Art Rader: Consider privatizing state railroad museum
For the Nevada Appeal
I understand the public protests against the threatened closure of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City. I, and the Nevada Appeal printing my news articles and feature stories advocating rail history preservation throughout the 1970s, were there at the start. So we feel the pain now.
Why not privatize the museum rather than close it?
The state would retain ownership and oversight while leasing operations to private business. This concept has worked well in several other places. Why not here?
One of the best examples of railway museum privatization is the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad weaving along the New Mexico and Colorado state line between Antonito, Colo., and Chama, N.M.
In 1969, the two state legislatures and governors entered into a bistate compact to purchase 90 miles of vintage and beautiful high mountain narrow gage railroad from the Denver & Rio Grande, which planned to abandon and dismantle the line.
During the 1971 session of the Nevada Legislature, Las Vegas Sen. Floyd Lamb, chairman of Senate Finance Committee, refused to pass the first-ever $100,000 allocation buying back V&T relics because he believed private money should pay.
Lamb famously said, “Show me one state that has spent a dime on saving old trains and the V&T bill will pass.”
I quickly produced a magazine feature color spread on the Cumbres & Toltec saved by two states.
We know the rest of the story from that simple start because we see the magnificent State Railroad Museum in Carson City.
Colorado and New Mexico purchased track, right-of-way, steam locomotives and rolling stock, service equipment and buildings, stations, water tanks, etc. The bi-state commission set up to administer the railway leased operations to private vendors. Still does today.
Nevada should seriously explore privatizing the Railroad Museum rather than shut it down hidden in protected storage.
The new budget cuts, if passed, will not take effect until July 2011. That is plenty of time to conduct a feasibility study on privatization and to select a private operator.
• Art Rader is a former sportswriter. He is retired and lives in Las Vegas.