railroads) to the museum in the 1980s. 

Riding multiple trains at the Great Western Steam-Up meant actually being pulled by different locomotives: one standard gauge and one narrow gauge. 
But the passenger cars would actually be the same (with the exception of the special V&T Inyo train ride, which I'll write about in a future blog post). 

On the scenic excursions, we passed the festival displays I'd walked through before—which also included the circa 1872 V&T No. 11, Reno, visiting from nearby Virginia City (where it operated from 1872 to 1938).

We also passed some unrestored rolling stock that's not yet accessible to the public... well as other behind-the-scenes artifacts...
The festival ran all weekend, but while I was buying tickets, I couldn't imagine spending more than a few hours or a day there. So, I booked lots of other excursions in the area. 

But then I got there, and I started regretting not showing up right when the gates opened. I wasn't going to get to ride every train. And there had been other trains running on the other days I hadn't attended.

My inner completionist was triggered, to say the least. 

But at the end of the day—after three train rides and countless runs around the mulberry bush—I was ready to head back home. 

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