In Depth: Railroad to the Bunny Ranch? Or not? I say not.
I saw this on Media Matters complaining about a FNC segment with Megyn Kelly regarding an earmark to bring a railroad from Disneyland to the Moonlight Bunny Ranch in Nevada. There was also an article on Think Progress about the same segment.
ThinkProgress was unable to find such an earmark in the omnibus spending bill. When asked to point to the specific provision, Franks’ office would only tell ThinkProgress to contact Reid’s office.
Reid’s office confirmed that Franks is referring to a proposal to refurbish a historic railroad line between Gold Hill, NV, and Carson City — hardly a direct line from L.A. to the “doorstep” of a brothel. Considering there’s no funding for high-speed rail between L.A. and Las Vegas — despite Republicans’ frenetic assertions to the contrary — the idea of a Disneyland-Bunny Ranch supertrain is far-fetched, to say the least.
So this is what the hubub is all about. It’s about the historic V&T Railroad line and the attempts by local officials to bring it back as a tourist attraction. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Carson City, as I have – dozens of times over the last 30 years, knows that they like railroads out there. There’s a railroad museum at the southern end of town. There’s a tourist railroad that winds around Virginia City. The Reno Gazette’s Tim Anderson recently wrote about the project’s progress…
Another milestone in the long campaign to rebuild the historic Virginia & Truckee Railroad between Gold Hill and Carson City, aimed at making the route a regional tourism magnet, is about to be reached.
Officials for the $55 million project said a railroad bridge crossing U.S. 50 East in Mound House is expected to be in place sometime in March.
“The latest phase of construction is well under way. We’re making good progress, and we’re right on schedule,” project engineer Ken Dorr told the Nevada Commission for Reconstruction of the V&T Railway at its January meeting.
Work on building concrete supports for the 48-year-old railroad bridge began in December after ground was broken in November on the newest phase of construction.
Is the Bunny Ranch along this route? Yes it is. Around Carson’s Scott Schrantz has an extensive look at the old V&T line and notes that the Bunny Ranch is located near what was the old Mound House station.
Last week I wrote about the route that the new V&T is taking through Mound House, kind of hugging the hills and sweeping around the outside of town. But what about the first time the V&T came to town, 140 years ago? Back then there was no civilization here, so they could cut the tracks right through the middle of the valley. Here you can see the rails plowing up towards the Comstock, and the town of Mound House which sprung up around the tracks.
After 1880 there were two railroad lines in town. The V&T, which passed through on the way to Virginia City, and the Carson and Colorado, which terminated here and headed south to Hawthorne and the Owens Valley. This made Mound House a busy transfer point between the two railroads, especially after 1900 when gold and silver were discovered in south central Nevada. But that traffic dried up when the Southern Pacific built a bypass track out by Fallon. The rest of the V&T traffic dried up as Virginia City nearly became a ghost town in the early 1900s, and in 1938 the line through Mound House was abandoned.
Above is the Mound House depot site today. An ammunition manufacturer is on the site, and just a short ways down the road to the right is the famous Moonlite Bunny Ranch. But the railbed has been preserved, paved over as Red Rock Road. This depot area is the subject of Then and Now articles #40 and #41.
Schrantz has another article talking about the route in more detail.
Ok so here are the relevant questions and what I believe are the answers…
Is this pork? Yeah. Maybe not an earmark. But it’s definitely pork.
Is it a route from Disneyland to the Bunny Ranch? From what I can tell, no. There’s no mention anywhere of a project from Disneyland to the Bunny Ranch and it certainly isn’t the V&T line which will dead end in Carson City.
Is it a route to the Bunny Ranch? Yes and no. The Bunny Ranch is in Mound House, so I guess we could technically say that is the case. But it needs to be pointed out that the old route took it by the spot where the Bunny Ranch is located. The new route skirts more towards the outside of town and won’t follow the old route. But will there be a station at Mound House? That’s not clear to me. If there’s no stop in Mound House then the answer is definitely not.
Is it what the FNC segment made it out to be? Definitely not. The FNC segment was shoddy journalism on so many levels. I’ll tick them off in short order…
This is about refurbishing the V&T line in a part of Nevada known for railroads and railroad museums. The fact that the Bunny Ranch is there is a mere technicality. Is it a concern? I suppose it is. But to look at the FNC segment you’d think it’s all about the Bunny Ranch when it’s really about the V&T line. If any FNC producer had bothered to investigate this story just a little, as I did on my own, they would have seen this story for what it is, a coincidence. Not that there aren’t necessarily profound implications of having the Bunny Ranch there, because there are. But it’s a local issue and the locals apparently want the V&T line and the tourist dollars it will bring in.
It’s certainly not about delivering customers to the Bunny Ranch. Anyone who has spent any sort of time in Carson City will tell you the distance to Mound House from Carson City isn’t so far that one would take a railroad to get there instead of a car. They’ll take the railroad because they want to ride a railroad along an historic route. And the route is going past Mound House. It’s not ending there. The eventual end is Gold Hill which is closer to Virginia City than Mound House.
And for the record (and to cut off the comments that some joker is bound to make), I’ve never even seen the Bunny Ranch. I always drove right past Mound House on my way to Dayton, Stagecoach, Lahontan, or Fallon. I didn’t even know it was there until I read about it today.