This year's V&T Railroad commemorative medallion may be the most significant ever to supporters of the railroad project.
Even as master coiner Ken Hopple stamped out the first 350 medallions Friday on the Nevada State Museum's historic coin press No. 1, the final pieces of the funding puzzle are coming together. Supporters are rounding up "rolling stock" and Mayor Marv Teixeira is beginning the search for an operator.
Kevin Ray, project coordinator for the Nevada Association for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway, said this year's coin features the locomotive "The Reno." The previous two coins are stamped with the image of "The Inyo" and "The Dayton."
Ray said the first 350 coins in each series are put in special packaging which is numbered in the order they were stamped and signed by Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, chairwoman the Nevada Commission on Tourism. Those first 350 numbered and signed coins cost $100 apiece and most are already spoken for.
After that, Ray said the medallions are on sale for $48 apiece. Each is solid, 99.9 percent pure silver and the size of a silver dollar with the locomotive on one side and the state seal on the other.
The total cost of rebuilding the V&T between Virginia City and Carson City is estimated at $34.2 million. While the money raised by selling the medallions is only $50,000, Ray said it will be a continuing source of money to help operate the railroad.
The final piece of the funding puzzle is expected to get final vote from the Carson City Board of Supervisors this week - an eighth-cent sales tax hike to raise $15 million of that total.
A room tax hike approved two years ago by the Convention and Visitors Bureau raised the $4 million to extend the tracks from Gold Hill across the Overman Pit.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., won $10 million in federal transportation funds for the project and smaller state and federal grants - including $1 million from the Tourism Commission - make up the rest of the budget.
Ron Allen, a member of the V&T commission, said they hope to be running trains all the way to the Carson City line in two years.
Now, he said, efforts are focusing more on finding, purchasing and restoring "rolling stock" for the train line.
Ray said the first locomotive, McCloud Engine No. 18, has already been purchased but the commission is looking for more rolling stock.
Allen said he and fellow commissioner John Tyson head for Montreal and Maine next week to look at a private business car and several passenger cars reported to be available.
Tyson said the commission is preparing to make a bid on six Harriman Coaches built in the 1920s and used by Southern Pacific Railroad for commuter service. The coaches, now in San Francisco, will need full restoration, he said.
While they search for rolling stock, Teixeira and Bob Gray, who has operated the short line between Virginia City and Gold Hill for 20 years, will head to Chattanooga, Tenn., next week for the annual convention of tourist train operators.
Teixeira said the purpose is to begin looking for a contractor to operate the train and learn as much about everything from operations to maintenance to marketing to gift shops and other amenities along the route as possible.
He told supervisors a week ago that the goal is to turn the West's most famous shortline railroad into an internationally known tourist train connecting Virginia City and Carson City within about four years.
When completed in 2009, he said it should draw up to 250,000 visitors a year to the area.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.