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One lesson in life that I have learned is that one cannot judge by first appearances. My first impression of Nevada when crossing the state line was of desert wasteland. While this is true it holds many treasurers in the form of mineral wealth. The coming of the railroads in the 1860's opened up the interior to cross-country travel and commerce. The Carson Valley is located just over the California/Nevada stateline. The Carson River is the source of water for Reno & Carson City and years ago for the 60+ ore processing mills built along its riverbanks.

The railroads consumed an inordinate amount of wood from the forests of the Sierra Nevada mountains for the rail ties, tressel bridges, snow sheds, water towers, passenger stations, etc. to build the main line of the Central Pacific railroad. Once precious and semi-precious metals were discovered in the Nevada Territory about a dozen 'short lines' were built to reach the hundreds of mines established to extract gold, silver, copper, tin, boxite, lead, mercury, zinc, and several other ores. These short lines brought supplies to the mines and transported ore from the mines to the mills in the Carson River Valley. The demand for timber was so great that the eastern side of the mountains were defaced of all timber. Timber mills were built to cut logs into dimension lumber for the railroads and the mines for shoring up the mineshafts. To solve the timber problem the lumber companies constructed sawmills along the high elevation lakes on the western slopes, built sluiceways using a reverse siphon method to force the sluiced lumber up and over grades and then down to timber collection yards by the railroads. It was then loaded on flat cars for delivery to the mines & railroad construction sites. In 1876, 71.6 million board feet of lumber was produced along with 212,000 cords of fuel wood for the locomotives. The demand for wood was never ending as every 20 miles along the rails a water tower and wood refueling station was required. Wood was the sole source of fuel for the steam engines and water was basic for the making of steam. Central Pacific's steam locomotive inventory grew to 69 engines. The Nevada desert is arid so 'water replentishing' trains were required to visit the refueling stations with the water siphoned from the train into the water towers. Nevada has the least amount of rainfall of any State in the US.

I drove over to Virginia City and through Silver City, and Gold Hill on the way. Picture this-- These fabled towns are in the absolute middle of nowhere. Desert hills and mountains are the scene. Old abandoned buildings and mine tracings can be seen from the highway. In Virginia City there are about 3-4 parallel streets with short cross streets running up and down the steep hills. The Main Street has been restored to its old west appearance with 'false-front' buildings lining the street. There are shops, eateries, saloons, tourist gift stores in an old west flavor. In the 1860's & 1870's Virginia City's pop. swelled to 30,000 residents and was an important center for progress and high culture. It boasted fine restaurants with fresh seafood, imported French wines, a 5 story hotel with an elevator, an opera house, over 100 saloons, 5 millinary stores, and a dozen newspapers. Keep in mind that the Comstock Lode mine, located there produced over a $Billion dollars (today's money) in silver ore during that period. President Lincoln learned of the silver strike and within 3 years Nevada became a State. Lincoln needed Nevada's wealth to help finance the Union Armies in the Civil War. More on the Nevada State Museum and Carson City Mint in the next blog

Posted by dixter 20:36 Archived in USA Tagged city virginia

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