weather icon Clear

Nevada’s Yesteryear: Mines spurred trains’ construction

Mining was the main reason Nevada was developed as a state, what with the very rich Comstock Lode at Virginia City and numerous other communities and camps such as Delamar and Pioche. Mining was equally important in California as well and had been since the gold rush there of 1849.

Railroading was also important as a faster means of transporting the gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, borax, etc., even salt to various camps, stamp mills and processing plants, as well as receiving the necessary supplies for the mining industry.

By 1880, Nevada did have the transcontinental railroad that was along much of what today is Interstate 84, but not really much anywhere else except for a few spur lines like the railroad between Virginia City and Truckee, the V&T, and a small spur between Austin and Palisades.

In the mining town of Candelaria — a ghost town now — near Hawthorne in Mineral County, and other mining camps just across the border in California the work was booming.

Something else that was very much needed was borax and salt, which came from the nearby Teals’ and Rhode’s marshes. A few enterprising men came up with the idea of building a narrow-gauge railway and connecting with the V&T at Mound House at Carson City and extending south by way of Yerington, south of Walker Lake, Hawthorne, Candelaria and on into Keeler in Owens Valley, California.

In 1893, an economic depression in the U.S. halted investment in the mines and many closed as the booms ended. Thereby the lucrative freight and passenger business so eagerly anticipated on the C&C faded badly to something less than skimpy.

Historians have noted that the coach and smoker car of the train often had but only one passenger in the 1890s. The train crew did their best to entertain any passengers on the long and lonely trip. It was very often a most monotonous trip and it was said that only a minister of the gospel could make the trip in either direction and not finish it as an expert at poker, pedro and pinochle.

Young lady passengers received even more attention. The story was told of a young Virginia City school teacher who made the trip to Keeler on a holiday break, but was so exhausted talking to six men at once during the whole trip that she was more in need of a vacation on her return to Virginia City than when she started.

Indians were allowed to ride for free, but had to be in the freight cars if the train had a mixed group of passengers. A stop at the station in Schurz usually picked up half a dozen or so Paiute families and many of them were told they had to ride outside or on top of the freight cars as far as Yerington or Hawthorne.

In summer months the little train chugged along in a cloud of dust and sand. Traveling along the shores of Walker Lake it was common for the train to stop at a particular spot and let everyone go down to the lake to cool off along the beaches. Historians don’t mention if some of the crew and passengers went for a swim. Some probably did though for a little bit, especially the younger children.

Some of the leaders in Nevada government got a start on the little railroad. Gov. Fred Balzar (1927-1934) was a conductor on the train when he was courting a girl in California, whom he later married. She used to drive a buggy to a spot where cattle were loaded on the railroad and Balzar would meet her there and the two would take the buggy back to the nearby ranch where she lived and have lunch. Surprisingly, the train would wait for him to return.

In the fall, it is said the crew members would bring along shotguns for duck and sage hen hunting when the train passed through the Mason Valley country, hiding themselves in among the willows and tules, waiting for a flight of ducks to arrive.

Time schedules for the train were very liberal as would happen with such goings on, so the arrival time at any given stop was almost useless to count on.

In 1900, the Southern Pacific Railroad bought the C&C for $2,700,000 and almost immediately the new mining booms and Tonopah and Goldfield paid off the original investors in the little narrow gauge line many times over. Eventually however, the town continued to decline and finally the Candelaria post office closed in 1935 and the one-time mining town became one of Nevada’s many ghost towns remembered occasionally from its colorful past.

(Adapted from a story by Harold’s Club, Reno, 1952)

Dave Maxwell is a Nevada news reporter with over 35 years in print and broadcast journalism, and greatly interested in early Nevada history. He can be reached at maxwellhe@yahoo.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Working together helps entire region

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” I find that statement to be so true for Southern Nevada. While the people of Boulder City have accomplished many amazing things over the past 92 years, there has always been a spirit of teamwork, collaboration and strong alliances that drive us forward.

Film fest returns to in-person schedule

After two years of trying to do everything online, Lee Lanier is ready to welcome live audiences back to the Dam Short Film Festival. The latest edition of the popular festival is scheduled to run Feb. 16-20 in downtown Boulder City.

Heat tolerance affected by location, proximity to wall

Q. After reading your recent gardening piece I have decided to take your advice and replace the bougainvillea and the western redbud with cat’s claw vine and an apricot and protect it with shade cloth. Is it better to plant a bareroot fruit tree or a potted one? Also, in this hot spot would a peach have as much chance as an apricot? As to shading the plants and wall should they be covered completely or built to only provide afternoon shade? My last question has to do with western redbud. I want to attempt to transplant it to a more favorable location. Is now a good time to transplant and are there steps I can take to help it survive?

Nevada’s Yesteryear: Controversy surrounds lake’s name

As stated by Nevada historian Phillip Earl, “Few of Nevada’s geological features have had a history of controversy quite like that of Lake Tahoe, which graces the California-Nevada border.”

Blatchford to represent BC in state pageant

Taylor Blatchford will be representing her beloved hometown by running as Miss Boulder City in the 2023 Miss Nevada competition June 22 and 23 at Bally’s Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada.

Library takes families on storied path through town

An attraction set up by the Boulder City Library takes patrons on a path through local businesses to read a story as they walk.

Slow drains can lead to costly repairs

Nothing puts a kink in your kitchen or bathroom like a backed-up drain. Treat it quickly and avoid an out of commission sink, shower or tub. Let it go from slow drain to standing water and you’ll be in for a messy, smelly, unsanitary and potentially costly repair.

New year brings opportunities to ‘do something’

Happy new year! As we enter 2023, I hope everyone has enjoyed the holidays and is looking forward to the new year. Considerable progress and goal-setting have been happening, and I wanted to share some of that with you.

Senior Center, Jan. 5-11

Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday at 813 Arizona St., 702-293-3320. Visit the center’s website at www.seniorcenterbouldercity.org.