Virginia and Truckee Railroad

The Virginia and Truckee Railroad is a historic railway in Nevada, renowned for its role in transporting ore during the Comstock Lode mining boom of the late 19th century. The railroad connects Reno to Carson City and up to Virginia City and the mines of the Comstock Load, and down to the city of Minden, Nevada. The standard gauge rail consisted of about 60 miles and track. Today, much of the track is removed with a small railway offering passengers a historic experience between Carson City and Virginia City.

Built in 1872, the Virginia & Truckee No. 11, the “Reno” was the V&T’s first true passenger engine. It was the pride of the fleet, and was assigned to the pull the “Lightning Express,” the V&T’s premier train in the 1800s. The engine was damaged by a fire in 1995, and is currently undergoing restoration by the V&T.


Established in 1869, the V&T initially served as a means to transport silver ore from the mines of the Comstock Lode, located near Virginia City, to stamp mills in Carson City for processing. Its construction was driven by the need for efficient transportation of the abundant ore extracted from the rich silver mines of the region.

Under the direction of engineers like William Sharon and Theodore Judah, the V&T rapidly expanded its operations, stretching its lines to reach other mining towns such as Gold Hill and Dayton. The railroad’s success not only facilitated the transport of precious ore but also stimulated the growth of settlements along its route and provided essential passenger and freight services to the burgeoning communities of the Comstock.

The Crown Point Trestle crossed the Crown Point Ravine in Gold Hill. It was finished in November 1869, and stayed up until 1936. Here a Virginia City-bound train crosses the trestle in the 1880s.
The Crown Point Trestle crossed the Crown Point Ravine in Gold Hill. It was finished in November 1869, and stayed up until 1936. Here a Virginia City-bound train crosses the trestle in the 1880s.

The V&T gained renown for its engineering feats, including its crossing of the daunting Carson Range via the scenic and challenging Carson Pass route. The railroad’s iconic trestles, such as the 75-foot-high Crown Point Trestle, became symbols of the daring construction projects undertaken to connect Nevada’s mining districts.

Throughout its operational years, the V&T weathered various challenges, including economic downturns, labor disputes, and the decline of mining activities in the area. However, it continued to adapt and diversify its services, expanding into tourism and freight transportation beyond the mining industry.

The railroad faced a significant setback with the decline of the Comstock Lode and the subsequent closure of many mines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, it found new life through tourism, offering scenic excursions through the picturesque landscapes of the Carson River Canyon and the Virginia City foothills.

In the mid-20th century, the V&T ceased its regular operations due to changing economic conditions and the rise of automobile travel. However, its legacy was preserved through the efforts of preservationists and enthusiasts who worked tirelessly to restore and maintain its historic routes, locomotives, and rolling stock.

The Railroad Today

Today, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad stands as a beloved historic attraction, offering visitors a glimpse into Nevada’s rich mining heritage and the golden age of railroading in the American West. Its meticulously restored steam locomotives, vintage passenger cars, and scenic journeys continue to captivate passengers, preserving the spirit of adventure and enterprise that defined the railroad’s illustrious past.

Virginia and Truckee Historic Route

Railroad Summary

NameVirginia and Truckee Railroad
LocationWashoe County,
Carson City,
Douglas County
LengthApproximately 60 miles
GaugeStandard Gauge – 4 feet 8.5 inches (1,435 mm)
Years of Operation1870 – 1950
1976 – Current