Reconstructing a railway isn't cheap. The cost of 17 miles of the historic Virginia & Truckee road bed from Gold Hill to Deer Run Road in Carson City is estimated at $24.4 million, but the Gold Hill Historical Society is putting a dent in that estimate.
With little money and a lot of expertise, this nine-member body is extending the track from the Gold Hill Depot south one-quarter mile to the Overman Pit.
Society member Kim Faggart, a railroad master by trade, builds and maintains track for Bob Gray's Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company in Virginia City.
"I got a phone call from Total Energy Co. and they had an industrial spur disconnected from the Union Pacific's main line," he said. "They donated the material, we had it appraised and my crew and I disassembled it all."
"My dad and a couple members of the group got 600 tons of ballast, 50 good ties and 1,300 feet of rail. Then I arranged with a local business in Carson City to pick the stuff up and haul it to Gold Hill."
According to Faggart, Total Energy Co. of New York is an organization that salvages gas and power plant supplies from old sites to resell overseas and the materials were moved from the Reno-Sparks area. The only obstacle remaining concerns a right-of-way for a portion of the track, owned by the Sutro Tunnel Co.
The paperwork isn't completed, but the society made an arrangement to renovate a nearby mine site in exchange for that right-of-way and Faggart said he expects to start work on the rail bed in June.
"We have everything we need to complete the project, but we don't have the grading done," Faggart said. "We need lots of fill and it will take time to accomplish that."
Originally from Ely in eastern Nevada's White Pine County, Faggart cuts an imposing figure: Well over 6 feet tall with broad shoulders, sandy-colored hair and an easy smile.
His father worked for Kennecott Copper in Ely, an operation that closed in the late 1970s. When in full operation, trains hauled ore from the open-pit mine in Ruth, through Ely to the smelter in the town of McGill every hour.
"I grew up in Ely along the railroad track and I had an interest in trains from the time I was a kid," he said. "When I was in kindergarten we lived in McGill and I had to cross that track every day to go to school. Ely is a small town. You can get anywhere with a bicycle and my best friend's house there was a stone's throw from the tracks."
Faggart spent two years working for a railroad company before moving to Gold Hill in 1984 and said he got most of his education concerning rail construction and maintenance outside of the classroom.
"You don't go to school to learn how to work on a short line railroad," he said. "But historically it was the main means of transportation in this country and there's lot of literature and reference material. I learned a lot from old books."
In addition to his expertise, the Gold Hill Historical Society draws on the talent of four other members, all with extensive knowledge concerning railroads. The society is also restoring the Gold Hill Depot and leases it from the county, according to Faggart.
None of the members are paid for their efforts, but the society is organizing a fund-raiser for the extension of the rail line and restoration of the depot.
They will be asking for a $100 donation per foot of rail line. Donors will will receive a certificate and their names will be engraved on a brass plaque, to be displayed near the depot.
The society is a private, nonprofit organization and all donations are tax deductible. More details can be expected sometime in January.