Column: V&T survives until opportunities run out

In the latter years of its existence, it was the V&T's ability to adapt to a changing economic climate that enabled it to fend off financial ruin.

In the early 1900s, its cargo changed from precious ores to agricultural goods as it extended its rails south to service the fertile fields of the Carson Valley.

Despite its opportunistic approach to business, the V&T would be unable to meet, let alone defeat, the challenges that lay ahead as recounted in the following segment from the Sacramento Bee's 1950 series of commemorative articles.

"In 1909, A.M. Ardery was appointed superintendent of the road to assist H.M. Yerington, and a year later both Yerington and D.O. Mills were dead. Ogden Mills took over presidency of the company.

"Talk of Comstock revival was a constant thing early in the century, but the Carson Valley remained the road's best customer.

"In a effort to augment passenger traffic, a McKeen gasoline powered motor car which would carry 80 people at 'a high rate of speed' was added to the rolling stock in 1911 and a second in 1913.

"The day of grade crossing accidents arrived as motorists raced through the Washoe Valley beside the little train. Two track autos, which can best be described as buses with railroad car wheels, were added to the Virginia City run in 1917.

"These track autos, incidentally, foretold things to come. They were drawn by White truck engines and carried 25 persons. Two years after they were put into service by the railroad, Albert Pearl, a Virginia City resident, received permission to operate an auto truck service between Reno and the Comstock.

"The coming of Pearl's trucks was the beginning of the end for the V&T. It declared its last dividend in 1924 and declined steadily through the decade which followed.

"There was one brief moment of glory in 1933 when Herbert Hoover, traveling with Ogden Mills, arrived in the Comstock in the cab of the V&T's locomotive. Four years later Mills, president of the road and controlling figure in the family estate, died.

"Mills' death was a crushing blow to the V&T. The following year it passed into receivership and on March 4, 1938, a special meeting of the board of directors was called to consider abandonment.

"Curtailment of operation rather than abandonment was the result of the early meetings. The first cut came in 1937 when the Gold Hill section, little used for years, was formally abandoned. Sad eyed residents of the exhausted Comstock area watched the little train leave the station for the last time Oct. 1. An old friend, though almost forgotten, had left them forever."

A special note of thanks to the board members and staff of the Nevada Commission on Tourism for their recommendation to allocate $1 million to the V&T reconstruction project and to the members of the Interim Finance Committee who voted unanimously on June 14 to approve the commission's request.


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