Category Archives: railroad

Railroad Features

Hour-long meal stops. Large food courts in towns. Serving Buffalo steaks, tea, antelope chops, sweet potatoes, boiled Indian corn. Chicken stew, Prarie Dog stew.

The Pullman car Delmonico had a 5-star restaurant on-board. Smoking, reading, music, lounging cars. High elegance for the super-rich. 1868

Eureka & Palisade RR

The E&P was completed in 1875 serving the booming mining camps of Mineral Hill, Eureka and Hamilton. Millions of dollars in ore were shipped north to Palisade and transferred to the mainline, returning with machinery and supplies for the town and mines, declining mining addend Eureka in the late 1800’s started the fall of the E&P in the first three decades of the 1900s. The E&P survived floods, fire & economic decline both in Palisades and Eureka. In 1938, with Palisade already a ghost town, the E&P made it’s last run.

During the 1870s Palisade rivaled Elko and Carlin as a departure point on the Central Pacific for wagon, freight and stage lines to Mineral Hill, Eureka and Hamilton.

In October, 1875, with completion of Eureka and Palisade Railroad, Palisade became the Northern Terminus and operating headquarters for this little ninety-mile narrow gage line stretching southward to Eureka between 1875 and 1930. The town was the principal transfer and shipping point on the central pacific.

At its peak, the town boasted a population of 300. It was a self-contained community, and railroading was it’s main business. There were passenger and freight station, and siding on both the southern pacific and western pacific railroads, and a large ore transfer sock between the narrow gage and standard gage lines, all “Eureka and Palisade” (Eureka-Nevada after 1912) railroad headquarters facilities were situated here.

After the little narrow gage line ran its last train in September, 1938 Palisade went into a long decline, the post office was finally closed in 1962.

When the Eureka mines began to play out after 1885, the town began to decline.

The town of Palisade came into being in 1868 and served as a stop on the new transcontinental railroad, the Central Pacific. The station quickly became prominent as the shipping point for supplies to mining districts in the eastern portion of Nevada. The town grew in importance in 1874 when the Eureka and Palisade Railroad was begun. The town became the headquarters for the railroad and its 4 locomotives, 58 freight cars, and 3 gaudy yellow passenger coaches. By 1878, more than 31 million pounds of base bullion had been shipped by the railroad.

Cattle Drives from Pine Valley would gather cattle at stockyards in Palisade to be loaded onto cattle cars of the Southern Pacific. Sheep drives in the winter would send them to California for winter feeding.

Several fraternal organizations made their homes in Palisade. The International Order of Odd Fellows and Masons constructed beautiful lodges in the town. Churches and a schoolhouse were built. The railroad built a large shop where freight cars were manufactured employing many of Palisade’s residents. By 1882, the town had settled down to a consistent population of 250. When Eureka declined, Palisade declined. As Eureka’s mines slowed down, the Eureka and Palisade Railroad runs became more and more infrequent. A series of disastrous floods struck the town in 1910, wiping out many businesses and damaging the railroads. In 1915, the town still had a population of 242, but within a few years the figure had dropped to less than 150. When the Eureka-Nevada Railroad pulled up its rails in 1938, the end of Palisades was in sight. The post office closed in 1961 and Palisade became a ghost town for good.

Railroad Industry

Virginia and Truckee Railroad

The Virginia and Truckee Railroad is one of the most famous short lines in American history. It was incorporated on March 5, 1868 by the “Bank Crowd” to serve the mines of the Comstock. A railroad was deemed necessary because of the high cost of freighting goods by wagon into and out of Virginia City, and the need to carry ore to the mills along the Carson River.

The Comstock region posed peculiar problems for railroad construction because of its difficult terrain. Isaac (“Ike”) James was selected as its surveying and construction engineer. The building of the Virginia and Truckee proved to be a remarkable achievement. James held the grade to a maximum of 2.2 per cent as the railroad descended 1,600 feet in thirteen and a half miles from Virginia City to reach the mills along the Carson River. To achieve this, the track had to make the equivalent of seventeen complete circles. Most of the work was done by Chinese labor.

The initial twenty-one miles from Virginia City to Carson City was completed on November 29, 1869. The construction to a terminus at Reno, thirty-one additional miles, finally connected the Comstock to the transcontinental Central Pacific Railroad on August 24, 1872.

Virginia City boomed with the discovery of the Big Bonanza in 1873, and the Virginia and Truckee enjoyed stunning success and prosperity. At the Bonanza’s height, the railroad worked twenty-four locomotives and scheduled as many as forty trains a day on a single track. Its refitting facilities were capable of repairing its own and other railway companies’ equipment. The railroad transported valuable ore from the Comstock, and, in return, Virginia City and Gold Hill received timber to shore up mines and build homes.

By 1878, the Big Bonanza had played out and mining production collapsed, although mining on the Comstock would continue on a relatively minor scale for over sixty years. The Virginia and Truckee kept operating on a much reduced scale. Hopeful of future bonanzas elsewhere, the Bank Crowd in 1880 incorporated and built the Carson and Colorado Railroad which connected with the Virginia and Truckee at Mound House, and which thrust southward into the desert for 293 miles to Keeler, California. Unfortunately, since its route went from nowhere to nowhere, it generated no particular traffic.

In 1900, the strapped Virginia and Truckee sold the Carson and Colorado to the Southern Pacific Railroad, just in time for its sold progeny to take advantage of the Tonopah and Goldfield mining booms. Whatever traffic was interchanged with the Virginia and Truckee at Mound House was stopped when the Southern Pacific built a more direct route (“The Hazen Cutoff”) to the central Nevada mining boomtowns. In 1906, the Virginia and Truckee constructed a fifteen-mile extension southward from Carson City to the newly created town of Minden, which transformed the railroad into primarily a carrier of agricultural products.

From 1869 to 1910, Henry Yerington served as the line’s Vice President and General Manager. Darius Mills was president until his death in 1910 to be succeeded by his son Ogden Mills who died in 1929–in turn followed by his son, Ogden Livingston Mills. In 1929, straight passenger service from Virginia City to Reno ended and the road paid its last dividend.

Until Ogden Livingston Mills’ untimely death in 1937, he cheerfully picked up the bills for the declining railroad. His estate was not so accommodating. The road filed for bankruptcy in 1938 and service on the original line of track from Virginia City to Carson City ceased that same year. At first it looked as if operations might have to be shut down entirely, but an upswing in interest by rail fans–and the sale of equipment to Hollywood studios–kept the road going. But competing automobile and truck traffic, the road’s financial inability to invest in new equipment, and deferred maintenance spelled its doom. The last run on the Virginia and Truckee was on May 31, 1950.

Suggested Reading:

David F. Myrick. Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, Vol. I, The Northern Roads. Berkeley: Howell-North Books, 1962.
Mallory Hope Ferrell. The Virginia & Truckee, The Bonanza Road. Hundman Publishing, 1999.