Two companies compete for historical V&T Railway operating contract
CARSON CITY – The contract to operate the 18-mile Virginia & Truckee Railway is between two established companies: American Heritage Railways, known internationally for running the popular 50-mile steam train between Durango and Silverton, in Colorado, and Sierra Railroad Co., a Northern California company that operates three tourism trains.
This is potentially one of the most important decisions in the reconstruction project. A rail operator will influence what the Carson City depot will look like and such details as tickets price and souvenirs, all things of great interest to train fans and the 160,000 tourists a year this railway is expected to attract once it’s completed in 2010.
The state commission reconstructing the historic rail will meet to discuss the two companies and decide who’s qualified to submit a full business plan. As project coordinator Kevin Ray said, both are qualified and are the only ones to show interest in the project.
The V&T Railroad, which operates two miles between Gold Hill and its Virginia City depot, is interested in partnering with the company awarded the contract.
Executives from both companies said the V&T is the only scenic railroad that they know of that is being built with public funds and overseen by a state board, which is one reason they were interested in the contract.
“I think the competition will bring the best out of the potential operators,” said commission Chairman Bob Hadfield. “They know they have to put their best foot forward, be creative and innovative to achieve the goal of having the commission select them to operate the railroad.”
Since American Heritage and Sierra are both qualified, commissioners will ask each company what they will contribute to the $40 million V&T before they make their final decision. Commissioners want an operator who will bring cash and rolling stock to the deal, what they would consider the best use of taxpayers’ money.
“The Durango & Silverton is American Heritage and they are a very, very successful tourist railroad,” said V&T Commissioner John Tyson. “They are one of the most successful in the country.”
Tyson is a locomotive engineer on the Nevada Northern Railroad in Ely and sits on the nine-member board.
“They are greatly responsible for maintaining the two cities of Durango and Silverton. The are business savvy, so I will be anxious to see what they bring to the table.
“Sierra also has a very successful operation, but you don’t hear too much about them. They are business savvy and they’ve been in business for a long, long time. Both are contenders and have a very good business record. Any one of them under the right circumstances can do very well. But it’s going to depend on what they can bring to the table.”
Mayor Marv Teixeira, who also sits on the board, said both operators will make presentations to the board after they submit business plans, which will be followed by negotiations. It could take another two to three months to select the operator.
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