by Dennis Cassinelli
For 65 years, this 4-4-0 American type locomotive performed admirably, pulling freight and passenger cars from Virginia City to Carson City and Reno, and in its later years as the V & T’s switch engine and primary snowplow, clearing the tracks during winter storms. On July 4, 1906, a gaily decorated DAYTON pulled the first passenger train over the newly completed Carson City-Minden branch of the V & T line. Number 18 saw limited service thereafter due to the V & T Railroad’s acquisition of larger, more powerful steam engines.
Paramount Pictures bought the DAYTON from the V & T Railroad in 1938 for $1,000 for a premier role in the film Union Pacific. Over the next 20 years, DAYTON appeared in 15 different Paramount films, including The Harvey Girls (starring Judy Garland), Nevada City (starring Roy Rogers) and Dakota (starring John Wayne). In 1969, DAYTON was modified to represent Union Pacific Engine No. 119 for the Golden Spike Centennial celebration at Promontory, Utah, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. In 1970, DAYTON , along with V & T No. 22, the INYO, returned to the Golden Spike National Historic Site where they remained on display for several years. Then, in 1974, Paramount Pictures sold the two aging locomotives to the State of Nevada.
The DAYTON returned to Carson City in late 1978. Shortly after the Nevada State Railroad Museum opened its doors, a restoration study showed that DAYTON (the older of two Central Pacific-built models still in existence) would require a new boiler to ever operate again. Based on the study’s findings, it was decided that DAYTON would receive only a cosmetic restoration, returning it to its 1882 appearance. In May 1982, the public viewed the restored DAYTON for the first time at a quiet ceremony marking the centennial of its rebuilding. In 2004, DAYTON was given a new facelift at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, preparing it for its current home in Virginia City at the Comstock History Center, where it shines as a rich and valuable part of the Comstock’s colorful past. A visit to Virginia City would not be complete without a visit to DAYTON and the Comstock History Center.