Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Excursion by Rail

We have a new Follower to welcome -- Vera, of Veragirl. Vera is a flower lady, as far as we can tell, with a big dahlia as her header picture.

Friday here in Carson City was fairly quiet -- we stopped at Costco to fill our gas tank, did a few errands, then joined the family for dinner at Renee and Adam's home. Dinner was an excellent chili, but the real attraction for us was 10-month-old Darren.

We had been given a key to their home, and decided to stop in early and leave Big Red, Suzy's mobililty scooter, there to get her battery charged. We figured to just drive Big Red into the garage and plug in the charger. Couldn't be more simple, right? Surprisingly, Adam was home for lunch. He welcomed us and helped get Big Red into the garage. I plugged in the charger, turned it on, and the electricity went off!

It took Adam a full fifteen minutes running this way and that inside and outside his house to find the problem. Once he got the power on again, Adam hurried back to work, we locked up the house and left. Good thing he was there at the time! We'd have been flummoxed and unable to find the cure. We'd have had to call Renee to call Adam, and that would not have been good form.

After our dinner and family time, we went back out to the garage to retrieve Big Red and found --- the electricity to the garage was off! It appeared that Big Red had charged for a while, but when the freezer on the same circuit cycled on, poof! How to make an impression on your grandson-in-law!

Saturday was a fun day. Renee and Kathie joined us for a train ride on the historic V&T -- the Virginia & Truckee Railroad -- from Carson City to Virginia City. We spent two and a half hours in Virginia City then returned to the train for the ride back to Carson City.

The V&T is called "The Queen of the Short Lines;" it runs a 28-mile round trip each day, using a vintage steam locomotive on weekends only, diesel during the week, plus 7 shorter runs (35 minutes) every day. Most of the journey is along the original V&T right-of-way. In it's heyday, the V&T ran as many as 45 trains a day into and out of Virginia City. The line was completed in 1869 and in the ensuing 74 years hauled millions of dollars in gold and silver from the mines in Virginia City.

The engine pulling today's train, and the three passenger cars, were all built in 1914, making them classic antiques. David, our Conductor, while perhaps not an antique himself, was also a classic, with a vast store of knowledge about the Comstock era, its mines and its cast of characters.

Correction! David explained that the machine pulling this train was a "locomotive," not an engine! The locomotive has two engines, one on each side, that cause the wheels to turn.

With the Labor Day weekend, we had a special treat that, while interesting, turned out to be less than expected. There was a Civil War re-enactment that was supposed to have been played out virtually in front of our eyes, but due to a timing mishap, didn't work out that way. We ended up a few hundred yards, and a quarter mile of track, away across the town of Gold Hill. We were able to see the action and hear the thunder of cannon (a few seconds after watching the smoke erupt from the instruments). Fortunately, daughter Kathie has a great camera with a great lens, and was able to get a few good shots.

While in Virginia City, we had lunch at the Bonanza Cafe -- an excellent prime rib sandwich, partly courtesy of a $25 gift coupon we received on the train, by virtue of having just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary!

If we take this trip again, we'll opt for a quick hot dog from a street vendor so we'll have a little time to actually explore this historic old town, which once was the biggest city between San Francisco and the Mississippi River! Its official population at the time was 25,000, but as David explained, that counted only "Americans" -- that is, no one but European-based white folk. No black, no Asian, no Indians, no one but real "Americans!" Mexicans, perhaps, but not necessarily.

Now about the train trip itself. We called ahead, because we have learned it's a good idea, to find out if Big Red could go with us. We were assured that mobility scooters, motorized wheelchairs, etc., were a regular feature: at the Carson City station there is a ramp to drive up to put the scooter on the train; at the Virginia City end there is lift to take it down to ground level, and the free trolley into town also has a lift so you don't have to ride the scooter uphill four blocks.

Easier said than done! Yes, the ramp was there, and we were able to load Big Red on the front end of the third passenger car. However, at Virginia City, it was necessary to free-wheel Big Red down the very narrow aisle (a tight fit!) to the other end of the car and then muscle her into a 90 degree turn. The lift itself was fine, except that one of the railroad crew took a nasty spill while helping to unload the scooter.

Then the trolley arrived, and the driver announced that the lift on the trolley was broken! Suzy said she'd ride those four blocks uphill; Kathie and Renee said they'd go with her to push if necessary! I'd ride the trolley. As the ladies were leaving, the trolley driver said that although the lift didn't work, the lift doors still worked. Several of the passengers already seated on the trolley offered to help lift Big Red into the opening! We didn't get a picture of that, but this shot shows the trolley driver and his assistant plus daughter Kathie lifting Big Red into the trolley for the return trip! What great people you find everywhere, willing to do something to help others!
By the way, in case you are wondering, Kathie went through firefighter training a few years back and actually served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT for about three years! She is a determined, confident and competent girl -- and she's STRONG! She pushed me out of the way to help with this job.

On the trip we saw lots of mining ruins, remains and tailings, as well as an early day cemetery.

We even saw a band of wild mustangs!

Back closer to Carson City we viewed this Pony Express monument, reminding us that US 50 closely follows the early Pony Express route across the western part of God's Country.

More photos, ours and Kathie's, can be seen on our web album 2010 V&T Railroad.

And we feel we earned our proud V&T patch on this momentous day in  ... Our Life on Wheels.


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for this excellent trip report, you would be doing the railroad a favor if you posted a positive review on TripAdvisor.com

    David is great but gets a little "off track," I've been around a V&T a lot and railroads in general, it's OK to call a locomotive an engine, and this is the first time I've ever heard anyone say an engine has two engines. It does have two steam boxes and two sets of running gear.

    Sorry you had trouble with the disability access.

    My main question for you would be, did you think the trip and waiting time in VC was too short, too long, just right?

  2. I would find that train ride through those historical places definitely interesting. It's those out of the ordinary happenings that make trips memorable & the scooter episode will set your day apart from others.
    I have experience with those types of Scooters & they are not light so those folks did an admirable job in lifting that up there.

  3. What an interesting post today! The train ride sounds like something I'd like to do, except getting there and back is more than a day trip involved.

  4. What a fun day!! That train looked like a real antique!..I'll bet Sam was licking the computer screen!! We were in Carson city..never knew the train ride was available..but that was 20 years ago, so it likely wasn't...Be safe!!

  5. Looks like you all had a very interesting day with everything that was going on. Glad everyone helped out with Suzy's scooter, that was nice.

    The train ride sure looked like fun. It was great to see all the pics of the Civil War re-enactments as well. That old locomotive must be one of the oldest ones still in operation.

  6. What an interesting report! It's been many years since I was in Virginia City, so it brought back lots of good memories for me. I didn't ride the train, though, so that was a new 'experience' for me to have through you. Love it that everyone pitched in to help with Big Red.

  7. Good for you, Suzy, for not giving up excursions just because you need to ride a scooter. So many more places are accessible these days that we kind of forget that some places are not easy to cope with. Glad you had a fun outing!


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