Column: Making Tracks

The crash of the Bank of California in 1875 signaled the beginning of the end for the mighty V&T Railroad. As the Comstock's supply of silver dwindled, new sources of ore were being explored in a desperate attempt by the bank to recoup its lost fortunes. Following is the next in our series of reprinted articles from the Sacramento Bee's 1950 tribute to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.

"Through the years which followed (Virginia City's dramatic mid-1880's population decline) the Comstock died slowly but steadily and, although the V&T continued to pay dividends for many years, it showed constant signs of financial distress.

"Adolf Sutro's tunnel, designed to drain the mines and constructed in spite of the Bank Ring's bitter opposition, was completed belatedly in 1879.

It was sold for $1,000,000 and in 1890 when severe storms stalled V&T trains for 18 days, was used for the purposes Sharon feared. Supplies were hauled in the five mile tunnel and up the Consolidated Virginia shaft to the snow blockaded city.

"At the turn of the century the Carson and Colorado was sold to the Southern Pacific for $2,750,000 and almost immediately, as though fate had called signals against the V&T, gold was discovered in Tonopah.

"The Carson and Colorado became invaluable as hordes of miners flocked to the new bonanza, and in spite of the ironical twist which took the narrow gauge railway away from its parent line just before the Bank Ring's dream of a new bonanza came true, the V&T capitalized on the new strike.

"A double header left Reno every day hauling freight and passengers to the C&C, and the Carson Appeal announced the road was doing its best business in 10 years. Optimism continued through the next two years until a meeting of the V&T's board of directors was called to discuss sale of the road to the Southern Pacific.

"D.O. Mills set a price the larger line refused to pay and, to accompany cries of "freezeout," the Southern Pacific linked its road with the C&C via a short line through Hazen. The V&T's prosperity ended as abruptly as it started.

"Optimism did not end with adversity, however, a new line connecting Carson City with Gardnerville and Minden, where the Dangberg Land and Livestock Company awaited with huge shipments of cattle, was started in 19805.

"During the years which followed, it was this extension which allowed the V&T to operate at a profit, as steady shipments of cattle and farm produce from the rich Carson Valley let the road live comfortably."

To be continued.


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