Virginia and Truckee Railroad Company Records

Identifier: NC427
The records of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad consist of 1,162 volumes, 209 boxes, 132 packages, and 251 drawings and maps. There were apparently no photographs donated with this collection, although there are photographs in the microfilmed V & T records at the Nevada State Museum/State Railroad Museum. The collection dates from 1860-1960; the bulk of the material was given to the Special Collections Department in 1952 by V & T vice president and general manager, Gordon A. Sampson. There are no restrictions on use of the collection except as noted in the section describing the drawings.

These records were divided into 20 series by Richard Datin who originally processed the collection. An additional series, number 21, was created when the maps and drawings were individually numbered and inventoried in December, 1990. Records of all but two subsidiary companies were for the most part removed from the V & T collection when it was originally processed. Those records were accessioned and cataloged separately as noted on the previous page, although there are references to subsidiary companies mentioned on the V & T index cards. In addition, a small collection of material about the V & T was donated by Gordon Sampson and accessioned as collection NC446. A third collection was acquired in 1993; see "Land Transfer Documents" which follows.

The collection also contains materials on microfilm or on loan from other institutions. Fifty volumes of field survey notebooks compiled during the Valuation Survey, 1915-1922, are on indefinite loan from the Nevada State Highway Department. Fifty volumes and 5 boxes of materials which were on indefinite loan from the Nevada State Museum were returned to the Museum. Subsequently those materials were microfilmed for the Special Collections Department and the originals transferred to the Nevada State Railroad Museum. The microfilmed records include minutes, bylaws, some financial files, correspondence, drawings, and photographs. Included is material on tracks, spurs, trestles, rolling stock, and buildings; land titles and rights of way; Gordon Sampson's valuation surveys; letters to and from Duncan A. McLeod (proxy holder for shares of V & T stock held by the estates of Ogden Mills, Elizabeth Mills Reid, and Ogden Livingston Mills; and for Gladys Phipps); and receivership and abandonment records. For a more detailed explanation of film contents, see Appendix A, "Microfilmed Records."

The collection is incredibly rich, as one might expect from its large size. These records document not only the railroad itself but the larger context of Nevada history and its subfields: mining; the Comstock Lode; development of Carson City, Virginia City, the Carson Valley, and Reno; water use and development; timber use; development of roads; economic resources of Lake Tahoe; economics; and politics.

The collection contains administrative records, including correspondence, Board of Director's minutes, and reports; legal records such as stock certificates, deeds, abstracts of title, and other land records; and financial records including ledgers, journals, day books, reports, earnings statements, invoices, vouchers, payrolls, and operating expenses. Roadways, structures, equipment, and day-to-day operations are documented in several series. Two subsidiary interests are detailed in Series 17, the Mid-Pacific Railroad and Series 20, the Virginia-Truckee Transit Company and on several rolls of microfilm. One series contains clippings and correspondence which describe the death of the railroad, as do microfilm rolls 3 and 19. Especially interesting is box 150, which contains a history of all the main line, spurs, and sidings, including dates of construction and length as compiled by W. H. Kirk in 1919.


  • 1867-1950



Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


504 Cubic Feet (373 boxes, 300 volumes)


Correspondence, legal papers, financial records, operating and personnel records, maps, schedules, and other records reflecting all phases of the railroad's operations.

Administrative History

The Virginia and Truckee Railroad Company was incorporated in Nevada on March 5, 1868 by principals of the Union Mill and Mining Company and the Bank of California: Darius Ogden Mills, William Sharon, and William C. Ralston. The standard gauge railroad was conceived to provide more efficient and economical transportation between Comstock ore producing mines around Virginia City, quartz reduction mills along the Carson River below Dayton, and lumber yards located near Carson City. The initial twenty-one mile track between Carson City and Virginia City was completed in January of 1870 and the remaining thirty-one mile line was finished in 1872 between Carson City and the Central Pacific tracks in Reno.

At Carson City, the railroad built a massive complex of repair shops which serviced the needs of not only the V & T but also of hundreds of mines, mills, railroads, and small concerns throughout the west coast of the United States and Mexico. With headquarters at Carson City, Vice-President Henry M. Yerington directed the activities of the V & T and several dozen affiliated companies, including the 300-mile narrow gauge Carson and Colorado Railroad. V & T dividends also funded the establishment of Hawthorne, Nevada; lumbering operations at Lake Tahoe; the Columbus Wagon Road from Carson to Bodie; one of the country's first natural soda products plant at Owens Lake, California; and dozens of mines and mills at Aurora, Bodie, Candelaria, Hawthorne, Cerro Gordo, and Columbus. The last track construction took place during 1905-1906 when a line was built from Carson City to Minden in order to tap the fertile agricultural resources of the Carson Valley.

With the decline in Comstock mining activity and the influx of auto and truck competition, the Virginia and Truckee started a gradual decline during the early 1920s. The tracks between Carson and Virginia City were removed late in 1941. Each year from 1932 to 1949, the management of the V & T was forced to seriously consider total abandonment of the line in the face of continuing debt. On May 31, 1950, the V & T made its last scheduled run from Minden to Reno and the famous line has since become a legend as the "Queen of the Short Lines."


The records of the Virginia and Truckee Railrad are arranged into the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence

Series 2: Legal

Series 3: Administrative

Series 4: Stocks and Securities

Series 5: Accounting

Series 6: Land Records

Series 7: Roadway and Structures

Series 8: Equipment and Shops

Series 9: Transportation

Series 10: Traffic

Series 11: Valuation

Series 12: Legislative Matters

Series 13: Ephemera

Series 14: Timetables and Tickets

Series 15: Abandonment

Series 16: Interstate Commerce Commission

Series 17: Mid-Pacific Railroad

Series 18: Personnel

Series 19: State Agencies

Series 20: Virginia-Truckee Transit Company

Series 21: Maps and Drawings

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Gordon A. Sampson in 1950; transferred via the Mackay School of Mines in 1961.

Related Materials

Additional Virginia and Truckee Railroad Company materials located at:

Nevada State Museum, Capitol Complex, 600 N. Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada 89710

Nevada State Historical Society, 1650 N. Virginia Street, Reno, Nevada 89503

Huntington Library, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, California 91108

California State Railroad Museum Library, 111 I Street, Sacramento, California 95814

Separated Materials

Photographs have been transferred to the Special Collections Department photo archive as collection number UNRS-P1997-68.
A Guide to the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Company Records
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)