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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

 


How to raise $5 million in five years
24 August 2002

 

Five million dollars is my estimate of what the Nevada Northern Railway Museum needs to prepare us for the next hundred years. Five million dollars will put our steam locomotives in A-1 condition; repair our passenger and freight cars; restore our buildings, upgrade the track and rebuild the track into McGill. Ambitious goals but well within the capabilities of the Museum. Remember this money does not need to be raised and spent tomorrow.

In the past five years the Museum has raised and spent almost three million dollars on locomotive, car and building repairs and restoration. How many of you knew that? The museum is a substantial economic generator for Ely and White Pine County.

So far this year, the Nevada Northern Railway has carried 4,490 passengers on our scheduled trains. This is an increase of 27 percent over the previous year. In July our train ticket sales were up 112 percent. Last August the Museum Management Board increased scheduled trains by 100 percent. And the schedule for next year is even more ambitious, trains will be running six days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There will be a 9 a.m. diesel train Wednesday through Friday. Then there is a 5:30 p.m. train on Friday and a 4 p.m. train on Saturday and Sunday. The real exciting news is that there will be a 10 a.m. steam train on Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings! Rounding out the schedule is the monthly wine trains and new specialty trains that include the premier of our Polar Express Train on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8.

Even with the increase in trains, we will not raise all of the money we need. So where does the rest of the money come from? There are three other areas that the Museum needs to develop: freight service, education and contract repair service. I'll take freight service first.

One hundred twenty miles separate our track from the connection with the Union Pacific at Shafter. This track provides access to the national and international rail system (Canada and Mexico). Los Angles Water and Power currently owns the track and they don't want it. Ownership of this rail line needs to stay in Ely. If Ely looses this connection, then it looses its connection with the world. This will have a devastating effect on economic development in White Pine County. I would propose that the Museum become the owner and operator of the rail line. The Museum has the expertise and equipment to move trains. The Museum would create a for-profit arm called the Great Basin Railroad (GBR) to operate as a commercial carrier. Profits from this commercial operation would flow to the Museum, to support our restoration work.

The two divisions would work together supporting one another. Crews from the GBR could crew the tourist trains. This would allow us to move from our volunteer base and run more tourist trains. The more tourist trains the more visitors to Ely. To benefit the GBR, the museum could ask for donations of rail equipment that the GBR would then use in commercial service. Using donated equipment would increase operating revenue that would flow back to the Museum. There are commercial customers right now that would use the GBR if it was up and running. Commercial operations would provide revenue for the museum that would stay in Ely and White Pine County. It would also provide jobs for the community.

Education is another area that the Museum needs to develop. Where will the Museum sector, not only in Ely, but also across the country find the skills to keep this historic equipment in running and in A-1 shape? We have the entire complex of a railroad that repaired all of its equipment in Ely. There is also a unit of the Great Basin College in Ely. By combining these two assets we have the ability to create an institute that instructs students on the mysteries of historic equipment. Instruction could take place on our equipment and in our shops. We could develop a specialized institution that would train the next generation, bring revenue to the Museum and Great Basin College- truly a win-win situation.

Finally there are other tourist railroads in the western United States that needs work done to their equipment. What better place than to have the work done by the specialists of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum? We have the equipment, we have the space, and we have the expertise. This is another way to generate revenue for the Museum.

So is five million dollars doable? Yes, with the combination of increased tourist trains, commercial freight service, educating the next generation and contract repair services, the Museum could raise $5,000,000 in the next five years.

Also be sure to join us for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Labor Day weekend. One of the highlights of the weekend is our silent auction. If you would like to make a donation to the auction, please call the office or drop off your donation at the museum. In any case, be sure to come to the silent auction for all of the great items that will be available.

 

 


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