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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 55

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Chapter 8 Short line from Tonopah Junction…“ Railroad Days”… Indians, Floats, and the Carson Band… Prize Money for the Losers… The Governor’s Gunman and Others… A Drilling Contest RAILROAD DAYS - July 25,26, and 27, 1904. Days are milestones in life, and certainly these days were milestones in Tonopah’s life and mine. July 25 had been selected as the date for the driving of the last spike - a gold one, of course - to mark the completion of the railroad between Tonopah Junction, a few miles south of Sodaville, and Tonopah. Sodaville, you will remember, was the place where, on our wedding journey, we changed for “ all points in the world,” as the conductor told us. Now the track had been extended east to Tonopah, and the days of the stagecoach and twenty- mule team were drawing to an end. A three- day celebration was planned. For weeks committees had been working on details: literary exercises, music, decorations, games, drilling, free lemonade and ice cream, dancing, fireworks. The whole world was invited. Also coming to town was the “ Carson Band,” a group of young businessmen from Carson City who played at every notable event in Nevada. For several months Hugh and I had sauntered each evening to the brow of the hill, whence we could view the sunset and at the same time watch the daily progress of the distant speck on the desert that we knew was the railroad construction camp. To my ever- dramatic mind, the camp, as it grew larger with its slow advance, had all the elements of a deliverer. By the middle of July it was a fifty- fifty gamble as to whether the rails would actually be in place in time for the celebration to proceed on schedule. Every available man was hired, and many men in town volunteered their services. As a result, the road was graded, the ties placed, and the rails laid. The engine was run over the rails and spikes were driven into the rails behind the engine. Anything and everything was done that would help to lay the last few miles of track before the appointed day. About five o’clock in the afternoon of July 24, the last rail was in place, the engine pulled into the freight yard, and every mine whistle in the district turned loose to let us know the celebration was really on. But no one knew even then whether the track could be made safe for the special trains to roll into the Tonopah station, trains that were already on their way from Reno, Carson City, and even from California. On the edge of town, huge bonfires made great pools of light, in which we could see men and horses sweating and straining to anchor the rails to the ties. In case the track could not be used, Tasker Oddie’s teams would stand by to haul the passengers that last quarter mile.



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