V&T attorney says commissioner’s rail car plan would be a conflict | NevadaAppeal.com

V&T attorney says commissioner’s rail car plan would be a conflict

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer

If Virginia & Truckee Railway Commissioner John Tyson could have it his way, in about three years he’d be collecting retirement income from a luxury rail car carrying tourists between Carson City and Virginia City.

Tyson will take his train car elsewhere, after his business plan was ruled unethical by the attorney for the Virginia & Truckee Railway commission.

Tyson’s second choice: the Ely railway. If and when he ever leaves the commission, Tyson said he may reconsider his V&T dream of rail car prosperity.

“I didn’t want the car to become a political issue,” he said Friday. “My priority is to get the railroad built. Before I would allow this car to become a political issue I would’ve had it pounded flat and sold as a bridge. I will take it to Ely rather than have it hanging over my head.”

Michael Rowe, general counsel for the commission, said it’s unethical for a commissioner to operate a private luxury rail car business while acting on the state board entrusted with reconstructing the tourist line.

The $35 million reconstruction of the V&T Railway between Virginia City and Carson City is funded by both private and public monies.

“It is my opinion that if he was to purchase his rail car and operate it as a part of the operation of the V&T that it would create a conflict of interest,” Rowe said.

Tyson has said that he would’ve contracted with the operator of the V&T to run his historic car behind the locomotive.

The rail car was part of the 1939 Royal Canadian Train, which carried King George VI, and was featured in the 1939 World’s Fair.

With renovations, it’s worth $100,000, Tyson has said. Tyson requested an ethical opinion from Rowe in December.

An operator has not yet been selected by the commission, which Tyson will have a vote in. He also sits on the operations board, which would’ve dealt directly with the operator’s contract.

Rowe said if Tyson fulfilled his plan to purchase and run a train car on the V&T, then he could not participate in any discussion, or action, that would relate to the selection of a railway operator or operational issues.

Tyson, KOLO Channel 8’s rural reporter and host and producer of “John Tyson’s Journal,” is also a Federal Railroad Administration-certified locomotive engineer for the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely.

Tyson, 60, said he will not resign from the commission, which is an appointment without a time frame.

“What I may consider is buying another car, keeping one in Ely and having another run on the V&T,” he said. “Years from now, who knows? It could be a possibility.”

Tyson isn’t the only rail buff whose aspirations extend beyond the commission.

Commissioner Ron Allen, who declined to comment on Tyson’s issue, said he is also thinking of running a rail car behind the V&T steam engine. This car would be for his own personal use. He hasn’t yet found one to purchase.

“Mine would be no conflict because it would be for personal use and I would pay a fee to the operator to run it,” said Allen, who heads the operations committee.

Several barriers are in Tyson’s way before he can get the train car to Ely. Contract negotiations with the Northern Nevada Railway must be completed.

About 125 miles of the Ely track is in bad shape and would have to be repaired.

Tyson’s investor has pulled out because of the attorney’s decision, so he needs to find a backer to help with the $60,000 price tag and the refurbishment. So far he’s invested $2,500.

For Tyson, Ely is a place where there is “no politics.”

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