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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

 


Spring Museum Update
22 April 2005

 

I recently gave a tour of the museum to a tour operator who was accompanied by Ed Spear from the Bristlecone Convention Center. Now Ed was on the City Council when the railroad was given to the community. And over the course of years, Ed has watched the progress of the museum. Whenever Ed gives me a call he'll always ask, "What are you doing?" My standard reply is, "Working."

Well a funny thing happened during the tour. As we were going through the buildings and showing the equipment, Ed was pretty much speechless. And take it from me, for Ed to be speechless is an event. The cause of his speechlessness was the amount of work that had been accomplished. When he did get his voice back, he told me, "You need to make a report to the Tour and Recreation Board and bring them up to date on your progress!"

I was rather stunned. I didn't think there was much to report. But then, reviewing what Ed saw, caused me to realize that I had been suffering from "can't see the forest because all of those trees are in the way." Or put another way, I needed to take a step back and take a look at the museum through Ed's eyes.

The first stop was the enginehouse. Open the door and the first sight that greets your eyes are two operating steam locomotives parked nose to nose. Locomotives 40 and 93 are receiving some before season maintenance. Both locomotives now comply with the new federal regulations and better yet we did locomotive 40 ourselves.

Thanks to the efforts of the shop crew and the NDF Honor Camp crews, the machine shop and enginehouse are cleaner now than they have been in years. You can actually walk through the buildings without tripping over everything. The cleanup has been so thorough that we discovered a room that we didn't know that we had. We were also able to sort and put away tools, supplies, and artifacts. Where we are not down by any stretch of the imagination but we are making progress.

Since November, we have been working on stabilizing the enginehouse/machine shop structure. Since I became executive director, I have been concerned about the structural integrity of the building. Thanks to generous grants from the State of Nevada's Commission on Cultural Affairs, the enginehouse/machine shop building, to quote the structural engineer, ". . . will be here for another 100 years." The work is almost finished. During the work, we discovered that we had been very lucky. We discovered the northwest corner of the building was on the verge of collapse. A few more freeze and thaw cycles with a strong north wind would have brought down a sizeable portion of the building. And we would have suffered a building collapse like the B&O Railroad Museum did.

Also inside the enginehouse are the complements for the ashpit. The ashpit project should be finished by the early part of summer. Moving from the enginehouse into the yard, the first thing you notice is the track. Robby Peartree and the Honor Camp crews have started taking care of the worse problems in the yard. Track and switches have been dug out and ties replaced. Ballast has been added to the soft spots in the yard. The crossover track from the RIP building to the mainline has received ties. It's now waiting for ballast and tamping. Speaking of tamping, the mechanical wizards of the shop got the tamper working. Once the snow stops, we'll be able to tamp the track.

Moving into the RIP track building, the first thing you notice that all of the windows have been repaired. On the inside of the building, Robby and the Honor Camp crews have worked another miracle: the entire inside of the building has been cleaned up and organized. You can actually repair cars in the building now. (RIP stands for repair in place.)

Those are the things that you can see. In a peak behind the scenes, the museum has also been successful on the grant front. Grants received from the E. L. Cord Foundation helped finish the ashpit project. The Commission on Cultural Affairs awarded the museum two grants: one to change the boiler building into restrooms and a second to continue work on the McGill Depot. The museum also has a grant pending with the Nevada Department of Transportation to restore the track to the McGill Depot. And two additional grants are pending with the Nevada Commission on Tourism to assist with marketing the museum.

The 2005 brochure is back from the printer and in distribution. The museum had a great training weekend with forty-one participants coming to Ely to take part in the training. And being true to tradition, it snowed during training weekend, with the sun making an appearance late Sunday afternoon.

And last weekend was the start of the season. In between snowstorms, we actually had beautiful weather for opening weekend. The museum has never started excursion operations so early and if last weekend was any indication, we are going to be in for a very busy season. Saturday we started with two excursion trains, one charter, and four engine rentals. On Sunday the pace dropped off a little, with only two excursions and three engine rentals, but operations spilled into Monday with two more engine rentals. All in all, we carried two hundred passengers, experienced our first robbery of the season, and had trains leaving East Ely just about every two hours. We were busy.

So the next time Ed calls he'll ask me what I'm doing and I'll reply, "Working." And I'll bet he won't question it one bit. Because we're all working hard to preserve, protect, and interpret the Nevada Northern Railway. Come join us.


 

 

 

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