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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

 


Museum Update
05 May 2006

It's the beginning of May and the excursion season has just completed its third weekend. Ridership is slightly ahead of last year; with high gas prices, this is a good omen.

Behind the scenes, there are a multitude of projects going on. From the steam locomotives to the buildings to the gift shop there is an overwhelming amount of work to be done.

On the locomotive front, we have challenges with all of our locomotives. With the oldest locomotive being ninety-seven years old to even our "youngest" locomotive hitting middle age, it is no surprise that they need work.

Our big push is steam locomotive 40. Right now locomotive 40 is in the shop for an extended annual inspection. Every year the steam locomotives undergo a thorough inspection. This is mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration. Because of the completeness of the inspection, this is also the ideal time to make repairs to the locomotive or as Dave Griner, our Chief Mechanical Officer says, "Put life back into the locomotive."

 

During this down period, locomotive 40 is receiving attention to staybolts, rod bearings, and other miscellaneous problems. As luck would have it, we have a broken staybolt behind the center set of drivers. To repair this staybolt we'll have to drop the drivers. After all, if you were ninety-six years old you would need some TLC too. Hopefully, locomotive 40 will be back in service by the 4th of July. This work is being paid for with a grant from the E. L. Cord Foundation.

Dropping the drivers illustrates one of the challenges that the museum needs to overcome. Before the drivers can be dropped, the drop table needs to be rebuilt. The drop table is a device that will rise up, support a set of drivers, and then when the drivers are released, lower the drivers out of the way. So before the drivers can be dropped, the drop table needed to be rebuilt. And to rebuild the drop table it needed to be removed from the drop pit. And speaking of the drop pit, for it to be used, it needed to be mucked out of some of the most foul smelling, goopy, slimy stuff I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing. (And I didn't do any of the shoveling.)

Loco 40 rod

Close-up of one of locomotive 40's rods. Close inspection reveals the brass bearing is scored and pitted. All of the bearings on 40 have this problem to varying degrees.

 

On the diesel locomotive front, all of them need some TLC. Locomotive 109 just come out of a ninety-two inspection, with a pretty clean bill of health. Locomotive 204 needs cylinder work, and locomotive 105 has a myriad of problems that have sidelined her.

The museum was given a 45-ton locomotive. Normally we would not accept a locomotive that is not a Nevada Northern or Kennecott locomotive. The decision was made to accept the locomotive and use it as a shop switcher and to power small trains. Currently when we need to do some switching, we fire up either locomotive 204 that has sixteen cylinders or locomotive 109 with twelve cylinders. In this era of high fuel prices, firing up just eight small cylinders will save us money. And lurking in the background is steam locomotive 81; the plan is to do a ground up overhaul on this locomotive.

Over a year ago, the museum purchased two passenger cars; currently the cars are in Ohio. The next challenge is getting the cars here. The cars are equipped with roller bearing trucks so they can make the trip to Salt Lake by rail but will need to come by truck to Ely. The arrival and the set up of the two cars will allow the existing two cars to receive some needed TLC.

On the track front, the Keystone wye now has three spring switches. At the Geraghty property there is a new passenger-loading platform. Machine Shop track 1 was dug up. It needs new ties and a couple of pieces of new rail. Work continues on switches through out the system. And the museum has received a grant to put the track back into service to the McGill Depot.

The museum received a Commission on Cultural Affairs grant to convert the boiler building into restrooms. Plans are being drawn up on this project and construction should start in the next month. Work continues on the McGill Depot. It should have a new roof by the end of the summer.

The gift shop is undergoing a remodel. New fixtures have been purchased to maximize the amount of merchandise that we can display and improve traffic flow. New doors are being constructed to match the doors on the rest of the depot. And the boarded-up doorway will receive a new door; this will remove an eyesore.

On the operations front, over eighty individuals attended the annual safety training in April. The rulebook underwent updating and revisions. And daily operations start on May 15.

As you can tell, the museum is busy. We have undertaken a broad scope of projects. The successful completion of these projects will improve museum operations and preserve the equipment. It is a lot of hard work being accomplished by dedicated staff members and volunteers. Without these dedicated individuals, these projects would not be accomplished.

 

 

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