2nd Jul 2012
Trains, Radios & School
Plans being what they are, our aim of spending a night in Carson City ended up as a quick look from the car as we drove through on the way to our next port of call, Reno. Neither of us had any real reason to see Reno other than the fact that it was there, we were quite close, and had a night to kill before getting to our next home-swap near Lake Tahoe.
We left our $60-a-night luxury abode in Minden and drove the few miles to Carson City. Just on the southern outskirts of Carson City, we spotted a couple of old railway engines obviously ‘under steam’, as I think the expression goes. Curiosity aroused, we turned into the car park of the Nevada State Railroad Museum and asked what was going on. “Fourth of July Power-up” (or something like that), said the really helpful guy at the ticket office. “They’re going to run these two old locos around the little circular track for a bit before offering rides”. So we got the camera out and took loads of photos of these two old engines (the one with the proper funnel dates from 1875 and burns wood), as they chugged around the little (200m diameter), circular track. You can see it if you search Google Maps for 2180 South Carson Street, Carson City, NV and zoom in a bit.
So that was a nice coincidence and some of the photos will join this diary entry. We got in the car, drove slowly (‘cos that was the speed-limit), through Carson City looking at the fine old historical buildings that lined the route. OK, maybe not lined, more scattered. We had a choice of route to Reno: either direct, or via Virginia City. It had been suggested that Virginia City was worth a look, so we chose the detour.
Following the discovery of silver in 1859, mines were dug and Virginia City appeared, as if from nowhere. Apparently at its peak, it had a population of over 15,000. It took less than 40 years to mine all the silver in the area and by 1900, the place almost reached ghost-town status. Today, it has a population of about 1000 and during the day that must more than treble. Whilst having lunch in the Old Saloon, we overheard the waiter tell a customer that after 5pm, the place is dead.
Sad really, because we spent a very pleasant few hours wandering round the town, the old (and original) schoolhouse and the Radio Museum. Stephanie wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of a radio museum, so yours truly spent almost an hour in the basement of Henry and Sharon Roger’s house, which is absolutely crammed with old radio gear. These two amateurs have put together a finer collection of old radio equipment (much of it in working order) than ANY other museum I have ever visited. Whereas more museums have a few widely-spaced items in each display case, each of the 20 or so cabinets were absolutely packed! I make no apology for sounding geeky - I could easily have spent an afternoon chatting to the very knowledgeable Henry about the stuff he had there.
But reality struck, and herself wanted to ride on the little train that goes from Virginia City all the way to Gold Hill and back. A 6 mile round-trip, all under the power of steam and smoke. The most memorable bit of this 35 minute trip was when we went through the 150yd long tunnel and were almost suffocated by the sulphurous, sooty coal smoke from the engine. Really atmospheric…
And then on to “The Biggest Little City In The World” as Reno likes to call itself.