Nevada's rail history dates back to 1868 when the Central Pacific Railroad
reached the state building east from Sacramento, California. The CP, of
course, was a product of the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, signed into
law by President Abraham Lincoln, which sought to construct a
Transcontinental Railroad. The CP would be the western railroad
building east while the Union Pacific headed west from Omaha, Nebraska.
As many know, of course, the two railroads met at Promontory Point,
Utah completing the line on May 10, 1869. The CP would soon after
become part of the Southern Pacific system. In the proceeding years the
Silver State would be home to a number of celebrated western railroads.
While Nevada is historically remembered by the operations of the UP and SP the much smaller Western Pacific also had a considerable presence through the state with its Salt Lake City-Sacramento/Bay Area main line traveling through the northern region of Nevada (it also had a branch extending to Reno).
Today, Nevada railroads are almost exclusively the realm of Union
Pacific (although BNSF does continue to have a presence in the way of
trackage rights across the state). There is currently only two other
freight railroads operating in the state, the Nevada Industrial Switch
and the S&S Shortline Railroad. The former operates a former UP
branch, beginning operations in the mid-1990s and serves the Pabco
Gypsum Mine which produces standard sheets of drywall. The latter
railroad is multifaceted operation providing car sales and leasing as well as providing train rides
in Farmington, Utah (the S&S Railroad Shortline Park & Museum).
However, it also owns a roughly 50-mile stretch of track between
Shafter and Currie, Nevada where it has an interchange with Union
Pacific. Currently, the company only uses the property for car storage.
While passenger trains like the California Zephyr and City of San Francisco are no longer operated by their original creators, the CZ remains under the Amtrak banner with stops in Elko, Winnemucca, Sparks and Reno. Today, there are about 1,200 miles of rails currently active and in some state of use in Nevada. During the industry's heyday of the 1920s (when mileage peaked in the country) Nevada was home to nearly 2,200 miles of rails. Since that time the state has lost about 45% of its railroad infrastructure, which is on par with what most other states have experienced during that time. In any event, for a more in-depth look at Nevada, in terms of rail mileage over the years please have a look at the chart above.
So, if trackside along the UP becomes boring stop by the V&T or
Nevada Northern to see classic railroading at its finest! As for
railroad museums and excursion trains,
Nevada is home to just a few of these, although they are notable
including the Nevada Northern Railway, Nevada Southern Railway, the
fabled Virginia & Truckee, and the Nevada State
Railroad Museum. All four are fascinating in their own right and
receive a fair amount of visitors each year. To learn more about them
and other areas of the state's railroad history please check out the
links below. In all, Nevada railroads, while remote, are rich in
history and still offer main line, Class I action.
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