14 August 2005

The Ol' V & T R R

The last coupla Saturdays have been spent at Carson City Toyota & Scion finishing getting our new truck built. One more trip to Trimline Truck Caps & Accessories and we'll be done. Full report in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, while they were installing a few accessories, (among them: running boards for better footing during high-speed shootouts with the Feds), we had some time to kill so we went a little ways up the street toward downtown and paid a visit to the Nevada State Railroad Museum which is basically the resting place for the remains of the Virginia & Truckee Rail Road. We go by this place all the time and have always wanted to stop in and see it.

It's a comprehensive, but fairly small museum. The staff is pretty much volunteer retired gentlemen who are eager to have you see their baby, and are in no hurry. The two websites in the paragraph above were stamped on the back of my admission ticket by Casey Jones himself, who made sure I knew about it. $4 each, and well worth it.

The V.& T. R.R. was not a huge line, running mainly from the Transcontinental Railroad line in Reno south about 50 miles to Minden, with an east-west spur from Carson City to Virginia City. There are a couple of restored locomotives, with photos and placards on the history of each one. There are models of the ones that no longer exist, again with photos and histories.

There is quite a display, and some dioramas, on the history of the Chinese laborers who built the railroad. I didn't expect that, and it was pretty cool. At the diorama depicting the "Chinese Woodcutters", I came around a corner to find myself staring at the south end of a northbound mule. Good thing I'm used to that.

Out back of the museum proper is an old train shed, full of restored and unrestored rolling stock, including a French "40 et 8", for 40 men or 8 horses, which was donated by the French people in appreciation of Americans saving their asses in two world wars by riding in them. The barn was again staffed by cool old farts with all the time in the world to share stuff with you. One of 'em was wearing a 6thMarDiv cap. They were only in one little fight, at Okinawa. We spotted each others' Marine caps and got along swell.

There is a small, but well-stocked, gift shop. Translation: the joint is jam-packed. If there's more than three people in it, you do the "suck it in" dance to proceed. They have everything you would think they would, and more besides.

Probably the crown jewel of the joint is their running steam train and its one mile of track that you can ride on. We didn't, but we will. I want to see what happens: the locomotive and its two cars and caboose pulled out of the depot just like a regular train, but after it got out of sight, something happened. When it returned, the locomotive was backing up, pulling the caboose. I wanta watch the switch! I guess the track doesn't run in a complete circle, but I don't know.

It was fun and we'll pay it a return visit, I am sure.

Since I just know my review of this joint is going to have you making plans to visit, while you're there take the time to go a few blocks to the Nevada State Museum. I first went there when I was about ten years old and it still dazzles me. If the walk-through recreation of a silver mine doesn't get you, the extensive display of 19th century surgeon's tools sure will.

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