The International Steam Pages
The Nevada State RR Museum, 2017
James Waite reports on his visit here in September 2017
The Nevada State RR Museum in the south of Carson City started out life in the 1980’s as the Virginia & Truckee (V&T) RR museum and at first was mainly devoted to preserving locomotives and rolling stock from that line. It’s an offshoot of the state-run Nevada State Museum and is clearly a well-funded operation. The name was changed when it began to acquire exhibits from other lines.
The first three photos show 4-4-0 no. 22 “Inyo” (Baldwin 3693/1875), a locomotive which survived thanks to having been sold to a-Hollywood studio in the 1930s. It’s still in working order with an old, and possibly original, boiler, but only runs once a year, on the 4th July weekend and at reduced pressure. 4-6-0 no. 27 (Baldwin 39453/1913) was the line’s last new locomotive and also the last to run in 1950. The small 3ft gauge 0-4-2T “Joe Douglass” (Porter 513/1882) worked on a mining line at Dayton, near Carson City. Dayton lay on the route of the 3ft gauge Carson & Colorado (C&C) RR which eventually became the Southern Pacific (SP) narrow gauge. The line predated the C&C and was extended to connect with it before its opening in 1883. The locomotive continued to run at Dayton until about 1900, after which it moved to a reservoir construction project in southern California. This was completed in 1904 and the little locomotive was then dumped on site for very many years before being taken into preservation. It arrived at the museum in 1994.
V&T 4-6-0 no. 25 (Baldwin 25016/1905) is another runner and is kept in the museum's running and storage shed. The next three photos show 3ft gauge “Glenbrook” (Baldwin 3712/1875), one of three similar locomotives built for the Carson & Tahoe Lumber & Fluming Co., a line which ran from Glenbrook, the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, to the west of Carson City, up to Spooners Summit (via a Z reverse) from where the lumber was floated down a flume to a yard south of Carson City, more or less on the spot where the museum is now. From there it was sent via the V&T to the mines around Virginia City for use as pit props and the like. In 1899 the line closed and its track relaid to provide a passenger line between Tahoe City, on the western shore of the lake, to the SP main line at Truckee, and the locomotive went there too. A major shareholder in both the Glenbrook and Tahoe was a gentleman named Duane L. Bliss. In 1927 the Tahoe line was sold to the SP who converted it to standard gauge. The locomotive wasn’t included in the sale and the Bliss family intended to preserve it and put it on display but this never happened. In 1937 it was sold to the Nevada County RR to provide spares for a sister locomotive they had bought when the Glenbrook line closed in 1899. After the Nevada County line closed in 1942 Miss Hope Bliss (lovely name!), Duane Bliss’s daughter and a lady then in her 70’s who clearly had a soft spot for it, bought it and presented it to the Nevada State Museum to ensure its survival. By then many of its parts had gone and the museum co-operated with various ex-Nevada County employees to retrieve them. It moved to the railroad museum in the 1980’s as a long-term restoration project and it first ran again in 2015. Like “Inyo” it still has its original boiler and only runs very occasionally. Wendell Huffman, the curator, very kindly pulled it out into the sunshine for me to photograph it at Tom Schutz’s request. They’re good friends.
The next three photos show a railcar built in 1910 at the McKeen factory in Omaha for the V&T. I see from the SP book that about 200 of these extraordinary machines were built and were advanced for their day with features like a monocoque body shell. The porthole-type windows were included to increase the structural rigidity of the body compared to more conventional ones. The pointy nose was intended to reduce wind resistance rather than just be stylish but the cars were so slow that this was ineffective. Mr. Huffman said that people liked to joke that the cowcatcher should have been fitted at the back as most cows moved faster than the car! Its body ended up being grounded and used as a diner in Carson City and its restoration has only fairly recently been completed after taking many years. The museum people are extremely proud of it and very justifiably so, too.
Finally there’s a photo of an Edwards car from a line in Arizona, no. 401, making its way around the museum’s demonstration track.
This is a superb museum in every way, one of the best I’ve visited anywhere.
V&T McKeen railcar