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"At The Throttle"
by Mark Bassett, Executive Director

A weekly series of columns originally published in the Friday edition of the Ely Times 
Mark Bassett is the Executive Director of the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation, operator of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. He can be reached at the museum (775) 289-2085 ext. 7 or e-mail: director@nnry.com

 


Large Wheels, Missing Locomotive
28 January 2005

by Steve Swanson

 

You can walk through the yard of the Nevada Northern in East Ely and look at the different railroad cars that are still here on the tracks. Most of the cars are easy to recognize, such as boxcars, tank cars, and flatcars. But there are a few that raise questions such as the wooden ballast cars. Then there is the one car that generates the most questions.

It is a short heavy four-wheel car that looks like it has locomotive wheels under it. In the museum's records, it is identified as the scale test car. Well, one of our volunteers took it upon himself to do some research and he solved the mystery of the scale car with the locomotive-like wheels.


During the construction of the Nevada Northern Railway between 1905 and 1906, the Nevada Consolidated Copper Company planned to build its concentrator and smelter at the Georgetown Ranch near present day East Ely. The close proximity between East Ely and the proposed reduction plant resulted in the order of a double-ended 2-8-2 tank engine early in 1906 from the American Locomotive Company. Officials intended this locomotive to handle ore trains between East Ely and the concentrator at the Georgetown Ranch. The locomotive design eliminated the need to turn the locomotive at each terminal, saving considerable time.

According to American Locomotive records, the New York office of the American Smelting and Refining Company placed the order for Nevada Northern locomotive No. 5. However, during its construction the Guggenheim interests gained enough control of Nevada Consolidated Copper to change the site of the mill and smelter from the Georgetown Ranch to the McGill Ranch, some thirteen miles north of East Ely.

When company policy changed the site of the reduction works to the McGill Ranch in order to take advantage of the larger water supply offered by Duck Creek, the design of engine No. 5 became inadequate. Nevertheless, the Nevada Northern Railway took delivery of the locomotive, which was built in October 1906 (builders' number 41327) at the Brooks Plant of the American Locomotive Co. Nevada Northern No. 5 was a 2-8-2 tank engine with 19x26 cylinders, 48-inch drivers, 42-inch leading and trailing trucks, weighing 225,000 lbs. half full of coal and water. To augment the water capacity, designers raised the centerline of the boiler 9 inches by increasing the height of the cylinder saddle allowing the side tanks to wrap under the boiler, giving a capacity of 1,250 gallons of water for each tank. Even so, engine No. 5 had held only 2,500 gallons of water and 5 tons of coal, making it unsuitable for ore service between East Ely and the new site of the mill and smelter at the McGill Ranch. A second order for a much larger engine of similar design, first No. 6, was cancelled before American Locomotive started construction.

Nevada Northern 2-8-2ST No. 5

Builders photo of NN No. 5 fresh from the American Locomotive Company's erecting floors. Ordered when the smelter was going to be at the Georgetown Ranch, it wasn't heavy enough to do mainline work. Its pilot wheels and trailing wheels we used in the construction of the scale test car.

ALCO Photo, ALCO History Center
Steve Swanson collection

 

Nevada Northern No. 5 probably had very limited uses. It may have seen service as a switch engine dumping ore cars at the concentrator, powering the ping-pong suburban trains, or perhaps as a plant switch engine at McGill.

Certainly, by 1910, the Nevada Northern Railway had made a number of decisions concerning its motive power. They took delivery of their newest freight engine, No. 94, in late 1909. A switch engine, second No. 6 (builders' number 48184), of about the same tractive effort as engine No. 5, was built by the Pittsburgh Works of the American Locomotive Co. in August 1910. They purchased a third passenger engine, No. 40 (builders' number 34942; July 1910) from the Baldwin Locomotive Works. In 1913, Baldwin Locomotive Works supplied two new boilers for the old ex-Southern Pacific 4-6-0s No. 2 and No. 3. These two engines were destined for different roles. After installation of a new boiler in 1914, No. 2 became the plant switch engine at McGill when the Nevada Northern sold it to the Steptoe Valley Smelting and Mining Co. in March of that year as engine No. 400. The Nevada Northern operated No. 3 in ping-pong suburban service. Commonly known as the "School Train Engine," it was finally set aside in 1929 and broken up in 1933.

With increasing traffic on the Nevada Northern line, engine No. 5 was shopped (probably during 1911) for conversion to a conventional engine with a tender. Shop forces removed the side tanks, coalbunker, and trailing truck, rebuilt the cab to conventional design, and replaced the leading truck with its 42-inch wheel set with a new leading truck with a 33-inch spoke wheel set. As rotary snowplow "B" saw limited service (unused some years), the tender from the rotary was assigned to engine No.5. This tender was a duplicate of those used on the 90-class ore haul engines with a capacity of 7,500 gallons of water and 12 tons of coal. In April 1913, the East Ely shops turned out this locomotive as conventional road engine Nevada Northern No. 80.

The parts removed from engine No. 5 during its rebuild into conventional 2-8-0 No. 80 saw new life as a scale test car. The Nevada Northern shops used the 42-inch wheels, axles, brake hanger, and parts of the leading and trailing truck frames, along with a cast lead weight to build Nevada Northern scale test car No. 5000, weighing 35,000 pounds. The railroad employed it to check and calibrate the East Ely track scales for accuracy. In 1986, Kennecott Copper donated scale test car No. 5000 along with the entire Nevada Northern East Ely shop complex to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum.

 

Nevada Northern Scale Test Car No. 5000

Nevada Northern Scale Test Car No. 5000 fresh from the shops in July 1938.

Paul Darrell photo, Steve Swanson collection

   
PS. There needs to be a P.S. to this story and that is that the scale test needs cleaning, painting and lettering. If this is a project you would like to undertake, please let me know. This car would look great sitting in front of the restored scale house.

 

 

 

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