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.

44 Responses to “In Depth: Railroad to the Bunny Ranch? Or not? I say not.”

  1. elmonica Says:

    So I can conclude that you believe Fox News is intentionally distorting a “hard news” story in order to draw the ire of its viewers?

  2. joeremi Says:

    Of course that’s what they did. How many times does someone have told be told “it’s not in there” before SOMEBODY at FNC bothers to read the bill?

  3. elmonica Says:

    But Joe, Fox News doesn’t blur the lines between hard news and opinion. Didn’t you get the memo?

  4. So I can conclude that you believe Fox News is intentionally distorting a “hard news” story in order to draw the ire of its viewers?

    Nope. Because I didn’t say that. At a minimum I would accuse FNC of not bothering to follow up on the accusations and doing basic research. But that’s as far as I am willing to go.

  5. joeremi Says:

    Spud, you’re copping out. It’s been well known for a couple weeks that the “Disney train” is fantasy pork created by alarmist conservatives. I don’t see how a news organization innocently neglects to investigate a claim Democrats are loudly proclaiming a lie. FNC likes the sound of the story and purposely blew off checking it out.

  6. bigred08 Says:

    Spud, Elmo & Joe, I believe you need to do a little more checking.

    As Megyn Kelly says AT THE BEGINNING OF THE INTERVIEW, there’s no specific mention of that particular rail line in the bill, there’s $8 BILLION DOLLARS in it for “unspecified high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects”, according to the L.A. Times.

    The same article, from Feb. 14, adds this interesting tibdit, which shows the L.A. to Nevada railline is very much a planned project:

    “A Reid spokesman said the money was not being earmarked for any specific project but would be available on a competitive basis. “This was a major priority for President Obama, and Sen. Reid as a conferee supported it,” said Jon Summers.

    “It’s not just specifically for us,” said Bruce Aguilera, chairman of the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission, which plans to seek a still-undetermined amount of the stimulus money for the $12-billion-to-$14-billion project.”

    It ain’t “fantasy pork”, JOE. It’s very real. Why don’t you google California-Nevada Interstate Meglev and check it out for yourself.

  7. bigred08 Says:

    One more thing…while you’re looking those reputable newsites, think progress & media matters, you can read all about what think progress called the “mythical rail line” on that notorious right wing blog…….. THE CALIFORNIA DOT WEBSITE.

    A very nice 16 page pdf file breaks it down in full detail.

  8. joeremi Says:

    Nobody is debating that there’s money for rail projects in the plan. Some of us consider that a good thing. The fantasy is “Disneyland to the whorehouse”. Pay attention.

  9. zonedaiatlas Says:

    But Elmonica, MSNBC doesn’t blur the lines between hard news and opinion. Didn’t you get the memo?

  10. As Megyn Kelly says AT THE BEGINNING OF THE INTERVIEW, there’s no specific mention of that particular rail line in the bill, there’s $8 BILLION DOLLARS in it for “unspecified high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects”

    True but my main beef is the whole “train to the Bunny Ranch” angle.

    One more thing…while you’re looking those reputable newsites,

    Those sites were just the starting point. I don’t take anything either of those sites write automatically at face value. I went out and did my own internet digging. When it became clear to me after my digging that MM and TP had a case, I blogged about it.

  11. You were right to blog about it. We’ll need to keep an eye out in the future for either a clarification/retraction from Kelly & Hemmer, or to see if this project does someday end up being a defacto train to the Bunny Ranch.

  12. Scott Schrantz Says:

    The one thing they forgot to do for this story is look at a map. The Bunny Ranch is nearly 500 miles away from Las Vegas. So even if the L.A.-Vegas high speed line is built, it will hardly be a train to the Ranch, unless they build a reeeeeeeeeeally long spur line.

    Also missing is the fact that prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, and all of Clark County, for that matter. The nearest brothel is 60 miles away

  13. Well BR. When you’re point is effectively corrected, you tend to disappear.

  14. tripton Says:

    A mass transit rail line that runs from the LA Metro to Las Vegas makes a lot of sense. I agree with those who take exception that it would be from Disneyland to the Bunny Ranch. It’s just Rush-speak.
    The LA to Las Vegas corridor is desperately in need of mass transit. Let’s get it on…..maglev of any kind of high-speed rail. Just Do It!

  15. tripton Says:

    A mass transit rail line that runs from the LA Metro to Las Vegas makes a lot of sense. I agree with those who take exception that it would be from Disneyland to the Bunny Ranch. It’s just Rush-speak.
    The LA to Las Vegas corridor is desperately in need of mass transit. Let’s get it on…..maglev or any kind of high-speed rail. Just Do It!

  16. libertyandjustice Says:

    Those of you who want the rail line, do you want to pay for it also or do you just think the money comes out of thin air?
    I want allot of things but I realize that I must prioritize my spending. Elmo and Joe, are you willing to open your wallets or are you just blowing smoke and spending your neighbors money.

    Reckless spending gone wild!

  17. bushleaguer Says:

    I thought that Megyn Kelly was playing this pretty straight until she threw out the mythical “marsh mouse” earmark for Nancy Pelosi.

    They could spin this proposed rail line 100 different ways. They could find an area the train will pass though that is notorious for drug dealing and turn it into the train that runs from the Magic Kingdom to the crack house.

  18. missy5537 Says:

    Whatever it is, is it just “spending”, or “stimulating” the economy in any way?

  19. gettingpwned Says:

    whatever they build, just don’t let amtrack own and/or operate it. amtrack is a money pit that literally gets bailed out EVERY YEAR!

  20. Reckless spending gone wild!

    That’s not the issue and you know it. If the issue was just about reckless spending they wouldn’t need to spruce it up with the whole Bunny Ranch angle. Nobody is really arguing that this isn’t pork (except maybe Nevada officials but then the local beneficiaries always try to spin the story their way).

    But if it’s a pork story it should be written as a pork story. A pork story doesn’t need window dressing. It sells itself. I guess that’s why I’m rather aghast about this whole “Bunny Ranch” thing.

  21. bigred08 Says:

    Ok, I’ll say it again. There is a planned high speed train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and I’ll bet bottom dollar a huge chunk of the $8 billion goes toward that project.

    Any takers on that bet?

    Joe, you said the “Disney train” is fantasy pork, initially, and that’s been “well known for a coupleweeks”. B.S. It exists. Go to the CALIFORNIA DOT WEBSITE and see the plans for yourself.

    Now YOU’RE changing your story to “Disneyland to whorehouse” is fantasy pork….and telling me I need to pay attention. Maybe you need to pay attention to your own posts.

    I’m not defending the whorehouse claim.

    Bushleaguer, as for the marsh mouse, there is no question, there IS $30 MILLION DOLLARS in the stimulus for wetlands conservation in Pelosi’s San Francisco district.The marsh mouse is a Pelosi pet project.

    PELOSI’s own office all but admitted the money is in there with this quote to the Washington Times:

    “The speaker nor her staff have had any involvement in this initiative. This is yet another contrived partisan attack,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. “Restoration is key to economic activity including farming, fisheries, recreation, and clean water.”

    Translation: We didn’t put the project in the bill, but it’s in the bill, it benefits our district, and our excuse is that we can claim it will create jobs.

  22. The fantasy that the right has been promulgating for weeks is that Harry Reid put 8 billion dollars in the bill for a light rail project from Anahiem to Las Vegas, benefiting his state. That is not true. The funds are earmarked for Transportation Secretary – and former Republican congresman Ray LaHood – to dole out for various intra-city rail projects, one of which could include the Anahiem-Vegas corridor if he approves it.

    So the right first turned a general rail fund into Harry Reid’s private piece of pork, then into a train from Disneyland to the Bunny Ranch. Why can’t they just admit they don’t approve of taxpayer-supported infrastructure and leave it at that?

    And to all who want to know, the answer is obvious. We all should pay our taxes and government should use them to pay people to build/maintain/repair roads, bridges and railways.

  23. Well said, joeremi.

  24. bigred08 Says:

    Joe, wanna make bets on where the largest chunk of that money goes?

    It’ll go directly to the LA-Vegas project that benefits Reid’s home state.

    It’s not “fantasy pork” as you referred to earlier, it’s deep-fried, greasy, fatty bacon wrapped around a huge slab of hamhocks.

    Do I have a problem with my tax dollars going to this? You bet I do.
    It’s in your state, joe, so you should have no problem paying for it.


  25. bushleaguer Says:

    bigred – I agree that there are a lot of egregious examples of pork projects. However, not all pork projects are bad and I think we as a country should pitch in. For example, this rail line, if it’s built, is something that I might take advantage of some day. Surely they won’t limit its use to in-state residents. Likewise, I don’t live in Florida where there’s a good chance every year that a major hurricane is going to do widespread damage, but I don’t have a problem with some of my tax dollars going to helping those people out when it happens. Fair?

  26. bigred08 Says:

    BL, I’m not saying all pork projects are bad, either.

    But our economy is in dire straits, and they threw a lot of crap in that package that will have nothing to do with the economy, including the “mythical marsh mouse earmark”, as you put it, that is VERY REAL.

    You should read more than the leftie blogs for the info on this stuff. Think Progress is COMPLETELY LYING when they say these earmarks don’t exist. They do.

    This spending frenzy is going to sink the economy even further… and burden us, our children and our grandchildren for decades to come.

  27. joeremi Says:

    BigRed: “It’ll go directly to the LA-Vegas project…”

    So now your defense is it’s OK for FNC to promote this as Disney -to-Vegas pork just because you’re convinced it will be. That kind of argument would be laughable in a high school debate. It’s one thing to find something in the bill you are ideologically opposed to – say, federal funds for light rail; it’s quite another to pick something out, decide you just know what it really is, then report it as that, which is what Bobby Jindal and Fox News are doing.

    I ask again, why can’t conservatives express disinterest in federally funding infrastructure without making up stories?

  28. bigred08 Says:

    Joe, THAT’S WHAT THE MONEY IS GOING FOR. Who do you think wrote the bill?


    Do you really think they’d write an 800 BILLION DOLLAR BILL and not bring some pork home to their districts?

    Again, you wanna place a bet on where the money goes? Guaran-damn-teed it funds the LA-Vegas train.

    Here’s a question for you: Why can’t the people you vote for be honest about what they’re spending our tax dollars on?

    BECAUSE THEY’RE LIARS and people like you have you heads so far up Obama’s butt that you don’t care they’re mortgaging our future.

  29. Here’s something that may explain yesterday’s silliness. The Mustang Ranch is located outside of Vegas (and Clark County). They may have gotten their ranches mixed up at FNC and meant the Mustang ranch and not the Bunny ranch. Still someone screwed up somewhere…

  30. joeremi Says:

    Of course a politician is going to promote infrastructure funding that includes his/hers constituent’s state. To imply that 8 billion dollars is headed towards one rail line is ludicrous. The money will be offered to Ray LaHood, who will then dole it out to viable light rail opportunities all over the country, creating jobs. You don’t like the idea, fine, but quit denigrating it by claiming it’s a piece of pork that only benefits one Democrat. It’s infrastructure stimulus and you don’t believe taxpayers should pay for it. Your argument is purposely disingenuous. You’re using a straw man to cover a basic ideological disagreement.

    Like I keep saying; just tell people you don’t believe in government spending to create jobs. The reason why you won’t is because nobody will listen to a Republican talking like that right now. They just look at you and say, “You can spend billions on an unnecessary war but you won’t help us get back to work?”

  31. elmonica Says:

    But Joe, If you talk of a reduction in military spending or closing a base, the conservative politicians will talk about a loss of jobs.

  32. tripton Says:

    You just won’t let it go. So what if there is a high-speed rail line between LA and Vegas? There’s also one planned for John Boener’s district. Good for both Boener and Reid and all the other Congresspersons thru which will travel high-speed rail. Move On, (no pun intended). High-speed rail will be a major job source providing a major, longterm energy-saving infrastructure not unlike the Interstate Highway system project of the ’60s.
    Find a really bad $8billion spending error. High-speed rail is not in that class.

  33. joeremi Says:

    Tripton, Spud isn’t arguing Red’s point, he’s dealing with the “Disney train to the Bunny Ranch” story Megyn Kelly was working. I do hope Red reads your post, but he’ll probably just tell you you’re up Obama’s butt.

  34. bigred08 Says:

    Joe, I’m not opposed to a high speed rail. I’m opposed to one that’s in a “stimulus” package, that’s supposed to jump start the economy NOW.

    There’s still an environmental study that has to be done on this “fantasy pork” of yours, THAT WILL TAKE YEARS!! The $8 billion, which will go largely to this rail, won’t even be spent for years.

    This will not create jobs in the near future. It has no business in the stimulus package.

    As I said earlier, which you missed again, I’m not opposed to all pork projects. I’m not opposed to government spending on infrastructure.

    I’m opposed to the runaway spending in this Congress, claiming they’re doing it to create jobs, when they’re really just funding their pet projects.

    You guys are hilarious. First you claim it’s “fantasy pork”. Well, here’s the “fantasy”, straight from Reid’s spokesman’s mouth:

    “The plan includes $8 billion for ‘high-speed rail/passenger rail grants to states.’ The state rail grants will be prioritized for high-speed rail projects. The Secretary will have complete flexibility as to which program he uses to allocate the funds, however, the proposed Los Angeles-Las Vegas rail project would be eligible to receive funds, as would the Northeast corridor. This was a major priority for President Obama and Sen. Reid as a conferee supported it.”

    Again, any bets on how much of the $8 billion goes to the L.A.-Vegas rail????

    And elmo, I don’t mind cuts in defense spending, as long as they are smart cuts.

  35. I think you’re right about them mixing up the ranches, and that somebody still screwed up if that’s what happened. Still, it’s a stretch to suggest that the rail line is a fast train to a good time getting porked. No, it shouldn’t have been included in the stimulus bill regardless whether it’s a good plan or not – but that’s all irrelevant to icn’s point.

    I like Hemmer & Kelly and think both are usually abundantly fair with their reporting and selections of stories to report. I can’t say that about this one.

  36. joeremi Says:

    BR, if you (and Jindal and FNC) don’t consider light rail a job-creator, then just say so. Don’t keep falling back on “Reid’s 8 billion dollar train” or “Disney to the Ranch”. It’s dishonest.

  37. BigRed is right that it won’t be happening anytime soon. We’ve been talking about high speed rail in California for years but it’s still in the planning stages. They only figured out what route to take to the Bay Area last year and that route is still being disputed by a coalition of environmentalists (who don’t like the idea of it going through Henry Coe State Park) and East Bay politicians (who want the route going through their territory).

  38. bigred08 Says:

    Joe, as I said earlier, the environmental impact study will take 2 years or more. No job creation there.

    So, again, why is this in the stimulus?

    And the rail will take a decade or more to be built.

  39. joeremi Says:

    Red, if we’re putting aside the Reid’s Train arguments and just discussing the actual provision, I’ll bite. Instead of Googling it, I’ll ask you. Why would it take 10 years to build, and why do they still need 2 more years for environmental study? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m trying to learn. I think rail projects are long term a good idea for a country with too many cars on too many bad roads. If they’re not job creators of some kind in the next 2 years, they shouldn’t be in the bill.

  40. bigred08 Says:

    Maybe they need the environmental study so they won’t disturb Pelosi’s marsh mouse. JK

    Honestly, your guess is as good as mine as to why it would take so long, but that’s what the Las Vegas Sun said.

    2 years of environmental study, 10 years to build.

    And thank you for manning up and agreeing they shouldn’t be in the bill.

  41. joeremi Says:

    Now try manning up and admitting that Disney-to-Vegas or Disney-to-Bunny Ranch is hyperbole. Anahiem-to-Vegas is one of several possibilities for the money, and there’s no way the entire budget is going for one train track.

  42. bigred08 Says:

    I never defended the Disney-to-Bunny Ranch story, as I said earlier.

    As I also said earlier, I’m taking bets that a HUGE chunk of the $8 billion goes to the L.A. to Vegas rail.

    Wanna place your money where your mouth is?

  43. joeremi Says:

    I don’t see all 8 billion going to one track in CA.-NEV. I’m also curious if the Northeast Corridor is further along in the planning stages. If some of these projects can be started within the next year or so, I
    l’ll be happy. If it’s a 10 year job, fine. Work for 10 years. But let’s get to work.

  44. Anaheim to Vegas thru the Inland Valley would serve many millions of people. It would not be a Bridge to Nowhere.

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