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"At The Throttle"
by Mark Bassett, Executive Director

A weekly series of columns originally published in 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

 


Season Starts With Volunteers' Help
16 April 2008

 

Last Saturday marked the start of the 21st excursion season on the Nevada Northern Railway. It's been a busy year so far as we prepare for the season with no let up in sight. Of course the big news is the running gear repair on locomotive 93. Work is on going in both Salt Lake City and here in Ely. All four axle sets were taken to Salt Lake City to begin the process of renewal.

April 5-6 was our annual volunteer training, 46 individuals showed up for the training. Volunteers came from Ely, Las Vegas, Reno, California, Montana, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and the furthest out was two volunteers from Topeka, Kansas.

The first day was at the Ely Elk's Lodge for classroom instruction. Starting at 7:30 a.m. the training lasted until 5 p.m. After the training, the management board barbequed steaks for all of the volunteers. On Sunday, it was the practical aspect of the training. There were four training events in the yard. The volunteers rotated through all of the events that covered topics on locomotive inspection, how air brakes work, train inspection, throwing switches, coupling and general railroad safety. After four hours of instruction, all of the train crew members then took a written examination on safety and operations.

If you are interested in volunteering for train service and didn't make the training, not to worry. Individual make-up classes are available. Contact Skip Allen at the museum for details.

Speaking of Skip, Willam A. Allen, better know as Skip, was recently hired as Trainmaster of the museum. Skip will be responsible for all aspects of train operations. Another new hire is long time volunteer Ron Taylor. Ron is now the Roadmaster of the museum and he is responsible for all of the museum's track.

This will be a busy year for track projects at the museum. The big news is that work has started on the mainline from Highline junction to McGill Junction. This eight mile section of track will be rehabilitated to Class 2 standards. Included in this project is the McGill wye. The railroad will now have three wyes - McGill Junction, East Ely and Keystone. Funding for this $750,000 project comes from the federal government.

The Club 50 railroad crossing rehabilitation project has also started. This crossing is located about six miles north of Ely on US 93. The crossing has been deteriorating for years. The rehabilitation will include new track, roadway, signals, and gates. This $600,000 project is being funded by the State of Nevada Commission on Economic Development, Nevada Department of Transportation and the federal government.

The railroad received federal earmark monies for track rehabilitation for the track that excursion trains run on. An RFP is being drawn up to spend $1 million on the track from milepost H7 to Keystone. With luck (and a lot of hard work) this money will be released this year and work will commence. The one thing I have learned is that a mountain of paperwork needs to be completed before the actual work on the ground can begin.

If this wasn't enough, locomotive 204's prime mover is being worked on. The prime mover is the diesel engine that turns the generator that produces the electricity that turns the traction motors that powers the locomotive. I never get over how big a railroad locomotive is. The diesel engine in 204 has 16 cylinders. Each cylinder has a bore of just over eight inches, a stroke of 10 inches, and a displacement of 567 cubic inches per cylinder!

Whenever I do forget how big locomotives are, I get reminded really fast when the bills start coming in. We'll be replacing the cylinder heads on all 16 cylinders. The pistons will receive new rings. Also as part of the service, we'll be changing the oil. Just like in your car or truck, 204's engine needs an oil change. The difference and it is a very big difference, is that the cost of just the oil will be close to $5,000. Where many people might think that that's shocking, just wait until you have to fill up the fuel tank. No. 204 can hold up to 2,400 gallons of diesel! You think, you get shocked at the fuel pump, at $3.85 per gallon a fill up the tank costs another $9,200!

In addition to locomotive work and track work, work continues on the buildings too. The restroom project is complete. McGill depot is sealed up. The Master Mechanic's building and the Electric Shop received new roofs. This year we'll be re-roofing more buildings and repairing more windows.

There are times when it seems that the work never ends down at the museum. But Ron always says that we'll be done the day after tomorrow. The problem appears to be that tomorrow never comes. In any case, we're busy, if you're looking for something to do, come on down and volunteer.

 

Locomotive 93 Update
7 April 2008

Work continues on steam locomotive 93. In Ely, the frame is pretty much bare as all of the spring rigging is off of the locomotive. The pistons are also out of the cylinders in preparation for string lining the frame. The crosshead guides are also off.

Meanwhile in Salt Lake City, the tires are off of the drivers. For you Johnny Cash fans you learn all about the burning ring of fire as the tires come off the wheels centers. The eccentrics are off the axles and we found a broken bearing. The next step will be removing the old axles.

 

 

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