All aboard

Judy DePuy

In May, there will be celebrations across the nation of 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad. Locally, the city of Truckee seems to have the most elaborate and extensive plans to lure tourists to its area. Also working with Truckee are Verdi and Sparks historical associations. City government in Reno, which was created by the Central Pacific, does not have any plans for the commemoration, but the Reno Philharmonic is planning a world premiere of a new work by composer in residence Zhou Tian, dealing with the transcontinental railroad. The spokesperson for Sparks, which is known as the Rail City, was not available for comment. On April 1, the Nevada Railroad Museum in Carson City announced that a new exhibit, “The Transcontinental Railroad: What a Difference it Made,” will be in place by May 10. In Truckee, Judy DePuy is a leader of the celebration.

What is being celebrated?

May 10 is the anniversary of the golden spike being driven. So that would be Central Pacific coming from the west and Union Pacific coming from the east.

Did Truckee have such an elaborate celebration for the centennial?

No, they didn’t have as much of a celebration as we’re doing now because I don’t think 50 years ago they had historians like myself who care about it, to be honest.

Who came up with the idea of throwing Truckee into this project big time?

It would be not only the Truckee Historical Society, but it was also the Roseville, the Rockland, the Donner Summit, all the way through, of the historical societies that realized this is a great way to let people know that our town wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the railroad.

How many historical societies have you got up there?

Well, OK—Roseville, Rockland, Donner Summit, Truckee Donner, the Truckee Donner Railroad Society, the Verdi Historical Society, which is in Nevada. … Because of the article you wrote a month or so ago, the Sparks Heritage Museum has reached out to me, and they’re all in on this 150th anniversary, which is great. … We have written 24 new articles [for distribution during the celebration]. It’ll be 26 shortly, once I finish the last two.

Is this going to be built around the golden spike date, or is it going to be a year-long celebration?

It is for May 10th until September 15th. … Four months of activities.

How much is the City of Truckee getting into it?

Oh, my gosh—they are so—the Chamber of Commerce, the Fourth of July Parade, which is all around the railroad and the history of the railroads.

Talk about the connection between Truckee and Nevada at the time the railroads were built.

If it wasn’t for the railroads, [mining corporations] wouldn’t have been able to get the lumber and the ice that was needed in Nevada for the Comstock mines. They needed the lumber [for square-set supports in the mines]. But then, as they dug deeper and deeper, they needed the ice because it was 140 degrees in the rock and 120 degrees in the air. So, every miner had a 10-hour shift and would be given two buckets of ice when he went down for his shift, and every 15 minutes he was given a cup of ice water to cool his body down. So they needed the ice industry that we had here.