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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

 


Off and Running for 2004 with Half-Price Tickets
01 May 2004


 

May 1st is the day when the 2004 season is officially off and running. As I write this, the weather is very unstable, first rain, then snow, and then sunshine. Then for variety we have snow, sun and then the rain, typical high desert weather in the springtime. It's just the type of weather needed right at the start of the season, but I digress.

Actually, where the excursion season does start May 1st, we have already been busy. So far this year, we have carried 669 passengers, traveled 445 miles and racked up 9,736 passenger miles. Not bad when you consider we haven't even officially started yet. Last year at this time, we had carried a total of 152 passengers, so we are off and running already for 2004. The schedule calls for over 400 trains this year.

 

To celebrate the kick-off of our season, we are offering all of the residents of White Pine County special pricing for the opening weekend. All White Pine County residents over the age of 12 are invited to ride on the Ghost Train at half price. County residents under the age of 12 are invited to ride the Ghost Train for free when accompanied by an adult. These prices are for May 1 or 2 only and are available on a first come, first serve basis. So come join us as we start what promises to be our biggest season ever. How big, good question. The museum is shooting for 12,000 passengers for the year, which would be double what we carried just three short years ago.

In 2004, over 400 trains will run and the museum expects
over 36,000 people to visit Ely because of the railroad.


Long time readers of this column will remember how in the past I have argued that railroad was an economic generator for the community and can reclaim its former glory. Well, we are on that path now. Let's take a look at the numbers.

If we accept 12,000 as the passenger load for the year, that will bring the museum almost $192,000 in ticket revenue. Along with the ticket sales the museum is aggressively promoting its engine rental program. There are over 100 opportunities for the want-to-be engineer to put his or her hand on the throttle of one of our locomotives, possible revenue, $42,000. Throw in the gift shop sales, concession sales, special trains and charters, and that brings in another $100,000. So the crystal ball says the railroad should gross about $334,600 from operations. For starters most of this money will be reinvested in the railroad. That money will then flow into the community in the form of wages, supplies, and services purchased here in Ely.

Let's go back to the 12,000 passengers. What we have found in the past is that about twice our ridership come as visitors. These are people who come and visit the property and for some reason don't ride the train. Add the visitors into the ridership and our total for this year could be over 36,000 people who have come to Ely because of the Nevada Northern.

36,000, now that's a lot of people that have an economic impact in the community. Let's try to figure out how much money these folks leave being in Ely. Because of the distance to get to Ely most if not all of the visitors will purchase food in either the form of a meal or snacks. In fact some visitors will purchase three meals during their stay here. To start let's estimate that railroad visitorship generates 2.5 meals times 36,000 visitors, this equals 90,000 food purchases. Some of these people will purchase food at a fast food restaurant, some will have an elaborate meal, and others will just buy a bag of chips and a soda. Looking into the crystal ball let's assume $6 per food purchase. So the 90,000 food purchases times $6 equals $540,000, not too shabby.

Then there is the discretionary purchase, which is a fancy name for gifts and souvenirs. We have 36,000 visitors; some will purchase nothing others will go overboard. How about we estimate $10 per visitor, this equals $360,000, not bad from gewgaws.

Of course we are in Nevada that means gaming. Let's face it; some of our visitors will try the slots or table games. For sake of argument let's say that half of our visitors drop $20 gaming that would equal $360,000 left behind.

The next category is fuel. Most of our visitors come in groups. So take the 36,000 visitors divide it by an average of 2.7 people and that equals 13,333 visitor groups. Most of these visitor groups will fill up with fuel when they hit Ely or before they leave. Being typical American's they are driving huge SUV's with huge fuel tanks. So if every visitor group fills up at least once and spends an average of $36 in fuel that brings another $480,000 into the community.

The last group we will take a look at is lodging. This has turned into a partnership between the community and the railroad. For every dollar spent in lodging the railroad receives two cents. So it is in the railroad's best interest to fill motel rooms in town. Going back to our 13,333 visitor groups let's estimate that two-thirds of the groups will spend the night in Ely. Let's estimate the average price of a room at $42. Take the $42 multiple it by 8,000 visitor groups and you get $336,000, again a nice chunk of change.

We add everything up and by the end of the season visitors to the Nevada Northern should have let about $2,410,601.15 behind in White Pine County. Not to bad for a little railroad in east central Nevada. To make this number become larger encourage our visitors to ride the train when they're in town.

 

 

 


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