Knowing Nevada: The history and tourism of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad

The Virginia & Truckee Railroad captures a moment in time from Nevada's history (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

The Polar Express is a Christmas classic that comes to life each holiday season. And it's built on a piece of Nevada history that comes with a story in itself.

Tom Gray and his family bought what was left of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad in the 1970s.

Built in 1869, it joined the Great Central Pacific Railroad to connect the Midwest and Pacific.

"It brought all of the tremendous amount of supplies into the Comstock to fuel the boom -- of course all the lumber, the timber, the ice," said

In Northern Nevada, it was the only way to move crops, people and goods, for a while at least.

"Technology caught up, and the highway system was built, and trucks got developed, and the railroads became an obsolete way to transport stuff for a short distance,"

So the V&T sat idle for nearly 50 years. Then the Gray family got an idea.

The popular television series "Bonanza" finished its 14th and final season in the mid 1970s. There were 431 episodes, which came out to years of putting Lake Tahoe and Virginia City on national display.

Once the series concluded, the tourist attraction and museum on rails we know today was formed.

"People came to Virginia City to see what it was like, and it was a time capsule," . "It still is a time capsule; it's one of the hearts of Nevada."

The Polar Express is now 6 years old, and it's one of the many special events highlighting the old V&T for 40 years now.

The summertime six-hour ride is the true history lesson of the historic route between Carson City and Virginia City, however.

To learn more about the history and events, visit

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