V&T operators plan full schedule for coming season
Candy Duncan says plans are moving full steam ahead for the V&T Railway’s first full season.
Duncan, director of the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the bureau, V&T Commission and train operator Tom Gray have planned an ambitious 24-week schedule beginning May 28 and ending on Nevada Day, running 96 trips Thursday through Sunday during the summer.
To break even on operating costs, Duncan said the trains must run at least 70 percent full on their trips between Virginia City and Carson City.
Duncan said the plan is to run three passenger cars, which can carry a total of 210 passengers. Gray is working on restoring the third car and Duncan said she’s confident he’ll be ready.
“He’s done everything he said he’s going to do,” she said.
Gray charges the tourism bureau $4,500 for each round trip by the steam-powered engine and $3,500 for each round trip by the diesel engine.
At 70 percent ridership, the 24 weeks of trains would generate $696,696 in total revenues – matching projected expenses. If the bureau can sell out all the trains, it would generate a profit for the season of $183,584 on projected total revenues of $895,280.
Those projections are based on expenses from this past summer’s runs which, Duncan said, “broke pretty much even.”
That doesn’t include potential revenue from special train runs for different groups.
She said this summer, they hope to have a variety of railroad-related items to sell to riders at the Carson City Depot, but that the idea of specialty trains may have to wait.
“Dinner, wine and chocolate trains are wonderful ideas but it’s going to take us time to move into that,” she said. “We have to figure out how to do the four trains each weekend and do this right this season, then work our way into special things rather than take on too much.”
Duncan said organizers learned that lesson the hard way after the initial summer train runs.
“We sold out all those round-trip rides during the summer,” she said.
After that, CCCVB and the commission decided at the last minute to run trains through the Thanksgiving weekend.
“We did not sell those out,” she said.
Because of that experience, she said the marketing campaign for this summer is already being put together. The first goal, she said, is a unified Web site.
“One of the things we heard is there are too many places to go and get information and all the information is different,” she said.
Duncan said there are now five different sites operated by the V&T Commission, the V&T Foundation, the tourism bureau, the Virginia City convention and visitors bureau and Tom Gray’s V&T Railroad – and the information is different on each one. The goal is one site with consistent information.
Also in the works are brochures, a TV commercial to run in the Bay Area and print advertising. She said she has the $160,000 marketing budget approved by the V&T Commission.
Duncan said all the parties are looking at this year as the time to really learn how to run the V&T program.
“We need to make sure these trains sell,” she said.