Archives » July, 2005

July 10, 2005


Yesterday afternoon a brush fire broke out in the hills south of Gardnerville, sending up a plume of smoke that could be seen from the entire Carson Valley and even parts of Carson City.

Called the “Mud Lake Fire”, it was centered a few miles northeast of Woodfords, on the other side of the California state line. Thanks to a quick response from firefighters all over the area, there is no plume of smoke this morning, meaning it’s been put out, or nearly so.

The cause hasn’t been determined yet, but this just serves as another reminder that we’ve got another hot, dry summer on our hands, and that fire and the outdoors generally don’t mix well this time of year. So if you’re going to go around shooting fireballs, keep it indoors!

July 7, 2005

Laying the Rails on the V&T

Three months to the day after they held the official groundbreaking ceremony, workers began to lay new rails on the extension of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. During that three months they’ve torn down a mountain, filled in a pit, graded the right-of-way to just the perfect slope, and laid down gravel for the trackbed. Now the rails are going in place, and probably within another month the new track will be ready for trains to roll across it. This is a fantastic rate of progress for a project that has been stalled for decades. We can only hope that the remaining phases go as quickly as Phase One has.

The article in the Nevada Appeal is another good one by Becky Bosshart, and it mostly focuses on the trackworkers, the ones who are actually out in the sun, swinging hammers to drive the railroad spikes. The company doing the work is RailWorks, and the impression you get from the article is that the work is intensely physical, involving heavy sledgehammers, broken mauls, and unforgiving steel rails. But the workers also have to be highly skilled, since placing the rails just a few inches too far one way or the other can cause a derailment. These guys are laying 350 feet of track every day, and each inch of it has to be just perfect.

Also in V&T news, the Nevada State Railroad Museum brought out its prize engine over the 4th of July weekend, the wood-fired #22, the Inyo. This 130-year-old locomotive is one of only a handful of remaining engines from the old V&T, and she usually only comes out for special occasions. She always makes an appearance on the 4th of July before heading back inside her barn.

The Inyo on the track in front of the Nevada State Railroad Museum, pulling a few passenger cars.

A closeup of the Inyo.

The Inyo is much more fortunate than another surviving V&T locomotive, the Reno. Built in 1872, the Reno pulled the first scheduled train between Reno and Virginia City, and proceeded to serve the V&T for decades to come. But then many of the V&T engines, including the Inyo and the Reno, were sold in the mid 1900s when the railroad hit hard times. They were sold to movie studios, and did time as “movie trains”, appearing in films like Union Pacific and How the West Was Won. But while the Inyo eventually made its way back to Carson City, the Reno ended up at Old Tuscon studios in 1970, and there it’s stayed ever since. In 1995 Old Tuscon was devastated by fire, and the Reno was badly damaged. But soon she was called into action for another movie, Wild Wild West. The movie people agreed to repair the fire damage and restore her to her historic appearance, and today she is advertised as the star of Old Tuscon, even if she is no longer operational. Not everyone agrees that Old Tuscon is the best place for the Reno, though. Some people think she is being forgotten and neglected in Arizona, and that she deserves to come home to Carson City.

Out of all the locomotives that ran on the V&T, only two are still operational today. The Inyo, and V&T #25, which is brought out at the Railroad Museum on not-so-special holidays like Father’s Day. These original V&T engines won’t be running on the new track up to Virginia City once the line is completed. The little oval of track they have at the museum won’t connect to the new rails that are going to terminate on Carson City’s east side, and the Railway Commission already has a steam engine they bought from McCloud Railroad which will be making the daily runs up the hill. So even though the Inyo probably has a long life ahead of it, it most likely will never get to ride the rails up to Virginia City again.

There is one engine that will get to make the trip back up the hill, but it won’t be doing it by rail. In August, V&T #18, the Dayton, will be brought from the Railroad Museum to Virginia City by flatbed truck to be put on display at the new Comstock History Center. The Dayton isn’t operational, though, so it won’t be running up and down the rails. It will just be sitting as a museum piece. And the plans are, in a couple of years, to bring it back to Carson City and swap it out for V&T #27, another non-operational engine. The funny thing about #27 is that while it never went up to Virginia City while it was operational, it did sit on display on E Street in Virginia City for many years in the late 1900s before being brought down to Carson City for restoration.

So it looks like Virginia City’s about to get overrun with trains once again.

July 5, 2005

4th of July at Lake Tahoe

This year for the 4th of July we did something different. Usually we’ll go to Carson City, to Mills Park to see the fireworks. Or if we’re feeling adventurous we’ll head up to Virginia City and watch the fire department race back and forth across town putting out all the brush fires that the pyrotechnics cause. But this year we went up to Lake Tahoe, got a spot on the beach nice and early, and spent the whole day there sitting on blankets and swimming in the icy alpine waters. Then, after dark, we stayed around to watch the “Lights on the Lake” fireworks display, and it blows away anything that Carson City or VC can put on. So I think we’ve got a new tradition, even if it took us an hour to get out of the parking lot after it was all over.

Nevada Beach, on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, where we spent the day. Of course it’s a panorama. Click for a 366kb large version.

Sammy enjoyed playing in the sand.

There were plenty of cops on hand to enforce the “No Alcohol” rules.

The Nevada Beach campground, right next door. Also the home of the closest flush toilets to the beach.

The pounding surf of Lake Tahoe gets worse in the afternoon, with swells up to ten inches.

We even had a goose invasion around dinnertime.

And of course the whole day ended with fireworks.

The Lights on the Lake has been going on for over 20 years, with one show on the 4th of July, and another on Labor Day. Of course the show on the 4th is the big one every year.

Today the Nevada Appeal posted 30 seconds from the Carson City fireworks show on their website. And, well, I hate to say I’ve one-upped them, but I put a full 12 minutes of the Lake Tahoe show over on Ourmedia. Go there to watch it, or download it directly from this link (44 megabyte Windows Media). The only thing I’m upset about is that I missed the finale, because I ran out of tape in the camcorder. That’s what I get for not being a Boy Scout and not being prepared.

July 2, 2005

June Ormsby House Update

The year is halfway over, and the Ormsby House is halfway done! What a coincidence! What a perfect time for another update!

The June Gallery is now live. And this month brings a new virtual home for the Orsmby House. I’ve moved the gallery from the Computer Vet over to my new website, Around Carson. This new site is meant to provide coverage of all things Carson City and Carson Valley, and the Ormsby House fits in with that perfectly. So the gallery has a new URL,

Of course, things never go smoothly. I figured out how to set up an Apache redirect so that all requests for the gallery at the Computer Vet would be forwarded automatically to Around Carson. And it was working fine. But then something happened; maybe I accidentally overwrote the .htaccess file or something, but the redirect went dead. And I had already removed the gallery from Computer Vet, so people who were following Computer Vet links were getting nowhere. 404. And, since Google had indexed the Computer Vet URL, I was dropped from Google. After untold days I discovered the snafu and fixed the redirect, and everything’s back to the way it was. But I’m sure there’s going to be some fallout from all of this, especially trying to get back to the top of Google.

Anyway, you can poke around the rest of Around Carson if you want, but there’s not a lot to see. The only part that’s really ready is the Around Carson Forums, where I just happen to have made a special forum for the Ormsby House. If you want to talk about your Orsmby House memories, that’s the place you should go.

Or, just enjoy the update.

URL Rewriting and mod_rewrite Not Working? Read On!

Okay, so I was trying to use mod_rewrite on Apache. That’s the program you use to take a URL like this: /photos/viewphoto?photoid=5 and turn it into something pretty like: /photos/viewphoto/5. It makes your URLs look better on the surface, but underneath the server still gets to play with all the messy query strings that keep your database-backed site humming.

So anyway, I was trying to do the example shown above, and every online tutorial showed me that I should put these lines in my .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule viewphoto/([0-9]+) viewphoto.html?id=$1 [NC]

But it was not working. Just was not. I would go to /photos/viewphoto/5, and get the viewphoto.html page with no query string attached to it. What could be wrong?

On a whim once, I changed the URL requested to /photos/viewPhoto/5. Notice the capital P? That made it work. But why? Why would it work with a capital letter, but not all in lower case?

After much walking around and banging my head, I finally figured out the reason. mod_rewrite only works if you’re getting a 404 error from your URL. When I requested /photos/viewphoto/5, the server could see that there was already a file named viewphoto.html. So it just served up that file, and didn’t get mod_rewrite involved at all. What I had to do was change the URL so that I’d get a 404 Page Not Found error if my rewrite rules weren’t there. So I did this:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule view/([0-9]+) viewphoto.html?id=$1 [NC]

And requested the page like so: /photos/view/5. Now, because there was no view.html, the server sent the request to mod_rewrite, and my rewrites happened like I wanted them to.

So be careful about this if you’re using mod_rewrite. Don’t give your “pretty” URLs a filename that actually exists on the system, or your rewrites will never work.

To see this at work, check out a sneak preview of my new Around Carson website. I’m using it in the photo section.