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Railroading History And Restoration At
Railroad Museum

Carson City depot regulator clock.
This clock from the Carson City depot is a No. 14 Regulator. All V&T train personnel were required to adjust their timepieces to the clock in the Carson City depot, as accurate scheduling was essential when many trains were operating on a single track railroad.

For many years we’ve driven south on Highway 395 through Carson City, Nevada, once or twice a year. And we’ve noticed a railroad car on the west side of the highway and a sign saying Nevada State Railroad Museum. Well, that lone car didn’t entice us much. How much of a museum could it contain?

60-inch V & T grindingstone used to finish rough castings and forgings.
Large grindstones were used by the railroads to finish rough castings and forgings. The V& T had two 60-inch grindstones in use. Smaller 32-inch stones were used for sharpening tools. The frame on this grindstone is cast iron, and was found in the V&T shop when it was torn down in 1991.

However, a few months ago, some friends encouraged us to see this museum – they thought it was really worthwhile. As it happens, that railroad car by the side of the road was just a part of the sign. The actual museum consists of two huge buildings set back a ways off the road.

One building is an interpretive center; the other is where engines and cars are actually being restored.

Carson City was the home base to the Virginia Truckee Railroad back in the days when tons and millions of dollars worth of silver was being mined in Virginia City.

Many of the cars on display in the museum are VTRR cars. Some of them came back to Carson City by way of Hollywood. In the early days of filming in Hollywood, producers bought many of the engines and cars, and took them to Hollywood for their shoots. When filming techniques changed so it was no longer necessary to have real engines and railroad cars taking up space on studio grounds, some were returned to the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Copy pencils needed before carbon paper.
Documentation was necessary for the railroads, and carbon paper and typewriters were in use by the 1870s. However, to make copies without carbons, and when typewriters weren’t available, originals had to be created with special pencils containing a dye. Copy pencils wee an essential part of the trainman’s toolkit. The process was tedious. Originals were inserted in a copy book, the page was brushed with water, placed between waterproof sheets, and pressed. The water caused the writing on the original to bleed onto the page of the copy book. This produced a mirror image copy, so the copy book was made of transparent paper, which allowed the copy to be read through the sheet! This method was used as late as the 1930s.

The museum includes not only the large memorabilia like engines and cabooses, but smaller stuff like speeders, smaller yet stuff like the gauges used to keep the tracks the right distance apart, and some really small stuff like an old Chinese soy sauce ceramic bottle left by one of the workers on the railroad.

The Joe Douglass operated on a narrow gauge line from 1882 to 1996.
In addition to the main lines, the mines had their own miles of track that connected from the mail line directly to the mine for hauling the ore. Many of these were narrow gauge lines. The Joe Douglass operated on a narrow gauge line from 1882 to 1996 on the Dayton, Sutro & Carson Valley Railroad’s 8 miles of track, which processed ore from Gold Canyon below Virginia City. Narrow gauge railroads were mainly used where roadbeds were difficult to build, as these tracks allowed for sharper curves and steeper grades. The roadbeds were usually less expensive to build, also.

This is a really great stop for railroad enthusiasts and a very interesting stop for anyone else who is interested in the history of the West. I like the interpretive center best; husband Ron was fascinated by the building where restorations were taking place.


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This is a track utility vehicle called a speeder.
This is a track utility vehicle called a speeder. It is motorized, and used by railroad personnel to inspect tracks and structures, or to transport work crews and supplies. This one dates to the 1920s.