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The end of the rails

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal A machine pulls railroad spikes from used railroad ties Tuesday morning in Mound House. The spikes, tie plates, ties and assorted parts will be salvaged as the Virginia & Truckee Railway project continues.
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MOUND HOUSE -There’s a time for laying railroad track, and there is a time for pulling it apart.

On Tuesday, salvage workers sorted railroad ties and pulled spikes from the Reno retrack rails being stored at the Art Wilson Construction yard, east of the gypsum mine. The job is tedious and will probably continue for another two or three weeks.

The commission in charge of reconstructing the Virginia & Truckee Railway, which will operate between Carson City and Virginia City by 2010, received the used rail about two years ago. The good rails and ties were used for phase 1 of the reconstruction project, which required a little more than a mile of track from the Gold Hill Depot to American Flat. That first section of rail was completed in September. What’s left over is what they can’t use.

“We’re getting rid of all the material we can’t use. It’s worn out or no good for the tourist railroad and we’re also getting our three storage sites cleaned up,” project engineer Ken Dorr said Tuesday. “One storage site costs us $300 a month, so we won’t have to pay that anymore.”

The majority of the used rail weighs 132 pounds and is 50 feet long per section. The commission wants 90-pound rails that are a standard 36 or 39 feet long to lay from American Flat to the Frehner Pit, off Industrial Parkway, in Mound House. This phase will cost $6 million to $7 million.

The commission contracted with the Griffin Group, of Reno, to sort the used rail and salvage it to purchase one mile of lighter rail. The company’s operations manager said they are doing this to help out the V&T, not just to make a profit, which he isn’t sure if they’ll make.

Dorr said 4.5 miles of 90-pound rail will cost $80,000, which will come almost even with what Griffin will get from the salvage of the Reno track. Dorr said Griffin may be able to reap about $55,000 off salvaging usable track. The company may be able to get another $25,000 from the ties.

Griffin crew foreman Brad Hafley started up the spike machine and drove it over a section of the old Reno rail. A claw dropped down on top of a spike and pulled it up. Some spikes are rusted in and are difficult to remove. Sometimes the heads breaks off. Griffin Group is owned by Joe Hattrup.

“I suspect with the amount of time Joe’s people are putting into this, they’re not going to be making the amount of money they expected,” Dorr said. “But hopefully it’ll work out well.”

Ryan Hattrup, operations manager for the Griffin Group, said this agreement benefits his company and the commission. The Griffin Group may assist the V&T commission in the future with obtaining rail from other abandoned lines. The railway project needs another 15 miles to make it into Carson City.

Dorr said buying rail directly from another rail line will be cheaper than relying on the project’s next contractor to find and purchase the steel. Dorr said the commission will save $15-$20 a foot.

“Rail is the single-most costly part of the project,” he said. “We’ve got to have the rail. And it’s not cheap. The commission acquiring rail ahead of time will avoid two or three mark-ups.”

Of the $20 million to $25 million needed to built the project into Carson City, about $9.5 million is needed just for track construction. If the commission acquires the rail in advance, that could save it up to $1.2 million, Dorr said.

— Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.