City Councilman Marty Westland initially moved to Ely to work for the Nevada Northern Railway. (Garrett Estrada photo)

City Councilman Marty Westland initially moved to Ely to work for the Nevada Northern Railway. (Garrett Estrada photo)

Ely Times Staff Writer

Marty Westland moved to Ely for the purpose of being a railroad engineer at the Nevada Northern Railway, to work for Mark Bassett.

On Feb. 13. Westland and Basset will once again be brought together by the railroad. Only this time they will represent two different sides to a city council proposal, with the financial responsibility of the railway hanging in the balance.

The relationship between Westland and Bassett is a long and convoluted one that has sparked debate within the community as to whether either man has motives hiding beneath the surface of what they are saying. What started simply as a boss terminating an employee has spiraled into rumors and accusations.

Bassett, who has been the executive director of the Nevada Northern Railway since 2002, has been outspoken about how he feels Westland has done things to jeopardize the future of the historical railroad foundation.

“There are two things that the railroad always has in short supply, time and money,” Bassett said. “These actions that Marty has done is burning through time and money like there is no tomorrow,” Basset said.

The actions in question go back to November of 2008, when Westland filed with the Nevada Secretary of State to incorporate under the name “Nevada Northern Railway” and also use the “safety first” logo that’s associated with the railroad. The name and logo used in Westland’s company were the same as the ones being used by railway already.
Bassett points to the articles of incorporation as proof that Westland was looking to take control of the historical section of the railroad, which was gifted to the city by Kennecott Copper.

Westland, who was terminated by Bassett in May of 2008, said his intention was never to interfere with the historical section of the railroad, which runs from McGill to the Keystone mine. Westland said his business venture was strictly geared toward a 120-mile stretch of tracks north of the historical foundation’s section, that were left dormant after their use for a proposed power plant fell through in 2007.

“I think that Mark is probably blurring the lines a little bit,” Westland said. “When the power plants had to admit defeat and it was apparent that the line was not going to be rehabilitated, the city was contemplating putting out a request for proposal to look for an operator, somebody who would do something with the railroad line. That was the motivation for forming the Nevada Railway Corporation.”

As for the use of the same name and logo as the historical foundation, Westland said they were both available through the secretary of state’s office when he filed, and he wanted to protect their use.

When Bassett was offered a chance to respond to Westland’s claim, he erupted in laughter. Bassett’s accusations go farther though, as he has gone on record stating he believes Westland possibly cost the railway $13 million in funds that were proposed by Sen. Harry Reid’s office.

Bassett claims that in 2009, he traveled to Washington D.C. and met with Reid to discuss the opportunity to pitch a proposal that would make the railroad operational for freight. According to Bassett, the senate majority leader liked the idea and said if Basset could write an appropriation request and match 5 percent of the $13 million, he would try to pass it.

While it’s not known why Reid ended up not going forward with the proposal, Bassett strongly believes it was due to a website that had a picture of the track, created by Westland’s company that advertised the railway to be used to transport nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain.

“There’s our logo, there’s our track and it has information about hauling nuclear waste,” Bassett said. “Senator Reid is completely and totally against Yucca Mountain. Reid and his staff never addressed this, but I believe that the senator felt like we sucker punched him. [Westland’s] stunt, by doing this, cost the community tens of millions of dollars.”
Westland pointed out that articles published online had already brought up the transportation of nuclear waste as a possibility for the railroad, but he was not involved with the creation of, or the content within, the website Basset mentions.

“I did not do that. I was involved in the formation of the Nevada Northern railway company but I did not have anything to do with the website,” Westland said.

One thing both men can agree on is they each will plenty to say when they meet at the Ely city council meeting on Feb. 13 at the armory.