The Austin-Reese River Toll Road

Prior to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad in the mid- 1860’s, Austin served as the major supply center for early central and northern Nevada mining camps. Hundreds of wagons a month traveled eastward along the Central Overland Trail bringing supplies from California, which would then be distributed out of Austin. As construction of the Central Pacific Railroad approached Nevada, it became clear that the tracks were going to bypass the community well to the north. The citizens of Austin, realizing that the town’s role as a major supply hub was threatened, organized the Austin and Reese River Transportation Company to raise funds to construct and operate a toll road that would connect with the railroad.

Charles Crocker, an important figure in the economic development of California and responsible for spearheading construction of the Central Pacific Railroad, helped finance the construction of the road. He also promised to build the town of Argenta at the point where the toll road intersected the tracks. When the road was completed and trains began arriving at Argenta, two stages a day were needed to carry all the passengers. The toll road appears to have remained active until the tracks were extended to Elko and stage routes was built southwards to White Pine, at which time traffic dried up. About a decade later, the toll road was replaced by the Nevada Central Railroad. Though the route functioned as a toll road for only about 12 years, it is likely that its construction saved the town of Austin from regulation to ghost town status.

Today as much as 40 percent of the original route of the toll road remains intact in the form of faint track traces. See figure 1

Figure 2 ---The Wallace homestead, built over 150 years ago, functioned as one of the stage stations for the toll road.

Information collected from DRI, Retracing the Past brochure by Chuck Barret and Ted Hartwell.

Austin Historical Society

Austin Historical Society

Step into our past and explore the rich and colorful history of Austin Nevada!

In 1992, the Austin Historical Society created the Austin Historical Museum inside the Gridley Store in Austin, Nevada. In 2005, the Austin Historical Society purchased the old U.S. Forest Service building at 180 Main Street and has since moved the museum there. Tourists from all over the world including Denmark, Italy, France, Germany and Canada come to the Austin Historical Museum.

The Austin Historical Museum’s permanent displays consist of artifacts from mining, ranching, the railroad, Native Americans and the old school as well as a printing press, artifacts/information on the USS Lander, old journals and books. All of these displays have either been loaned or donated by citizens around Austin, Nevada. The Austin Historical Museum never really closes. If there is a group or individuals who are coming through, they will try to open the museum at a moment’s notice for them.

For more information contact them on
Or call 775-238-4150

Stokes Castle

Stokes Castle, located in Austin, Nevada, is one of the state's most recognizable historic landmarks. The three-story granite tower was built in 1897 for Anson Phelps Stokes, the driving force behind the Nevada Central Railroad and Austin's mining industry at the end of the nineteenth century. Stokes modeled his romantic summer home on a family painting of a tower in the Roman Campagna, and he sited it on a prominence with sweeping views of the Reese River Valley. The Castle featured balconies cantilevered on railroad rails (the rails survive), plate-glass picture windows, a castellated parapet, and a rooftop terrace once shaded by a suspended canvas awning. The floors in the simply detailed interior were removed years ago to deter intruders. Anson Phelps Stokes, his sons, a Chinese cook, and guests occupied the Castle on several occasions in 1897 and 1898. For much of the twentieth century, the Castle was boarded up and subjected to deterioration and vandalism. Threatened with removal to the Las Vegas Strip in the 1970's, it was saved by Stokes relative Molly Knudtsen and today stands as a testimony to her foresight.


In the spring of 1863, silver ore was discovered in Amador Canyon and the rush was on. A town site was laid out and by the end of the year 200 hardy souls were clustered on the side of the mountain. As the camp continued to expand, a small adjacent camp, Coral City, was absorbed into Amador. A post office opened in April 1864 giving Amador an air of permanence. By 1864, there were eight mining companies working the district. Many of the ore deposits around Amador occurred in valuable ledges, the best of which were the Aspinwas and the Bigelow ledges. The ore deposits were not as extensive as first thought and most of the mines began running empty by early 1866. The post office closed in April 1866 and the boom was over. By the end of the year, the camp was virtually abandoned. By 1869, the last resident had left and the town was consigned to the ghosts. A trip to picturesque Amador Canyon has many interesting stone ruins to offer.
Smith Creek Station
Smith Creek Station was the first Pony Express stop ion Shoshone Country. The station had quite a violent history. Several shooting incidents occurred involving station and Pony Express personnel which resulted in the first man legally hanged in Nevada Territory. After both the Pony Express and the Overland Stage folded Smith Creek became a successful ranching operation/ The ranch is still active today.