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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

 


Any Track, Any Time, in Either Direction
24 April 2004


 

This weekend, the museum will be conducting its annual safety training on the railroad as we gear up for our operating season. One of the mantras that we repeat constantly is that you should expect a train, "On Any Track, At Any Time, In Either Direction." And if you are a parent or a grandparent that has children or grand children, I have a favor to ask, teach this little mantra to the children.

On the surface this may seem like a strange request, but it isn't. As the Nevada Northern Railway gears up for its busiest season in years, it becomes critical to teach this little ditty to the children. Why? Because trains do not stop on a dime by any stretch of the imagination. Just like your car takes time to stop, even if you slam on the brakes trains take infinitely more time and distance then a car does to stop.

Why? Because of the tremendous weight. Steam Locomotive 93 weighs almost 245,000 pounds just by itself. That is over 120 tons. It takes considerable distance to stop 120 tons. Then start adding cars to the train, add 200 people and the weight of the train really builds which means it takes even longer to stop. During a recent test of the train in the East Ely yard, it took almost a city block to stop an empty train that was only going six miles an hour!

So what's the big deal? Just this, during the winter photo shoots I noticed small footprints walking down the center of the tracks. This was especially noticeably where the railroad goes through town from the Lackawanna crossing to almost downtown. The situation become more dangerous when you realize the engineer's visibility is restricted as the locomotive goes around the curves that are present on this section of line.

So here's the situation: we have a very heavy train, going through curves, with youngsters walking down the middle of the track. This is why you need to stress to children the dangers of playing or walking on or near the railroad track. The train can't stop quickly, the engineer's vision is restricted, and the train can come down the track at any time, in either direction.

The second dangerous habit that is being formed is that four-wheelers are starting to use the railroad tunnels as short cuts. I have noticed four-wheeler tracks in both tunnels. This is exceptionally dangerous. Going into the old tunnel the engineer is essentially blind. He or she is leaving bright daylight to plunge into gloom and they are entering the tunnel on a curve, which restricts their vision even more. Compound this with the fact there is not enough room for both the train and four-wheeler in the tunnel and even if the engineer should see the four-wheeler, the train will not stop in time. It's the recipe for a disaster.

Last season we operated six days a week at least one train a day. This year we are operating six days a week at least two trains a day. The museum now has two train sets, which means that we will be operating two trains at the same time, going different directions. My point being is just because you see a train heading toward McGill, doesn't mean that the tracks through town will be clear. A second train can then head to Keystone. Last year we really polished the rails and this year we will be doing so again. With every one practicing safety, we will have a safe trouble-free season.

 

 


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