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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 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

 


Saving America’s Treasures
10 May 2003

 

The Nevada Northern Railroad Museum is applying for two Save America’s Treasures grants. The Save America's Treasures, a public-private partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service, was established in 1998 to protect America's threatened cultural resources, including historic structures, art, maps, and journals that document and illuminate our history and culture. Laura Bush serves as the program's Honorary Chair along with Co-Chairs Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Susan Eisenhower, noted author and granddaughter of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The grants being requested are for the purpose of stabilizing and restoring the Engine Roundhouse and Machine Shop building located at the NNRy East Ely Shops and Yards National Historic District. The second grant is for the purpose of restoring to operation Steam Locomotive 40, Wooden Passenger Coach 2 and Railway Post Office/Baggage Car 20.

Locomotive 40 along with coaches 2 and 5 head out of the East Ely Yard National Historic District. The successful application of the Save America's Treasures grant will insure this scene will be repeated into our second century.

 

The combined Engine Roundhouse and Machine Shop building in particular is in desperate and emergency need of rehabilitation to prevent irreversible, catastrophic damage to the building itself, as well as the historic engines and railroad equipment that it houses. The Engine Roundhouse and Machine Shop building is one of the last engine roundhouses in the country to survive unaltered, and it houses the Nevada Northern Railway's entire historic collection, pieces of which are documented from the 1880s. Without swift and comprehensive intervention, a structural failure in this building is imminent, due to the age, design, materials, and the un-reinforced nature of its construction. Such a failure would irreparably damage or destroy one-of-kind historic artifacts such as equipment, tools, and the NNRy's "rolling stock" of steam locomotives, diesel engines, passenger cars, and auxiliary railcars and equipment.

With respect to Engine #40, due to recent changes in the Federal Railroad Administration’s 49 CFR Part 230 Steam Locomotive Inspection laws, there are very specific and necessary repairs which must be made immediately so the locomotive can operate again. Engine #40 must undergo a complete teardown and inspection of the boiler, removal of all boiler tubes and flues and exterior piping, brackets, insulation and sheet metal jackets. Until these federally required rebuild and repairs are made, Engine #40 cannot be operated.

Coach 2 is a priceless example of a lost art in America, the wooden passenger coach. Built of rare hardwoods, the car was purchased brand new from the St Louis Car Company in 1908. After 87 years of service on the Nevada Northern, Coach 2 was damaged in a train collision in 1995. The restoration of this car will add badly needed passenger capacity to the Nevada Northern Railway and preserve an excellent example of the coachbuilder’s art.

Railway Post Office/Baggage Car 20 is another instance of a priceless example of surviving equipment on the Nevada Northern. Purchased in 1907, the car provided mail and baggage for the communities along the railroad. Still in service today, Railway Post Office/Baggage Car 20 needs restoration work to remain in service, as an example to future generations of when all supplies and mail were delivered by rail.

What makes this a truly unique project is that Locomotive 40, Railway Post Office/Baggage Car 20, and Coach 2 make up the quintessential example of Americana that helped build this country. For 93 years, this equipment has been part of the Nevada Northern Railway collection and deserves to survive into the Nevada Northern’s second century.

From the demise of the mining industry in the area nearly 20 years ago, the Ely area has fought a daunting economic struggle to not just survive, but to provide employment and basic services for its residents. The Nevada Northern Railway is an essential economic generator within Ely's local economy, bringing in over 14,600 visitors a year to Ely to ride the trains, see the yards, and patronize local lodging, dining and business establishments. The loss of the crown jewel of the East Ely Yards, the Engine Roundhouse and Machine Shop building would mean the inability to continue operation of NNRy's Museum and the care of its historic collection. That, plus not being able to use Locomotive 40 and the cars, would be a detrimental blow to the community. The resulting negative impact to the local economy would exceed $1,200,000 annually.

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is asking for over $600,000 from the Save America’s Treasures program. If this money is awarded, the work will just be beginning. These would be matching grants, which means that the museum would need to raise another $600,000. We have already raised $310,000 that can be counted towards the match. This aggressive program would help insure the continued growth of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum.

 

 

 

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