This summer might seem kind of quiet in Alder Gulch without the sound of a train whistle.
As the result of a lawsuit settlement, the Montana Heritage Commission is removing a stretch of track in the gulch, which will prevent any trains from operating this season, said Marilyn Ross, executive director of the commission.
The lawsuit was filed by Joseph Bardswich in 2007 because a stretch of the train track was on his property.
The settlement agreement made recently called for the removal of a stretch of track the tourist trains used to turn around on their trips between Virginia and Nevada Cities, Ross said.
The agreement also called for the heritage commission to pay Bardswich about $16,000, said Marrissa Kozel, spokesperson with the Montana Department of Commerce.
The track removal is another setback in what’s been a rough couple of years for the train operation in Virginia City.
Last year the popular Baldwin number 12 steam engine didn’t operate. The engine needs some routine maintenance that will cost about $135,000. The heritage commission launched a fundraising campaign last year to help raise money for the work. So far they’ve raised about $15,000.
In lieu of running the big steam engine, the heritage commission operated a smaller train last year. With the piece of track gone, that train won’t run this season either.
“No train will run this summer because it’s just too close to the opening of the season to get any of these things in place,” Ross said.
Right now the next step with the tracks is to get engineers to look into the possibility of rebuilding the train tracks on heritage commission property, she said.
Both trains will be on display at the train barn for the summer, Ross said.
And though the news about the tracks is unfortunate, she emphasized that the heritage commission is committed to getting the trains up and running and the problem with the track and the steam engine solved. Ross is currently working with private donors to try and secure funds for the steam engine’s repairs and is also looking at new plans to operate the entire train operation between the two towns. This could mean taking on a private business to run the operation, she said.
For more information about the trains and the tracks, call Ross at the heritage commission at 843-5247.