Column: What's a state capital without a railroad?

It is a recognized fact that institutions are merely an extension of the men and women who represent them in spirit or in fact. Such was the case with the Virginia & Truckee Railroad as it clung to its lifelong purpose with a tenacity reminiscent of the people who reluctantly acknowledged its mortality in he waning days of its existence.

Following is the final segment in our series of reprinted articles from the Sacramento Bee's 1950 tribute to the V&T.

"Grover Russell is another member of the crew who will see most of his life go with the V&T. He has been with the road 41 years, starting as a fireman and holding a variety of positions since then.

"A small bespectacled man, Russell remembers the old McKeen motorcar he was ordered to run between Reno and Carson City and the complications of its operation. From point of service he is the oldest engineer on the road, although he is serving as a fireman now.

"His engineer is William Recker, a man who looks his part in spite of the fact he has replaced the high cap of railroad tradition with the streamlined version airplane pilots wear.

"He has been with the V&T 34 years, saw the handwriting on the wall and tried to pull away during the war. The call of the old line was too strong, however, and he returned.

"Conductor, brakeman and train crew in general, Les Felesina shared Recker's experience. An expert moulder, engineer and fireman, he quit to work on two larger lines then went to work in a foundry as a moulder during the war. Like Recker, he returned to the V&T before the war was over.

"'I made a lot of money,' he says, 'but I just couldn't forget the old line. All the time I was down south I kept wondering how the V&T was making out and if it was going to get by.'

"Speaking of the road, Felesina gazes into thin air, perhaps at the 32 years past he has spent with the road.

"'I've got a pretty big farm,' he remarked. 'I think I'll settle down on that. The V&T is my railroad. Now it is through.'

"Zimmer, speaking of the future, smiles a bit and looks at his cigar speculatively, and states: 'I've ridden a railroad a long time and never got anywhere. I think it's time I saw the country.'

"Samson will be busy for years closing out the V&T business. Peterson is already busy with half a dozen ventures. Recker and Russell have not revealed plans.

"There are many people in Carson City who echo Zimmer's remark: 'What is a state capital without a railroad?'

"The wail of the V&T's whistle prods their minds these days, reminding many they have never been aboard the historic little line. Passenger business has picked up in recent weeks while Nevadans make final pilgrimages aboard the bonanza railroad. And always the same murmur, incongruous but persistent, 'What is the capital without a railroad?'

"And there are others who shake their heads sadly and say: 'What is Nevada without the V&T?'

"They know in this day of rapid transit trucks and buses the V&T's passing will not hurt the state's economy, yet somehow, to people who know the little line, it is a matter of vital importance.

"Sampson, who had planned to send the road out as it started, with brass bands and champagne, has canceled the idea. 'The Comstock died quietly,' he says. 'I think the V&T should too.'

"So the V&T will depart in silence for the land reserved for unwanted railroads. Next Wednesday it will roll through the Washoe Valley, past the pages of history which mark its route and into the roundhouse and eternity.'"


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