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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

 


Ping-Pong Special
16 July 2004


 

It is amazing to me at least how history repeats itself. We all get comfortable in believing that something is new. It was never been done before, we're the first. Then after little research you usually find out, what you thought was new, had already been done before. I mention this because the museum is, to quote Yogi Berra, "going through deja vu all over again."

The museum is starting up what we are calling Ping-Pong trains. This is a locomotive and a caboose that goes from the East Ely Depot to the Cherry Creek Depot at the White Pine Public Museum. The Ping Pong trains operate on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from Noon to 4:00 pm on fifteen-minute headway.

The trains operate on the original mainline that was built in 1906/1907 through the center of Ely heading towards the mines. I have been told that the last train to operate on this track was on July 4, 1964. (If you know of a latter date, please let me know.)

 



Volunteers Steve Fallon and Bob Dallons are standing
by the Ping-Pong Train at the Cherry Creek Depot.
The depot was moved to the grounds of the White
Pine Public Museum from Cherry Creek and saved.
It is now the end of the line for the Ping-Pong trains
that operate between the Nevada Northern Railway
Museum and the White Pine Public Museum.

 

The Ping-Pong is a chance for the public to ride in a caboose from the Nevada Northern Railway Museum to the White Pine Public Museum or vice-versa. The round trip cost is just $2.50 for adults and $1.00 for children (4-12), under age 4 is free. By running the Ping-Pong, both museums can increase their respective visitorship. The advantage to the public is that they can visit the White Pine Public Museum, view the Cave Bear and the other exhibits; then ride the train to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. Once at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, they can walk the grounds of the best-preserved short line railroad left in the country and maybe take a ride on the Ghost Train. Then when they are done exploring, they can climb back on the caboose and head back to the White Pine Public Museum and their car. To somewhat quote an old advertising phrase, "it's like two museums in one!"

So what does deja vu have to do with the Ping-Pong train? Well, when the Nevada Northern Railway first built through Ely, there was no road from Ely to East Ely. And of course even if there was a road there weren't many of those new fangled contraptions called an Auto Mobile. So travel from East Ely to Ely was difficult. (Also at this time the railroad was trying to develop East Ely into the major city of White Pine County.) So the solution the railroad developed was running a short passenger train from Ely to East Ely and return.

These trains are shown in the 1913 EMPLOYES' TIME TABLE Number 23. Staring at 11:55 pm Train 34 left East Ely, traveled 0.7 mile to Central Ely. Then at 11:58 pm, the train headed for Ely, which was a further 0.6 miles down the track and arrived at 12:01 a.m. Finally the train ended its trip at 12:03 am at Murry Street. There wasn't any rest for the crew, because at 12:05 am they became train 35 and headed back to East Ely. The first stop was at Ely. Then at 12:10 am they left for Central Ely. By the way Central Ely was a flag stop. If no one was there, the train did not stop. At 12:12 am they left Central Ely arrived at East Ely at 12:15 am, twenty minutes after they left. This was Trains 34/35 and the trains operated daily. There were thirty-two trains a day going back and forth between East Ely and Murry Street. The trains left Murry Street at 12:05 am and then there was break until 6:00 am. Then the rest of the trains before lunch were at 7:40 am, 8:05 am, 9:15 am, 10:50 am. Then just after lunch, the first train was 12:01 pm, followed by 1:10 pm, 2:00 pm, and 4:25 pm. The after dinner the trains left Murry Street at 5:45, 6:05, 7:40, 8:10, 9:10, and 9:55 pm. And all of these trains were daily trains!

Imagine if you lived anywhere in Ely. The steam-powered trains would have been going through town more than thirty-two times after you add in the freight and the ore trains. The timetable does not give us any insights to how many freight trains were running at that time. We would need the dispatcher's log if it still exists. Anyone care to take a guess to how many trains went through Ely in a typical day? 40, 45, 50 or maybe 55? Imagine all of the smoke, cinders, and whistle blowing, how did anyone get any sleep?

So where did the name Ping-Pong come from? We'll probably never know. Some wit making a joke might have said, "boy those trains bounce back and forth so often they look like a ping-pong ball." Then the name stuck.

Seven years later the Ping-Pongs were still going but they had been cut back to twenty per day. The midnight train survived, but I'm sure Mr. Ford's Model T Auto Mobile was beginning to make inroads in the Ping-Pong's passenger load. At the same time I'm sure that the number of ore trains was pretty hefty so Ely still had many, many trains a day going through town.

The next timetable I have is from 1935. The Ping-Pongs are gone and in fact passenger service is just holding on by a thread. In 1941, the passenger train will be gone from the Nevada Northern Railway, replaced by buses.

You now have a chance to experience the past. Just hop aboard one of the Ping-Pong Trains and travel back to 1919.

 

 


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