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Shortline Railroads


Depression-era road development pushed all-weather highways into formerly inaccessible territories. This allowed mail delivery to be shifted to trucks, condemning parallel railroads to abandonment. At the same time, the value of scrap iron was increasing, buoyed by purchases from Japan and a rearming United States.

Unable to compete with trucks, and with their passenger business lost to automobiles and buses, some shortline railroads found themselves worth more as scrap than as operating railroad companies. It was an ironic paradox: Railroads that had survived the Depression were killed off in the recovery.

Dozens of shortlines were abandoned and torn up for salvage during the Depression. In Nevada alone, the Randsburg Railway was abandoned in 1933, parts of the Nevada Copper Belt lost service in 1933 and 1935, the Nevada Central Railway was abandoned in early 1938, as was part of the Nevada & California Railway, followed by the Eureka & Palisade Railroad a few months later.

Service on the Virginia City line of the fabled Virginia & Truckee Railroad was discontinued in 1939, and the Tonopah & Tidewater stopped operating in mid-1940. The rails that weren't torn up immediately disappeared during wartime scrap drives.


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