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"At The Throttle"
by Mark Bassett, Executive Director

A weekly series of columns originally published in 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

 


Pssst…Wanna Buy a Bridge?
16 May 2007

What follows is a letter that museum just sent out to its membership. We have 1,910 dues paying members with every state of the union represented. Our membership is our secret weapon. Our member's generous support allows us to operate steam locomotives in the 21st century in Ely Nevada. Without their support, our steam program would be severely curtailed.

Of the 1,910 members the museum has, only 124 are from White Pine County. So I'm asking for your help. The museum needs your financial help now to get this bridge repaired. If you or family had a tie to the railroad, now is the time to step forward.

Here's a picture of the bridge. It doesn't look like much. But without this little structure, the trains cannot run, period.


Pssst, wanna buy a bridge?!? It's only slightly used. Actually, it's really, really used and we're not selling a bridge, but we do need your help in order to repair one. That's right, we own a bridge. To be technically correct it's a ballasted-deck timber-trestle. Nothing as glamorous as those tall graceful, swaying timber trestles that you might be imagining when I say "bridge." No, it's a pretty small looking thing, but very, very necessary. It's short, squat, and failing. This deteriorating structure sits on the Keystone branch and it needs repairs pronto, hence that the reason I am writing you with such urgency.

Traditionally in our business, at this time of year the museum's cash reserve is at its lowest point: The season (and our revenues) hasn't started yet, but we have been busy with the normal off-season maintenance and our savings have been depleted by last winter's heavy locomotive repairs. Frankly, we don't presently have the funds to repair this bridge, yet the situation demands immediate attention.

With our season looming on the horizon, this repair is critical. Keystone is our steam operations branch and steam is the major reason that people make the trek to Ely. Without operating steam-powered excursion trains, people won't travel here. And without passengers, revenues will plummet, taking our situation from bad to worse.

A similar set of circumstances occurred four years ago with a different bridge on the Keystone branch. It was so bad that I had to cancel a steam powered excursion train as it was ready to leave the depot. I informed the passengers that the steam branch was closed, but that the excursion train would still run, as it would operate on our other branch with a diesel locomotive—they were welcome to ride that train, or they could have their money back. Unfortunately, a majority of the passengers left their seats and took me up on the refund offer. That was a big financial loss for us.

So I'm asking you as a supporter and a member of the museum for more of your generous support by immediately sending in a contribution for the bridge repair. I don't use the word "immediately" lightly, but the repairs must be completed prior to June 28th and we cannot even begin without the money actually sitting in the bank to pay for it. The cost of the repair is estimated to be between $18,000 and $38,000. Why this large spread, you ask? Because we won't know exactly how extensive the repairs will be until the structure is completely dismantled and we are in the midst of the work. It's better to be safe than sorry and believe in Murphy's Law. Using our other museum projects as a guide, the chances are that the cost will end up on the high end of the estimate. We simply can't take the chance of tearing the bridge apart (which completely shuts down the branch), only to find that it will cost more to repair than we have on hand.

Again, time is of the essence; this task needs to be completed by June 28th. Daily steam operations are slated—and advertised nationally—to start the very next day. This in turn leads up to our largest month of the year in terms of revenue and passengers: July.

As you can see, this is critical. Please return the form below with as generous a donation as you can comfortably make, ASAP. A self-addressed envelope is provided for your convenience. Any funds remaining after the bridge is repaired will be invested in the rehabilitation of our new passenger coaches, so nothing will be wasted.

The entire staff, crew, and I would like to thank you in advance for your donation. Your assistance in our critical bridge repair is greatly appreciated.

 

So there you have it. We need to make extensive repairs to a bridge and we don't have the financial resources to do it. So, I'm asking White Pine County residents to join with the museum's members and make a financial contribution to the museum to help with the bridge. It's as easy as dropping a check in the mail (PO Box 150040, Ely NV 89315) or dropping one off at the museum. The when you ride the train the next time, you can point out that bridge and tell your visitors, "I helped keep the trains running."

 

 

 

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