Monday, June 18, 2012

A trip to the past - Virginia City, Nevada, Home of the Comstock Lode

 Located just a few miles away from Carson City where we were getting some work done on our refrigerator is the historic landmark called Virginia City. We had heard of Virginia City as the famous mining town and home to the fabulous silver mine called the Comstock Lode. Of course, it was also famous as a result of the Bonanza TV show.

Driving from Carson City to Virginia City is only about 7 miles, but involves quite a climb! It is a rare day to climb a 15% grade and Rick was glad he did not have the motorhome on this trip!

Along the drive, we found increasing evidence of old mining activity. Apparently this whole area was heavily (and successfully) mined.

Orinda inspects one of the old mining frames that came from the Comstock and was re-erected as a visitor center in Virginia City. The head frame was used to hoist a mining cage up and down a mine shaft carrying miners into the mine. This frame dates from the early 1900's.

This mining head is still installed in a mine, but did not appear to be used. There is still mining being done in the area, but it looked like tourism is now the big business. 
 Naturally, Rick would find a railroad, even in Virginia City! The Virginia and Truckee railroad was an engineering marvel and ran from Carson City to Virginia City.
 At the height of the boom, over 40 trains a day ran on the rails and carried silver down to Carson City and miners up to Virginia City. Amazing.

 Today, the main street is a bustling tourist attraction, but you can still imagine the heyday of the silver boom which occurred in the mid to late 1800's. The Comstock Lode was a 2.5 mile vein of high grade silver and gold. This produced several hundred million dollars of ore (a huge sum in the 1800's!). During this time, Virginia City was the leading town in the west.

 This building gives an idea as to the prosperity of the city -- it was the elementary school for Virginia City! Now restored, it is easy to imagine the city in it's prime. The silver mined here had tremendous influence and led to statehood for Nevada and the creation of a United States Mint in Carson City.

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