It seems somehow appropriate snow was falling in Virginia City on Monday morning as crews from the Nevada State Railroad Museum and Comstock Historic Center prepared the Virginia & Truckee Railroad locomotive “Dayton” for its return trip to Carson City.
After all, in its days of operation in the V&T in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Dayton, locomotive No. 18, was the engine equipped with a snow plow to clear the route to and from the Comstock for all the V&T trains.
Monday’s trip from Virginia City to Carson City wasn’t by rail, however. Instead, the storied locomotive was loaded aboard a low-boy trailer and trucked to the Nevada State Railroad Museum. A second truck carried the Dayton’s tender — the car that sits directly behind the locomotive and carries the wood it uses for fuel. They traveled the Truck Route down from the Comstock, turned west onto Highway 50 and went the length of Fairview Drive to the railroad museum.
The Dayton had been on loan from the museum to the Comstock History Center since 2005. The museum plans to use the Dayton as part of an exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 2019, said Museum Director Dan Thielen.
“The Dayton is going to be a significant part of that exhibit where we talk about how we tied the nation together,” Thielen said.
The Nevada State Railroad Museum is home to the only known piece of rolling stock still in existence from the “Golden Spike” ceremony at Promontory Summit in Utah on May 10, 1869 when the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads came together.
That car, known as Coach 17, will also be part of the exhibit, as will the Dayton’s sister locomotive, “The Inyo,” also built in 1873 for use on the V&T. All three pieces were eventually sold by the V&T to Paramount Pictures in the late 1930s and used in a number of Hollywood films.
In 1969 — the 100th anniversary of the Golden Spike — both the Dayton and the Inyo were taken to Promontory Summit. The Dayton was modified to represent the Union Pacific’s No. 119, while the Inyo was modified to represent the Central Pacific’s Jupiter.
In 1974, the state of Nevada purchased both locomotives as historic artifacts.
Today, the Railroad Museum will truck the V&T locomotive No. 27 from Carson City to Virginia City to replace the Dayton. The No. 27, which was built in 1913, has its own special history with the V&T Railroad, having carried the final load of passengers from Minden to Reno when the railroad closed in 1950.
The Nevada State Railroad Museum is located at 2180 S. Carson St., Carson City. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults; free for members and children 17 and younger.