History of The Locomotive Glenbrook

The railroading history of Nevada includes much more than the well known Virginia and Truckee and Central Pacific railroads. There have been several short-line, narrow-gauge railroads that hauled freight, logs and passengers throughout the region. Some of these had a long and colorful record of service during the boom days of the Comstock and the days before there was widespread motorized highway transportation.

In the 1980s, I spent eight years working for the homeowners association at the community of Glenbrook on the east shore of Lake Tahoe. During this time, I became familiar with the history of the Glenbrook Railroad, otherwise known as the Carson & Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Co. Several times I hiked the old roadbed from Glenbrook through Slaughterhouse Canyon and up the “switchback” where the train once hauled lumber and cord wood from the Glenbrook pier to the top of Spooner Summit. At the summit, the material was transferred from the railcars to the V-flume where it was carried down the hill to Carson City to a huge lumberyard near where the Nevada State Railroad Museum is now located. Most of this material was then used for building construction in Virginia and Carson, with tons of timbers being sent to the Virginia City mines on the V&T Railroad.

The locomotive “Glenbrook” was a 2-6-0 narrow-gauge locomotive built for industrial use in Philadelphia in 1875. The iron workhorse continued to operate the route from Glenbrook to Spooner until 1898. By then much of the timber in the Tahoe Basin had been depleted and the demand for timber on the Comstock had diminished. The Bliss family, owners of the Carson & Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Co., then dismantled the Glenbrook railroad and constructed the Lake Tahoe Railway. They used the locomotive Glenbrook on the run from Truckee to Tahoe City hauling lumber and taking tourists to the Tahoe City pier where they could board cruise ships for tours around Lake Tahoe and various resort destinations.

In 1926, the Lake Tahoe Railway was sold to the Southern Pacific Railroad, but the Bliss family kept the Glenbrook locomotive. It became a source for spare parts when the family sold it to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad. The Bliss family was concerned the steamship “Tahoe” and the “Glenbrook” would be scrapped and fall into the hands of the Japanese during World War II. As a result, they sunk the steamer in Glenbrook Bay and repurchased the Glenbrook locomotive. At the urging of Miss Hope Bliss, they then donated the aging locomotive to the Nevada State Museum in 1943. I can remember when the locomotive Glenbrook was on display alongside the Nevada State Museum where it was placed from 1943 to 1981. In 1981, the Glenbrook was sent to the restoration shop at the Nevada State Railroad Museum where it has been restored to the way it looked in the 1800s.

While I was working for the Glenbrook Homeowners Association, I came to know Bill Bliss and his family. Bliss and the association had the locomotive Glenbrook hauled up from the Nevada State Railroad Museum on a transport truck for a fundraiser bash and rodeo to help with the restoration effort.

This was the first time since 1898 the locomotive came home to the town. Many of the affluent residents of the community contributed to help with the effort to make the beautiful old artifact run once again.

Dennis Cassinelli is a Dayton author and historian who can be contacted at cassinelli-books@charter.net or on his blog at denniscassinlli.com. All books sold through this publication will be at a 20 percent discount and Dennis will pay the postage.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment