Laying the Rails on the V&T

In the Nevada Appeal: Modern equipment moves the V&T along. This story chronicles the track-laying gangs that are hard at work up on the Comstock laying rails for the rejuvenated Virginia and Truckee Railroad. Phase 2 of the project has been going on for a few years now, working on digging out the caved-in American Flat tunnel and regrading the old roadbed to prepare it for rails. Now they’re throwing down ties and rails at a regular rate, moving along at 750 feet per day. Of course you could compare that to the laying of the Central Pacific railroad across the salt flats of Utah 140 years ago, which topped out at ten miles per day. Or even the original V&T, which in 1869 was surveyed, graded, tracked, and had trains running on the rails all in less than a year. The actual laying of the tracks consisted of about six weeks of work, with two crews working simultaneously, one from Carson and one from Virginia. Of course back then they were using Chinese labor that they could push to work 12-14 hours a day, with little thought given to safety. There was also the economic impetus of thousands of tons of ore sitting at Virginia City, just waiting for the railroad to be completed so it could start moving. There’s less incentive to get the job done this time, so nobody blinks at the more leisurly pace that this whole project is running at.

This current flurry of track laying will bring the railroad right to the outside edges of Mound House, at the bottom of the famous twists and turns in the track that gave the V&T the nickname “the crookedest short line in the world”. After that there are still several more phases left to this project; running the rails up to Hwy 50, installing the bridge over Hwy 50, taking the track down another drop in elevation to the bottom of the Carson River Canyon, and then running along the banks of the river to the railroad’s final terminus on the outskirts of Carson City.

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