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Nevada \ Carson & Colorado Railroad

Carson & Colorado Railroad


Corporate Ownership.
Carson & Colorado Railroad
(Virginia & Truckee Railroad)
1880 - 1900
Southern Pacific Railroad
(as Carson & Colorado Railroad)
1900 - 1905
Nevada & California Railroad
1905 - 1916
Southern Pacific Railroad
1916 - 1960

Last Updated: Jan 11, 2016

As the fabled Comstock boom began to wane, the management of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad took interest in recent silver strikes to the south of the Comstock Lode near Candelaria. These strikes were remote, relying on slow and costly wagon-teams to haul silver and gold ore to mills. A narrow-gauge railroad, they believed, would provide an economical transportation system for bringing ore to the mills they owned along the Carson River.

Incorporated on May 10, 1880 as the Carson and Colorado Railroad ( C & C ) to serve mines in south western Nevada with plans to build as far a south as the Colorado River. Construction on the railroad began on May 31, 1880, and Keeler Ca. (then called Hawley) was reached on August 1, 1883. While the first year of operations turned a small profit, plans to extend the railroad further were shelved. Teetering on the brink on insolvency the railroad was reorganized in 1892 as the Carson and Colorado Railway and for the next 8 years turned a small profit.

In 1900 the Virginia and Truckee Railroad sold the line to the Southern Pacific Company. Two months after the sale to the SP, Silver and gold discoveries at Tonopah, Nevada and later discoveries in Goldfield, Nevada in 1904 inflated traffic to levels unheard of even during the Comstock boom. To meet the need for equipment, the SP shipped narrow gauge equipment from their other narrow-gauge lines, the South Pacific Coast Railroad and the San Joaquin & Sierra Nevada (operated as part of the Northern Railway) to the C&C. The Tonopah boom provided Southern Pacific with a return on its investment.

To alleviate the bottleneck of transloading freight from standard gauge cars to narrow gauge at Mound House, the northern 140 miles of the railroad to Mina, Nevada was converted to standard-gauge in 1905. The Southern Pacific formed a new subsidiary, the Nevada & California Railroad to build a standard gauge connection from Hazen on the Fallon Branch, to Churchill, where it joined the original C&C mainline. The C&C itself was then merged into the N&C. After 25 years, the Carson & Colorado was no more. A decade later the Nevada & California Railroad merged into the Southern Pacific itself.

Portions of the line were abandoned in the 1930s and the 1940s, and operations ceased entirely by 1960. Today a portion of the original line continues operation as part of the Hazen branch of the Union Pacific. Trackage from Churchill to Wabuska. From Wabuska to Thorne the line is owned by the U.S. Government but operated by the Union Pacific.

Revised: July 30, 2019.

Reference Material Available Online:


Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge: Shangri-La is a state of mind.
Trains magazine's first online feature article Published: Friday, August 21, 2009


Collected Carson & Colorado Railroad Photographs.

Collected Nevada & California Railroad Photographs.

Collected Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Railroad Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.

Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge - Owens Valley, CA, January 11, 1960 by Hart Corbett.

A Life Wasted Chasing Trains - SP Narrow Gauge by John West.
Scenes captured during 1959-1960, including 4-6-0 #9's final run on August 25th 1959.

Equipment Rosters.

Carson and Colorado Freight Cars 1881 - 1900.
Compiled from notes curtesy: Brian Norden, Randy Hees, Kyle Wyatt and State Railroad Commission Reports.


Route of the Carson & Colorado Railway circa 1900 for Google Earth.
By Andrew Brandon

Route of the Southern Pacific (Narrow Gauge) circa 1916 for Google Earth.
By Andrew Brandon

Route of the Southern Pacific (Narrow Gauge) 1930 - 1960 for Google Earth.
By Andrew Brandon


Virginia & Truckee Railroad Tonnage Blotter Journal, 1881; pages 26-32 PDF icon 2.6MB
Courtesy: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries.
These final pages of this ledger contain blacksmith shop time records for the Carson and Colorado Railroad, including: "Fifty New Cars (Not Including Trucks)", "Trucks for four new cars" and "Four trucks for 2 New Hay Cars"

Paint Reference.

Color referenece card for Carson & Colorado Freight Equipment 1881 - 1900 by Randy Hees and Andrew Brandon. PDF icon 1.0MB
Paint samples taken from the remains of Carson & Colorado Boxcar/Reefer #344.

Carson & Colorado Railroad: Flat Car #102, circa 1883 by Andrew Brandon. PDF icon 1.4MB
Illustration of a Detroit Car Works built 22' flat car.

Carson & Colorado Railroad: Box Car #303, circa 1886 by Andrew Brandon. PDF icon 1.3MB
Illustration of a La Mothe patent tin-sided box car.


Carson and Colorado Railway.
A 501(c)3 non-profit group dedicated to the resoration and operation of former Southern Pacific narrow gauge #18.

Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Historical Society.
Dedicated to the study of the Southern Pacific narrow gauge lines and their predecessor roads.


Inventory of the Carson and Colorado Railway, 1887-1916.
California State Railroad Museum Library

Nevada \ Carson & Colorado Railroad
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