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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

 


The Best of Nevada
25 June 2008

 

I just received a thank you card. On the cover is a Chinese character called a Hsu (pronounced xu). The explanation on the back of the card explains that the character means, "to wait." It further goes on to explain, "If you have the patience and endurance all of your dreams and wishes will be realized."

Well, this week one of our dreams was achieved. It has been said that the Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark is the best-kept secret in Nevada. The dream has been to change that perception. To let people know that there is a world-class treasure in the high desert of Nevada.


Well, the dream was realized thanks to the readers of Nevada Magazine. From the magazine's website: "If Wayne Newton was belting out 'Danke Schoen' on the Nevada Northern Railway's Ghost Train, Nevada lovers would be singing along. That's the conclusion you might come to, anyway, after learning the results of Nevada Magazine's 11th annual Best of Nevada readers' poll."

For years, Nevada Magazine has a Best of Nevada Award in different categories. This year the Nevada Northern Railway was recognized (for the second year in a row, I might add) as the Best Place to Take the Kids in Rural Nevada.

One of the missions of the railroad is to attract and engage the youth. The connection between railroading and society is slowly disappearing. Railroading is slowly falling off society's radar. If this trend isn't reversed, the future of Heritage Railroading is dim. Well, it's obvious that we're making inroads and exposing the railroad to youth.

Last year we started our "Kids Ride Free" program. Now in its second year, kids ride free on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. This is part of our effort to forge the connection between trains and kids.

The railroad was recognized by the readers of Nevada Magazine in three categories: Best Place to Take Kids in Rural Nevada; Best Rural Museum; and My Favorite Nevada Attraction.

Secondly, we have partnered with the National Railway Historical Society to offer RailCamp for teens. This weeklong program involves teens in the world of railroading from working in the shop and on track to actually operating a diesel locomotive. Now in its third year here at the Nevada Northern Railway, the program is a success.

I'd say that we're making progress on our goal of involving the current generation in railroading. To be honored two years in a row as the Best Place to Take Kids in Rural Nevada is quite the achievement and compliment.

And surprise, we received an additional award this year—the railroad was selected as the Best Rural Museum in Nevada. To be so recognized only happened because of the hard work of many different individuals. Slowly projects are being completed to preserve this National Historic Landmark. But preservation is not a goal in and of itself. What is the benefit to preserve something, if the connection with people isn't made? So over the years, the museum has worked hard to build this connection between preservation and people.

It begins by simply offering the train rides. The last couple of generations have no idea what it was like to travel by train. On every excursion trip, a narration is read explaining what the passengers are seeing and how it relates to our past.

Then there are the guided public tours of the rail yard and buildings. This is the public's opportunity to take a peak behind the curtain and witness what it takes to keep steam locomotives operating in the 21st century. But for all of this to happen train crews, narrators, and tour guides work long hours. These seemingly tireless individuals take the train up the hill over and over and over again. For the train crews, it's repetitious and boring 99 per cent of the time. But that other 1 per cent gets the heart pumping really hard.

On board, narrators read the same script over and over and over again. In the yard, tour guides give the same tour over and over and over again. Yet their presentation is just as fresh as the first time they gave it.

Behind the scenes, the mechanics keep the equipment running. The gift shop staff answers the phone and answers the same questions over and over and over again. And in the office, mountains of paper are pushed.

And amazing to me is that the vast majority of this work is done by volunteers. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and pitch in to get the job done. Thanks folks for a job well done.

Then just when I thought it couldn't get any better, it did. We received an enormous surprise from the readers of Nevada Magazine. As mentioned earlier, the magazine added a new category this year called My Favorite Nevada Attraction. And the railroad tied with Lake Tahoe! Considering the worldwide recognition that Lake Tahoe enjoys, tying with the lake is an honor. This honor is the payoff to the combined efforts and long hours invested in the museum by the staff and volunteers.

Slowly but surely, people are beginning to realize what a treasure we have here in the high desert of east central Nevada. The patience and endurance is beginning to pay off. Slowly but surely all of our dreams and wishes are being realized.

 

 

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