End of the V&T Railroad

May 31st, 1950

Time Node:  May 31, 1950 – The Virginia and Truckee Railroad (V&T Railroad) officially ends passenger and freight service.

Rail service on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad between Carson City and Virginia City ended on June 4, 1938 as the last freight train returned from Virginia City (Nevada).  “Excursion” passenger trains to Virginia City (and back) ran for a short period after this date.

May 1, 1950 marks the date that V&T Engine #26 (V&T locomotive #26) caught fire and burned at the Carson City V&T Roundhouse in Carson City, Nevada.

May 31, 1950 was officially the last day of freight service and passenger service on the V&T Railroad.  The date is remembered as the “last run” of the V&T and the train (from and to Reno) was called the “last train”.

There was fanfare and celebrations.  The event was extensively filmed.  There was even a live radio broadcast.  The Interstate Commerce Commission gave permission for V&T locomotive #27 to come out of retirement to pull the “last train” on May 31, 1950.

The assumption is that the train provided service both from Reno to Minden and service (a last run) from Minden to Reno.  The V&T Roundhouse was in Carson City, so it is reasonable to assume that the “final” train returned from Reno to Carson City at the end of the day.  The exact details revolve around specific equipment used and the dates of disposition of the equipment and from where (i.e. from Carson City or from Reno).

The Virginia and Truckee train schedule below (from March 1, 1931) indicates the possible stations involved and the length in time of trips.  Mound House is east of Carson City, rail service to Mound House ended with service to Virginia City.  While Minden is usually regarded as the “end of the line” for the V&T tracks going south from Carson City the reality is that the train actually “turned around” by using a spur in nearby Gardnerville (Nevada), the spur being one (1) mile further south.

One can easily see why trains dropped in popularity; one could not ever figure the “time schedule” out.  The apparent translation is this:

(1) Since the square with a dot in it indicates a “motor coach” or in this case an “auto stage” (meaning automobile type bus, or “buss”, or “motor car” even), everything with the “dot-square” should be ignored, they are not real trains.  Now remember that “Daily trains” means every day, seven days per week, and you will find that the actual schedule is this:

(2) Train #2 (Southbound) leaves Reno at 7:30 A.M., travels 31 rail miles to Carson City, arriving there at 8:50 A.M., for a total trip of 80 minutes at an average speed of 39 miles per hour.
(3) Train #2 then leaves Carson City at 9:25 A.M. and continues on to Stewart (another 4 rail miles) and after even another 11 rail miles later arrives in Minden at 10:05 A.M., for a total trip of 40 minutes at an average (slightly slower) speed of 38 miles per hour.  The train will then wait in Gardnerville until 3:20 P.M. in the afternoon when it will become Train #1 (Northbound).

(4) Train #1 (Northbound) leaves Minden at 3:25 P.M., travels 15 rail miles to Carson City, arriving there at 4:05 P.M., for a total trip of 40 minutes at an average speed of 38 miles per hour.
(3) Train #1 then leaves Carson City at 4:45 P.M. and continues on to Reno (31 rail miles away) and arrives in Reno at 6:00 P.M., for a total trip of 75 minutes at an average (amazingly swift) speed of 41.5 miles per hour.  The train will then wait in Reno until 7:30 A.M. in the morning of the next day when it will become Train #2 (again) (Southbound).

There were additional “last run” (passenger) “excursion trains” between May 31, 1950 and November 2, 1950.

On November 2, 1950 Virginia and Truckee Railroad locomotive #5 pulled a mail car and the remains of V&T locomotive #26 from Carson City to Reno where the V&T tracks still connected with both the Southern Pacific mainline tracks and the Western Pacific tracks going north to Herlong and west to Portola and Quincy (California) (see maps below).


Left:  Conductor Patrick Allen, Fireman H. N. Shene and Engineer Grover C. Russell appear as they pose in front of Engine #5 after the last time the engine travels on V&T tracks – November 2, 1950.

Right:  Nevada State Journal article of November 3, 1950 describes a last “last run” of the V&T. 

Far Right:  Another headline reports that the City of Carson City has purchased a rail passenger car and a caboose.  It is assumed that these cars were among the equipment displayed in the 1950‘s along (old) U.S. Route 395 on the east side of the highway just north of Carson City.

A Nevada State Journal article of November 3, 1950 describes a last “last run” of the V&T.  The train in question is pictured here.

Locomotive #5 has been sold to the Western Pacific for use in Portola.  Locomotive #26 is to be scrapped in Reno at the Western Pacific yards.  The mail car has been purchased by a private party.

After abandonment of regular rail service the tracks of the V&T began to be removed from the railroad right-of-way.  Some of these rails could have been moved to Reno by train, but it is also possible that the rails were removed from the roadbed sites by truck.  The final sections of track running through Carson City were removed in 1953.  Martin Clayton salvaged a length of this “last rail” and hauled it to 405 North Roop Street (in Carson City) where this piece of track was used for many years as a border for the flower bed on the south side of the house.  It may still be there.


Map of the Western Pacific Railroad route system – circa 1920.

Map of the Western Pacific Railroad route system, with emphasis on rail lines in California.  The portion of the route from Flanigan to Sacramento was marketed for many years as “The Feather River Route”, noted for its spectacular scenery as seen from the Vista-dome cars that the railroad ran on mainline rail passenger trains.

Photograph of a CB&Q Silver Solarium, which was from the original California Zephyr.

Photograph is courtesy of here.

Magazine Ad for the Western Pacific California Zephyr passenger train.  The train featured Vista – Dome cars on the route across the Sierras along the Feather River.  The Southern Pacific Railroad used the Truckee River / American River route over the Donner Summit.

This post was first published on February 12, 2011.  No copyright (if any exists) is claimed by this web site or by Donald Clayton for any of the graphics that appear on this specific page.