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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

 


One Picture
21 July 2006

It has been said that one picture is worth a thousand words. The attached picture proves the point. The photo was taken Wednesday, July 12th at 11:18 a.m. It shows locomotive 93's train discharging passengers at the shops. On the crossover track is locomotive 40 preparing to head out on the main to do a test run. The building between locomotive 40 and 93 is the Master Mechanic's office and storeroom building. To the right of locomotive 40 is the machine shop building which is next to the enginehouse.

 

Locomotive 93 has just come in from the 9:30 a.m. excursion with thirty-six passengers. When the train reaches East Ely, it pushes back to the shops. As part of the excursion ticket, the museum offers a guided tour of the machine shop, enginehouse, and yard. The picture shows some of the passengers getting off the train in preparation for the walking tour under the watchful eye of the brakeman and the tour guide. Al Gledhill, the engineer of that morning's run is leaning out of the cab of 93.

On the next track Jared, one of shop helpers, is talking to Chris another one of the shop helpers in the cab of 40. Engine 40 is coupled up to the photo freight in preparation for a series of tests. Locomotive 40 has been out of service since February. During that time, the center axle was dropped and staybolts were replaced. In dropping the center axle, the rods needed come off. In inspecting the rod bearings, it was very evident that three of them would need machining.

A thousand words explain the photograph at East Ely

East Ely: 11:18 a.m. July 12, 2006

 

So here it was July. Loco 40 had passed her FRA inspection on Tuesday. The hydro had gone well. Now buttoned up, 40 had a fire in her and was ready for testing. Engine 40 had been out on the line that morning running light with frequent stops so the crew could check the axle temperatures and bearing temperatures and add more grease to the bearings. So far, everything was running right where it should be. So now, it would be the big test. Hook up to the photo freight and charge the hill once again. Loco 40 needed to pass these tests with flying colors because she was scheduled to go into excursion service on Friday and give 93 a break.

This Wednesday was historic for another reason. The museum was midway through the first western National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) Youth Rail Camp. We had nine teenagers from across the country come to Ely to learn about railroading first hand.

When this picture was taken, the campers had been split up into three groups of three. This was their second day of rotating through the railroad and learning about train operations, track, and shop work. One group was on the 9:30 a.m. train learning about operations. A second group was in the shops learning the basics of repairing the historic railroad equipment that makes up our collection. And the third group was repairing track just in front of the machine shop.

Shortly after this picture was taken, 93 whistled off and headed for the depot. Once at the depot the rest of the passengers would be discharged. Loco 93 would be cut off and head for the wye to be turned. After turning, 93 would head back to the depot. At the depot, the crew would get lunch, oil round the locomotive, and pick up a renter. Shortly after noon, 93 would stay in the yard on a locomotive rental.

Back at the shops, the tour guide started the tour. It was difficult to get his group to focus with locomotive 40 standing right there. For the next hour, the tour group would see what it takes to keep a century old railroad running. They would go through the machine shop, the enginehouse, and the RIP building.\

Meanwhile the shop forces were inspecting the photo freight in preparation for heading out on the main. All of the journals would be checked along with all of the brakes. The train would be pumped up and the brakes checked again. When the crew was satisfied, 40 would push back to the main (avoiding 93) and then charge up the hill for another test.

Then in front of the depot, locomotive 109, a RS-3 diesel-electric locomotive, would couple up to the passenger train shown in the picture. Once pumped up, the crew would do a terminal air test, checking all of the brakes on the consist. After the brakes were inspected, the conductor would yell, "All Aboard" and the passengers would load for the 1:00 p.m. run up our other hill.

At 1:00 p.m. sharp, the conductor would signal the engineer in 109 the highball and with two blasts of the whistle, the engineer would engage the throttle. Slowly slack would be taken up and then train would start rolling north out of the yard.

Meanwhile, 93 would stay in the clear to allow 109 to leave the yard and head for the Hiline. Back at the enginehouse, the rail campers in the shop would be in the pit inspecting the underside of locomotive 204. And out in front of the machine shop the third group of rail campers was driving spikes to get machine shop 1 track back in service.

By the end of this day, four trains would have left East Ely and returned. We carried over sixty passengers this day. In the yard, we had a diesel rental and a steam rental. By 3:00 p.m. locomotive 93 was put away ready for the next day. By 5:00 p.m. locomotive 40 was on the ashpit dropping her fire. She passed all of her tests successfully. She would spend Thursday in the shop having minor repairs done to the thousand and one things it takes to keep a steam locomotive running. And on Friday at 4:30 p.m. locomotives 40 and 93 would do the honors on the 4:30 p.m. excursion train.

So there you have it—one picture that captured a moment in time and a thousand words that explained what was going on.

 

 

 

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