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"At The Throttle"
by Mark Bassett, Executive Director

A weekly series of columns originally published in the Saturday edition of the Ely Times 
Mark Bassett is the Executive Director of the White Pine Historical 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

 


Roof Collapses at B&O Railroad Museum
Part of Historic Collection Destroyed

08 March 2003


“At the B&O Railroad Museum, where half the roof over the 19th-century roundhouse building collapsed under the weight of snow…many railway artifacts and several vehicles were destroyed or damaged. Officials do not know the extent of the damage but said fallen trusses destroyed two post-Civil War wooden coaches. The B&O wooden coaches are post-Civil War but among the oldest railroad coaches known. They really got smashed," said William L. Withuhn, transportation curator for the Smithsonian Institution. The museum had no indication the roundhouse roof would fail.”

This is every museum’s nightmare, the late night call, with an unknown voice saying, ‘you better get down here right away.’ Well it happened at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore over the Presidents’ Day weekend. The only bright spot in the disaster is that no one was in the structure when it collapsed. Over half of the roof on their roundhouse building collapsed over their historic railroad equipment. As you can see in the picture, historic wooden cars do not stand up well to having a roof fall on top of them.

Two 1870s-era wooden coaches were damaged by the roof collapse of the B&O Museum, one of which was cut in half by a falling truss. Other cars and locomotives can be restored, as well as the 119-year-old roof and its lattice trusses.
Sol Tucker © Trains.com

   

Then there is the question, can the cars be repaired? I don’t think so, rebuilt, yes. Then this opens another can of worms. If the cars are rebuilt, this would mean replacing all of the windows, roof, and car sides, is it then the same car? Is it still historic? Or is it a reproduction? I’m glad that I don’t have to debate these points about the Nevada Northern Railway collection, at least not yet.

What? I can hear you thinking, what do you mean not yet? It’s simple; the roof of our engine house in Ely Nevada could collapse. Unlike the museum in Baltimore where they did not suspect that their roundhouse roof would fail, we know that ours can fail and could fail in the near future.

Just like Baltimore, our historic Nevada Northern Railway collection is stored in our roundhouse. Part of our collection dates to the 19th century with the rest dating from just after the turn of the century. Just like Baltimore, our collection is unique to our railroad, one of the principle reasons that our collection is priceless. Locomotive 93 has been on the property for 94 of the 98 years that the Nevada Northern Railway has been in existence.

Last year the Museum applied for a Save America’s Treasures grant to stabilize the engine roundhouse at the Nevada Northern railway complex. (Before you write or call me, yes I know that the NNRy engine house is rectangular and not round. But that’s how the builders referred to it.) This is a quote from the grant application, “a structural engineering report revealed that without an immediate seismic and structural retrofit of the Engine Roundhouse and Shop at the Ely complex, the structure cannot remain safely in operation and cannot continue operating as an historic railroad facility.”

The report when on to say, “The Engine Roundhouse and Shop was not designed to resist internal wind and seismic loads. Although the exterior bearing walls are generally capable of resolving the lateral loads, the system is incomplete in the transferring of lateral loads through a properly configured roof diaphragm. Since the property is intended to be used for the restoration and storage of unique historic equipment, including Engine #40, and open to the public as a museum, the structures must be retrofit immediately to achieve compliance with the Uniform Code for Building Conservation (UCBC). Without complete load resisting system in place, the building cannot be considered safe to occupy or house irreplaceable historic objects, as substantial seismic activity or high winds could cause immediate and catastrophic collapse.”

Unfortunately, our grant application was not funded. So where are we now? We have a bill pending in the state legislature this season. It is Assembly Bill 181. Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea and Senator Dean Rhoads introduced it. The bill makes appropriation to White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation for renovation of historic buildings and Locomotive 40. We are asking for $500,000.

And if you have been following the state’s budget crisis, you know this will be an uphill battle. Before you throw up your hands and say this is an impossible task, take another look at the photograph from Baltimore. Now imagine Locomotives 40 and 93 in the photo. Imagine Coach 2 sliced in half by a roof truss. Caboose 3 flattened. A priceless artifact from Ely’s and Nevada’s past gone.

So what can you do? First off, fire off a letter to Assemblymen Pete Goicoechea and Senator Dean Rhoads telling them how important this bill is to Ely and White Pine County. Then send a note of thanks to the sponsors of the bill with an explanation of the significance of this bill to the communities of White Pine County, which would certainly help our efforts. Then get your family and friends to write their representatives about the importance of this bill. Names and addresses of the legislators can be found on the Legislature website.

Peter J. Goicoechea
Nevada State Assembly
401 S. Carson St., Carson City, NV 89701

Dean A. Rhoads
Nevada State Senate
401 S. Carson St., Carson City, NV 89701

County Commissioner Paul Johnson is the chairman of the Legislative Coalition group who is pushing to get this bill passed. When the bill comes up for hearings, White Pine County will need to be in Carson City in force. If you are available to head over to Carson City on short notice please contact either Paul Johnson at email: paujohns@whitepine.k12.nv.us or (775) 289-4851 x125, or myself. Working together we can get this bill passed and save a large part of White Pine County’s heritage.

 

 

Assembly Bill No. 181


Assemblymen Goicoechea, Collins, Chowning, Anderson, Andonov, Beers, Carpenter, Christensen, Claborn, Conklin, Grady, Griffin, Hardy, Koivisto, Mabey, McClain, Parks, Perkins, Sherer and Weber

February 21, 2003
____________

Joint Sponsor: Senator Rhoads
____________

Referred to Committee on Ways and Means

SUMMARY—Makes appropriation to White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation for renovation of historic buildings and Locomotive 40. (BDR S 807)

FISCAL NOTE:
Effect on Local Government: No.
Effect on the State: Contains Appropriation not included in Executive Budget.

AN ACT making an appropriation to the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation for renovation of historic buildings and Locomotive 40; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, REPRESENTED IN
SENATE AND ASSEMBLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. There is hereby appropriated from the State General Fund to the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation the sum of $500,000 for the renovation of historic buildings and Locomotive 40.
Sec. 2. Any remaining balance of the appropriation made by section 1 of this act must not be committed for expenditure after June 30, 2005, and reverts to the State General Fund as soon as all payments of money committed have been made.
Sec. 3. This act becomes effective upon passage and approval.

 

 

 


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