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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

 


Elbow Grease and Determination
17 April 2004


 

By the time you have read this, the Nevada Northern Railway operated a very unique train. The train consisted of Steam Locomotive 93, Baggage/Railway Post Office Car 20, First Class Coach 5, Coaches 07 and 08, Flat Car 23, and Caboose 6. This train was charter for the ELKS. This is a special train for numerous reasons.

The first reason is this is the debut of First Class Coach 5. Coach 5 was built by the Pullman Chicago Works as all wooden sleeping car Silesia in June 1882 for the Pullman-Union Pacific Association. It was withdrawn from UP Association use in April 1898 and subsequently sold to Hotchkiss, Blue and Company. The Nevada Northern Railway purchased it second hand in January 1913 for $1,500.00 plus an additional $197.60 in freight charges for shipment from Chicago, Illinois to Cobre, Nevada.

It was apparently designated as coach 03 on the Nevada Northern roster until its conversion from a Pullman sleeper to 1st class coach (chair car) 5 (with smoking and non-smoking sections) between December 31, 1917 and May 31, 1918 at a cost of $8,900. Kennecott Copper Corporation donated it to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in 1986.

First Class Coach 5 is the third piece of equipment to return to service after it suffered damage in a collision on June 17, 1995. Preceding Coach 5 in returning to service was Flat Car 23 and Steam Locomotive 93. That only leaves one piece of rolling stock left to be repaired, Coach 2.

After 9 years First Class Coach 5 returns to service on the Nevada Northern Railway. This 122-year-old passenger car is an excellent example of the type of car that hauled millions of passengers during the "golden age" of railroading and still does today in Ely.

 

First Class Coach 5 is special. Now over 122 years old it is a beautiful car. The interior is constructed with Honduran Mahogany paneling and Czechoslovakian etched glass. It features a "smoking" section with leather seats originally intended for men and a women's section featuring velvet upholstery. It is part of this consist because of the hard work and dedication of the museum's staff and volunteers.

Museum personnel Al and Kris worked last winter and spring repairing the couplers and getting the car on its trucks. After getting the car on its trucks the airbrakes would not work properly. By this time, the 2003 season was starting and Coach 5 was moved to the RIP building to await further repairs. This winter and spring, Jack, Al, Kris, and Ed did more work and the pesky brake problem was repaired to find a new problem with the coupler on one end being to low. This was traced back to weak springs in one truck. This repaired; it was now time to clean the interior.

After sitting 9 years in the enginehouse the interior of the car was filthy. Museum personnel Evva and Misty washed and scrubbed the interior of the car. C & C Carpets was hired to clean the velvet seats. It took days to clean the inside, but now the car sparkles. To finish off the interior repairs a museum volunteer Jim spent hours on his hands and knees checking each seat mounting and making repairs as needed and then went to the roof to make additional repairs to the roof. Another volunteer Richard rewired in the speaker system. After all of this work Coach 5 will now live up to its billing as a First Class Coach.

 

Meanwhile as all of this was work was being accomplished another challenge was appearing: Baggage/Railway Post Office Car 20. To carry all of the ELKS, benches would need to be installed in 20. Car 20 presented one of those classic conundrums. Before the benches could be installed, the car needed to be cleaned. Cleaning the car required a lot of elbow grease which caused more of the inside paint to flake off. After the car was cleaned it looked worse than when it was dirty. What to do? Simple-paint. So on Tuesday, three days before the train was due to depart, it was decided to paint. Colors needed to be matched, paint ordered, ladders purchased and away we go.

Well not quite so fast.

Tom (left) and Lin (center) came to Ely to do an engine rental. They asked if they could help and were given paintbrushes. Evva (right) normally seats behind a computer handling the museum finances, now finds herself painting.

 

The vast majority of the interior of the car was an off white, surprise! Well, white is not the easiest of colors to paint. So the walls were started first. Then the interior ceiling presented another challenge. Because 20 was a baggage car the interior was minimally finished and there is no interior ceiling. The roof bows subdivided the interior to what seem to be countless compartments. It was difficult to make any time painting the interior ceiling. Museum personnel Evva, Misty, Kris, and Mark spent what seemed to be a lifetime painting. Museum volunteers, Tom, Lin, Jim, Ron, and Joan all took their time with a paintbrush so by Thursday afternoon, the car was completely painted on the inside. By Friday morning the benches were installed and Baggage/Railway Post Office Car 20 was ready to receive her first passengers. Through all of this work, our newest hire, Carol, might have the most difficult job. She got stuck answering the phones for all of us. As a new hire she did not know a lot about the museum or its equipment, but boy did she learn fast.

Meanwhile down at the enginehouse, repairs were being made to Locomotive 93. On its last trip up the hill, it suffered a hot bearing in the rear drive axle. Locomotive 93 was jacked up, the axle evaluated and repairs made. To complete the repairs a grease pack was needed. The grease we had on hand was suspected of being contaminated with dust, which would not be our first choice to use. Jack got on the phone, called around looking for just the right type of grease to make up a new grease pack. He found a supplier and they were out but would have more in a few days. Finally the supplier had the grease on Tuesday and promised to ship some next day with the reminder to ship ground. As luck would have it, both boxes showed on Wednesday. Then a grease pack was made and installed on Thursday. 93 was fired up and went up the hill on a successful test run with Dan, Kris and Al.

Meanwhile Caboose 6 needed its wheels trued. Using special brake shoes and locomotive 109, Ed coupled up to the caboose and towed it through the yard checking the wheels. This procedure entailed setting the brakes gently, moving the car, checking the wheels, moving the car, checking the wheels, moving the car, checking the wheels, etc.

I need to mention the work Kris and museum volunteers Kelvin and Ron accomplished. They replaced ties on the route that the ELKS train would take to Keystone. Changing ties is just plain hard dirty work.

This was quite the challenge that the museum undertook. A piece of our historic collection is now back in service. Another piece had its interior cleaned and painted. Locomotive 93 is ready to go back up the hill. Caboose 6 will now ride smoother and necessary track repairs were accomplished.

None of this work could have been accomplished without the dedication and hard work of museum staff and especially the volunteers. It is the volunteers that make all of the difference. Jim came down from Idaho for a week to help out wherever he could and we put him to work. Tom and Lin came to Ely for an engine rental. They came in early and asked if they could help and were handed paintbrushes and did a yeomen's job. Richard comes down nearly everyday to help out in some way. Dan has been coming down for years to help out in anyway he can. Ron and Kelvin have also been coming down for years doing what needs to be done to keep the Nevada Northern rolling. Being married to a museum staff member can have its disadvantages, the principle one being when extra hands are needed you're drafted, this is the fate that befell Ron and Joan as paint brushes were thrust into their hands.

It is the skills and dedication of the staff and volunteers that combine to create a truly grand railroad museum. The work is no where near finished, Coach 5 needs work in its restroom, Baggage Car 20 needs truck work and both need their exteriors painted. Coaches 07 and 08 need a laundry list of things to be accomplished, same with the Flatcar 23 and Caboose 6.

There is track work, building rehabilitation and steam locomotive restoration that all need to be done. There are huge jobs and small jobs. The one thing they all have in common is that they need doing and they need workers to complete them. Bored, looking for a new challenge, we have plenty. Come join us.


 

 


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