State commission overseeing V&T’s historic rail line approves operator pact
A five-year train-services agreement for operation of the historic V&T Railway won 5-2 approval Monday from the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway.
Discussion of the pact sparked contention as Kim Fegert, Gold Hill Historical Society project manager, expressed concern that exclusivity for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad as operator might cut his operation out of the equation.
“I realize it’s expedient to give Mr. (Tom) Gray what he wants,” Fegert said, speaking of the V&T owner-operator.
Fegert said, however, “I think there’s a lot of opportunity here,” mentioning wider ridership and economic development. He called for conflicts to end by putting what he called a “spite war to bed.”
But commission attorney Michael Rowe and project engineer Ken Dorr cautioned federal law requires just one operator or the line could be changed from historic to short-line railway status.
That prompted Carson City Mayor Robert Crowell, a commission member, to say legal exclusivity can’t be breached.
“You go too far away from that, we’re in trouble,” he said. At the same time, he and other commissioners urged Gray, as railroad operator, to cooperate with others regarding use of the line.
Fegert, meanwhile, said he hadn’t been aware before the meeting of the federal constraints, but urged a clause requiring operator cooperation.
Commissioner John Tyson voted against the pact, saying he wanted specific language allowing others to use the line cooperatively with Gray’s agreement.
His concern, however, was about allowing the Nevada State Railroad Museum to run special-event trains on the line during the state’s 2014 celebration of 150 years as a state.
Gray said he would have no problem with that as long as the museum ran properly and safely, but he made no reply to Fegert’s request.
Commissioner Bonnie Weber cast the other dissenting vote, saying she wasn’t prepared to approve the pact Monday.
“I just think Mr. Fegert has some good points,” she said as she encouraged Gray and Fegert to try working together.
The commission also heard from Brian Hutchins, consultant and attorney representing Comstock Mining Inc. He called for clearer language on exclusivity. He said his client might at some point be interested in commercial uses.