Vintage Diesel to tow passengers on V&T this season

The V&T Queen of the Short Lines car sits on a truck in Virginia City on Wednesday afternoon.

The V&T Queen of the Short Lines car sits on a truck in Virginia City on Wednesday afternoon.

It took a year to renovate, but a GE diesel electric 80-ton locomotive is primed, painted and ready for passengers on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad Co.'s line between Gold Hill and Virginia City.

The engine was hauled Wednesday from California's Portola Railroad Museum to Virginia City via State Route 341 on a Triple R Heavy Haul truck. It should be ready for passengers this weekend, pending an inspection by the Federal Railroad Administration, said company owner Bob Gray.

Gray stood watching as the train's engines purred. His son Tom manned the controls.

Tom Gray said the diesel engine powers four electric motors, which operate the four sets of wheels.

"We've tested the engine and it's very powerful. It easily moved a 5,000-ton load," Bob Gray said. "It's a beautiful engine."

Built in 1953, the train was a military switcher used by the U.S. Navy. The federal government donated it to the Feather River Rail Society in Portola.

No one was disclosing all the details, but an old train turntable was exchanged for equity in the train.

"The engine was surplus for the Portola Railroad Museum," said Norm Holmes, museum director. "We got a turntable in exchange. It's a Western Pacific artifact and we'll install it in the museum."

Bob Gray said the engine will be used as an adjunct to the steam engines now being renovated.

"Both of the steam engines needed major work," he said. "One is 98 years old and the other 85. Both came unglued at the same time and renovation isn't cheap."

He said a lot of the work on the steam engines has been completed and he expects to have the No. 8 engine running by mid-summer. The other, No. 29, will be completed in about a year.

The V&T rail line starts in Virginia City at the Washington and F street station, then winds its way over the original right-of-way to Gold Hill. Passengers can get off the train at Gold Hill and visit the town, then board the next train.

The Virginia & Truckee Railroad was completed in 1869 and in the following years, hauled millions of dollars worth of gold and silver ore from the mines of Virginia City.

For information, call the V&T at 847-0380.


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