Combination Car No. 16

Wooden combination car No. 16 was built in late 1874 for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad by the Detroit Car Works. In the two years since the Virginia & Truckee's line between Reno and Virginia City was completed, the railroad acquired fourteen passenger cars: every one was in constant operation in two or more of the railroad's twenty daily passenger and mixed trains. With the rise of Comstock prosperity, these small wooden coaches were crammed beyond capacity and passengers frequently had to stand during the three-hour trip from Virginia City to the Central Pacific Railroad connection at Reno.

To meet the increased demand in late 1874, V&T General Superintendent Henry M. Yerington ordered two combination cars from the Detroit Car Works. Delivered in December of 1874, cars 15 and 16 featured elegant interior ash, oak and black walnut woodwork. No. 16 was used primarily on winter mixed passenger and freight trains. The 52-mile trip between Reno and Virginia City cost passengers $3.00 or $2.00 for the shorter 31-mile ride between Reno and Carson City.

Combination car No. 16 served on the V&T until 1938 -- a work history of more than sixty-three years. It was sold in that year to the Eastern Railroads Presidents' Conference and appeared in the spectacular pageant "Railroads on Parade" at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair.


In 1940 the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society acquired the car. Over the years it has been included in several railroad celebrations, including the Chicago Railroad Fair of 1948-1949. The car was presented to the State of California in 1969 for eventual inclusion in the Railroad Museum at Old Sacramento.

Restoration work was extensive as the car suffered from major structural damage and dry rot. The car has been returned to its 1875 appearance, painted light green with red, maroon, and gilt trim and lettering. The interior woodwork has been painstakingly refinished. American-made nineteenth-century seats once used in New Zealand cars were re-upholstered in rich green mohair and installed. The elaborate ceiling cloths, hand-painted in oil colors on linen canvas, are exact replicas of the badly worn originals. The age-damaged ceiling cloths have been preserved by the Museum.

Combination car No. 16 is displayed in the Museum's Great Hall behind Virginia & Truckee steam locomotive No. 12.