V & T Historical Narrative
The shops were completed and in full operation by early 1874. Master Mechanic J. W. Bowker's shop rules were published on February 2, 1874 and remained posted in the huge shop complex for decades afterwards. The strict rules required a 10 hour day -- six and seven days a week -- with two hours wages deduction if an employee was more than five minutes late to work. No shop conversation was allowed except on subjects relating to company business and an employee's violation of any of the rules was immediate cause for discharge! By 1878, the V. & T. employed well over 150 men in their shops including 50 mechanists, 14 men in the foundry, 15 in the car shop, 27 in the smith shop, 20 in the paint shop and miscellany, 22 wood men and over 40 general labors. Many of the 74 train men also performed shop work when not called for train service. The V. & T. shops had a revered reputation for promptness, close attention to detail and pride in craftsmanship.
The overall dimensions of the machine shops measured approximately 320 feet by 180 feet with a 60-foot wide open courtyard between the principal shops. Eight separate shops or departments subdivided the main structure with an additional appendage on the interior courtyard of the south wing. The principal shop divisions were the foundry, car shop, round house, machine and repair shop, blacksmith and boiler shop, engine house, pattern shop and supply. A lengthy 1880 description of each department, its major equipment and function as well as an impressive 1917 inventory of the major equipment in the various shops is found in a separate section.
While the machine shop was obviously the railroad's largest shop facility in Carson City, the impressive stone building was one of over a dozen structures which actually comprised the V. & T.'s Carson City shop complex. Among the more substantial of the wood out-buildings were the paint shop built in 1877, the tin shop built in 1874, and the material yards and shed built in 1877. Other specialty structures in the Carson City yards included the motor car house, the oil tank, water tanks, turntable, sand house, derrick house and flanger shed. A more detailed listing of the nearly 40 V. & T. structures in Carson City is found in a separate section.
The Virginia & Truckee originally built the Carson City shops only to handle its own repair and construction requirements and those of affiliated and subsidiary lines; the financial benefits of outside work, however, were quickly realized when the large Carson River mills began sending in profitable orders for shop work. Of 51,198 lbs. of castings poured at the foundry in March 1878, for example, 40,889 lbs. were for outside work orders yielding a profit of $2,687. Shop profit for fiscal years ending 1902 and 1903 exceeded $10.000 each year which represented 3% of the Company's gross receipts or 16% of the railroad's total profit! The list of orders for outside work for decades read like the "Who's Who" of business concerns throughout Nevada, eastern California and as far as Mexico. Repairs were similarly performed on a variety of cars and locomotives for dozens of railroads including Boca & Loyalton, Bodie & Benton, Carson & Colorado, Carson & Tahoe Lumber & Fluming Company, Inyo Development Company, Nevada-California-Oregon, Nevada Copper Belt, Ocean Shore, Sierra Nevada Wood & Lumber Company, Sierra Valley Railway, Southern Pacific, Tonopah Railroad, and the Verdi Lumber Company.
The V. & T. shops had a reputation for being able to fabricate anything from their own glass to attractive private cars; from a cotter pin to an entire mine hoist; from small, intricate parts to entire wagons or steam boilers. The shops readily handled construction and repairs for industries and private parties throughout the area. Typical non-railroad outside jobs included bells for the local Methodist Church and St. Peter's Episcopal Church to major additions for the handsome private residence of Henry M. Yerington. In 1890 the shops manufactured a 30-foot flag pole topped with a ball and star for the school at Dayton, Nevada, while regularly handling repairs for local, state and federal buildings. In 1878, for example, the shop cast a new three ton iron arch on the first coin presses operated by the U. S. Mint at Carson City. The V. & T. placed one of their shop plates on the machine and the press and the V. & T. plate are among prominent exhibits today at the Nevada State Museum located in the former U. S. Mint building in Carson City.