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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 or e-mail: info@nnry.com

 


Anyone have $5 million on 'em?
17 August 2002

 

Just to recap from last week the Nevada Northern Railway Museum is more than just a collection twelve locomotives, six passenger coaches, fifty freight cars, five cabooses, and thirty miles of track. We are also a National Historic District that consists of 40 acres and 49 historic buildings. We are also the last remaining standard gauge rail complex left in the United States that is still in its “as built” condition. This is why the Museum is working to upgrade to a National Landmark status.

A friend of mine once said that, “Your strengths are your weakness and your weaknesses are your strengths”. This saying fits the Nevada Northern Railway Museum to a ‘T’. Why? Where we are original (our strength) our physical plant is approaching it’s 100th anniversary (our weakness). This weakness is that our physical plant needs massive amounts of money for repairs and maintenance. Pieces in our rail collection range in age from 116 years old to 49 years old for our ‘new’ pieces of equipment. Then there are the 49 historic structures some of which were built in 1906 and 1907. For the most part, these structures are the same as when they were built (our strength). The downside is that these structures have received very little maintenance for the past fifty years and are in desperate need of upgrades and repairs (our weakness).

So what are we talking dollar wise, short answer, a ton of money. The following are just preliminary estimates, but it’s a starting point. First up is Locomotive 40. Built in 1910, it needs complete boiler work and running gear work to bring it back to operational status. Estimated cost of repairs $500,000. Locomotive 93 is next, where the boiler is good for ten or more years the running gear, the drivers and rods need serious repairs, estimated cost $275,000. As a group the diesel locomotives need some approximately $100,000 in repairs. Total cost for locomotive repairs $875,000.

The museum has four wooden passenger cars that are all in need of serious repairs. These cars are among the oldest pieces to our collection and are unique cars (their strength.) Unfortunately because of their age they also need the most in funds for repairs. Estimated cost to repair the two school cars, coach 5 and coach 2, is in the ballpark of $1,000,000.

Then there is the freight equipment Rumor has it that one piece is from the Central Pacific Railroad, the original transcontinental that tied into the Nevada Northern at Cobre. There are forty-nine freight cars that all need repairs, at an estimated cost of $500,000.

Remember those 49 historic buildings in their unaltered state? Well they need a lot of money too. The engine house needs at least $500,000 in repairs, the coaling tower $500,000, the transportation building, $250,000 and the McGill Depot $600,000. That’s $1,850,000 and we still have 45 buildings and structures to go. Then there is the track; thirty miles that needs maintenance and we need to rebuild the track from Adverse into the McGill Depot. Estimated cost $900,000.

Estimated amount of money needed to repair locomotives, coaches, freight cars, buildings, and track about $5,125,000. A nice chunk of change, yet not an impossible amount of money to raise.

How can we raise this type of money? First of all we don’t need all of this money tomorrow. A comprehensive plan needs to be developed to define goals, timelines, and funding sources.

Secondly, the Museum is working to increase our annual revenue to cover the administration, operations, and maintenance on an annual basis. We are doing this by increasing our operating schedule and season. This year we are operating twice the number of trains that we did last year. In August, 2001 the Museum operated nine trains, this year we are operating twenty-nine trains. So far this year over 700 more passengers rode our trains this year over last year.

Because we run our trains with a volunteer crew even if our trains go out with just a nominal amount of passengers, we still made money. By the way, it takes over eight volunteers to crew a train and sell tickets.

The combination of the foresight of the community to support the Museum with the 2% lodging tax and the aggressiveness of the Museum to increase ridership means that the normal operating budget is covered. That leaves funding the rest of the money needed. With a stable financial base the Museum can then plan for the future. So how do we raise $5,000,000? More on this next week.

 

 


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