Last week someone gave my son a brochure for Train Town in Sonoma, California. Apparently this place is pretty unbelievably awesome for kids. It has 1/4 scale steam locomotive replicas that travel a short track through a forrest in the heart of Sonoma. We kept telling him that we’d take him there soon. He kept folding and unfolding the little tri-fold brochure, looking over the images and text saying, “I want to go to Train Town NOW!” And, “I wanna ride on THAT train!”
Sonoma isn’t that far away, but we couldn’t just pack up at 8:00 on a week night and head over the hill. But we live in Reno, NV and just over the hill to the East is the anachronistic town of Virginia City, where the way is was is the way it still is, including the Historic Virginia & Truckee Railroad.
The website for the V&T is kind of a mess, and confusing if you don’t understand that there are two separate train rides you can take. The one described here is the short one that runs from F Street Station in Virginia City through a few tunnels on a 15 minute ride down to Gold Hill, Nevada where it stops for a few minutes then heads back for a total trip time of only 35 minutes at a ticket price of $9 or $11. The other one runs from down in Carson City along HWY 50 all the way up to the F Street Station and takes over an hour. That one costs $48 per adult and is a much longer ride.
While we took the short one, we did stick around the station to watch the arrival of the steam train from Carson City. It was cool to see it chugging up the hill to the depot. You can walk all around it and watch the linkages and bearings turn as the steam pushes the powerful pistons.
For my son and his cousin, the short train was just fine. Their attention span and our energy levels are evenly matched for now. For older kids, and adults, the longer train might be worth while, though at nearly $50 per adult, it’s a steep family bill. But if you want to visit Virginia City, and try to pretend you’re arriving in the Wild West town “the way it was” the way they used to arrive, it would be worth it to ride the Virgina & Truckee Railroad up from carson city.
But you’d better do it by the end of October as both trains stop regular runs this month. The Sisters in History route from Carson City to Virginia City ends service on October 21st and the Historic Route runs through October 31st. You can view schedules and purchase Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company Tickets online.