Always looking for better and faster ways to move the logs and lumber from the Tahoe Basin to Virginia City, the owners of the mills started building railroads – all kinds of railroads!
It appeared to some that an immense amount of money was being spent by these companies, however, many believe that more money was made by the lumber and freight companies than was ever made at the Virginia City mines. After all, the mines were not their only customers, there were lots of towns being built nearby and the transcontinental railroad needed ties for their tracks, along with cords and cords of firewood to power its many steam locomotives.
At the southwest end of the lake, near Yank Clement’s station, Matthew Gardner leased 1000 acres of timber rights in 1872. There he split fir and cedar for cordwood and shakes and cut pine logs. He had a contract with Bliss, Yerington and Company that called for sixty million board feet of lumber, so he decided to build a standard-gauge railroad to haul it to the lake for transport to their facility at Glenbrook.
The line ran from the west side of Lake Valley to Gardner’s Camp (Camp Richardson). His equipment consisted of the Virginia & Truckee’s “Ormsby” engine and nine flat cars that had been hauled up and over the Sierra to Glenbrook and then ferried across the lake.
Gardner harvested the trees as far south as Meyers and then went west into the mountains. When the trees in one area were used up, he simply picked up the track and moved it to a new area.
Gardner was sued by Bliss and Yerington for cheating on the amount of lumber he said he shipped to them. Gardner, who believed they were trying to get his railroad, won in court and then sold the entire operation to one of their competitors. However, Bliss and Yerington would ultimately end up owning it.