Consortium joins fight to complete V&T reconstruction

Local organizers have been fighting to rebuild the historic V&T Railroad for more than a decade and, with that goal in sight, new groups are joining the battle.

Railroad Operations Consortium has signed an agreement with the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway to help complete the rail line, 17.5 miles of track between Virginia City and Carson City.

"We're going to do our best to raise funds and provide expertise and oversight," said Mike Ellis, spokesman for the consortium.

He said the consortium's members share a love of trains and separately, they've worked on projects around the country, each in their own areas of expertise.

"Right now, there are six of us," Ellis said. "We met each other at railroad meetings and while working on projects around the country. I started putting the group together about 3 years ago and just recently things started to gel."

The V&T project came to their attention at the behest of member Robert Wright, who retired in Dayton from Southern California about two years ago.

A mainline engineer with the Denver Rio Grande and Burlington Northern, Wright spent 45 years in the business.

He was a machinist, a general foreman with the Napa Valley Wine Train and chief mechanical officer with the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad in Colorado and New Mexico.

He's been operating his own firm, Wright Railroad Consulting, for six years and said the V&T project has a special place in his heart.

"I never did get to see the V&T operate from Virginia City to Carson City. That track was torn up when I was 6, but I did see the Reno-to-Minden run," he said. "I rode the last train when I was 14.

"When Bob Gray rejuvenated the V&T in Virginia City, it sparked my enthusiasm," he said. "I've been talking to people about the V&T for some time, and now it looks like we're getting onto the runway a little bit."

The newly formed consortium will get a commission for any funds generated, but they would also consider being part of the operation, once the V&T is up and running.

"We're businessmen and this is the way we make a living," Wright said. "Any time we bring money to an operation, we get a finders fee. If we manage the building, construction or operation of the railroad, that's another financial arrangement."

The project, which is expected to cost about $28 to $31 million, should move forward after the Federal Highway Administration approves the long-awaited environmental assessment later this month.

Kevin Ray, project coordinator for the Nevada Commission, said funds are being generated from a number of sources.

Carson City supervisors are expected to approve the sale of $4.4 million in general obligation bonds for the V&T at Thursday's meeting, the money financed by the 2 percent room tax that passed in February of 2002.

"This is the first significant contribution of dollars to the project, other than the (federal) ISTEA grant, which totalled $2.7 million," said Mayor Ray Masayko.

Economic impact statements project a $40.9 million positive impact from the construction project alone. Once the train is operating, the annual economic impact for the region is estimated at $16.5 million annually.


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