V&T Railroad project gains land, loses time

A state commission working to restore 18 miles of a historic railroad in Northern Nevada have reached a tentative agreement with a company already independently operating a tourist railroad on about two and a half miles of the rail.

Construction, however, on four and a half miles of rail that would run from American Flat to Mound House has been delayed.

Bob Hadfield, chairman of the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway, told the commissioners Monday that he and other representatives had "opened up a dialogue regarding the desire of the commission to reach an agreement" to purchase the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Co.

The company has operated its section of rail running from Virginia City to Gold Hill for more than 30 years. It was also awarded a contract in 1996 to operate the entire rail, from Virginia City to Carson City, for at least two years. Last year, though, the commission picked Oakdale, Calif.-based Sierra Railroad Co. as operators. Commissioners said the project had gotten too big for the Virginia and Truckee company.

Hadfield wouldn't give any details, but said he expects to have an agreement at the September meeting. He said the company will meet with its board to review the agreement.

Tom Gray, son of company owner Bob Gray, has frequently criticized the commission for allegedly trying to get out of a binding contract and of unfairly pressuring them out of it. He was not available to comment Monday.

As for the delay in construction, the commission initially expected to open bidding in late July for the newest section of track, but, according to commission engineer Ken Dorr, it will now be September "at the earliest" before that happens.

The delay stems from a situation in 2006 when the commission bought a 20-acre parcel of land in Lyon County. Normally, the commission has to go through a federally-mandated process to appraise and buy the land because it was using a $800,000 federal grant. The owner, however, said that wouldn't be necessary and offered to sell it for $20,000, said Michael Rowe, commission attorney.

The commission is now stuck in talks with federal representatives over getting approval for the sale using the consent it had from the owner.

"We got files - every one of them is two inches thick - of all the letters you'd ever want to send or receive on these parcels," Rowe said. "We literally have boxes of these acquisition files we've generated in this project."

Construction for the railway is funded by state grants, private donations and revenue from room and sales taxes in Carson City and Storey County. It is expected to cost $54 million and be finished by 2011. About $40 million has been raised so far, including $21 million from Carson City.

Workers have finished about a mile and half of track so far. Since work started in 2004, the completion date has been pushed back at least two years and estimated costs have risen by millions of dollars.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.


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