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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 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

 


Apples and Paint — Part II
13 September 2003

 

As I mentioned in my last article, one of my favorite words is dichotomy. Dichotomy means dividing something into two contradictory opposite groups. A favorite example is an old railroad term deferred maintenance; others are military intelligence and permanent loan. So what does this all have to do with the railroad museum?

Two incidents happened at the museum recently that just hammered home the term dichotomy. The first incident was that someone took an apple from one of the trees in the plaza and threw it through the storm window in my office. The other incident was the Ely Lions Club painted the building that they adopted and it looks great, more on that a little farther down.

The museum complex is made up of fifty buildings and structures, many of them dating from when the railroad first came to town back in 1906. The first decade of the new century was a tough one for the country economically. In fact, it was so tough the government stopped minting silver dollars in 1904.

In these tough times a new railroad was built and support buildings were constructed to maintain the operations of the railroad. Money was needed for the development of the mines at Ruth and the mill and smelter at McGill. This left little money for the railroad yard and the buildings.

The buildings were built quickly and inexpensively. The Victorian era was over by now; with tight money no elaborate structures, other than the depot, were built. Everything was strictly utilitarian, constructed for the most part of wood. The railroad maintained the structures until Kennecott gave the entire complex to the city and the Foundation almost twenty years ago.

 

The reason that the Nevada Northern Railway Museum is recognized as a National Historic District is summed up in this photograph. An original locomotive, on the original track, passing an original building, with a relationship that goes back decades.

In those twenty years, the Foundation has faced plenty of challenges in keeping the equipment the rolling, never mind the forty acres, the fifty buildings and structures.

With our centennial rapidly approaching, now is the time to pay attention to the buildings and structures that exist in the yard. A principle reason that we qualify as a national historic district is because of the fifty buildings and structures. Now, almost twenty years later, all of these structures need help.

To assist in the preservation of the buildings the museum started the Adopt a Building Program. This program allows either individuals or groups to adopt a structure, repair it, paint it, and maintain it.

One of the earliest buildings to undergo the Adopt a Building Program was the Electric Shop building adopted by the family and friends of Jerry Steiner. Mr. Steiner worked for the Nevada Northern Railway from 1960 until 1983. The building has been repaired and painted.

The Ely Lions Club recently repaired and painted the building that they adopted at the east end of the yard. The track crews were the last ones to use this structure. The Lions Club efforts turned an eyesore into an asset.

 

The Lions Club members first scraped the building and painted it with an oil based primer.

After the primer had dried, the club repainted the building Nevada Northern red.

   

The most ambitious Adopt a Building structure is the RIP building. The adoption is dedicated to the memory and service of Art Cahill, Callboy to Master Mechanic, Nevada Northern Railway, 1918 to 1964. The initials RIP stand for Repair in Place. Here is where the ore cars were repaired out of the weather. The building is undergoing repair and it is currently being used by the museum in its original function, to maintain the equipment. Currently, two pieces of equipment, the steam crane and a boxcar, are being repaired in the building. Having this building in service still fulfilling the role that it was designed for continues the legacy of Art Cahill.

Recently the Ely Rotary Club adopted the scale house building, with the goal of stabilizing and repairing the structure. Along with the scale house, the club committed to servicing the scale and the scale test car.( Itís interesting that the scale house is one of the few buildings in the complex that has a permanent foundation.)

In addition to building maintenance, work is on going in the yard and along the track. Motorcar Operators West spent a week in Ely just before Labor Day. The organization is made up of individuals who own and operate small railcars called speeders. During the week they were here, they donated their labor and equipment to cut down brush in the yard, along the siding at Lavon, oiled switches throughout the system, offered speeder rides to the public, and put the freight house track back in service.

Other museum volunteers have also cut down sage in the yard: a Boy Scout troop from Las Vegas spent an afternoon pulling weeds and the local JOIN group spent a morning also on weeds. Recently, a volunteer couple from Reno spent the week painting the picnic tables and benches on the museum grounds. Two more volunteers steam cleaned a caboose and locomotives 109 and 105. In addition to the steam cleaning, they purchased and donated the paint to paint the trucks of the caboose and locomotive 105.

All of this effort is part of the long-term plan to prepare the museum for our centennial that starts in 2005. There is still an immense amount of work to complete in preparing for the Centennial and your help is needed. There are plenty of structures that still need adopting--come on down and adopt one.

 

Help Needed

A project at the museum is putting the ash pit back in service. Thanks to T.J. Lani who knew where the original ash pit was and Keith Carson who dug out the pit. I now have a big hole in the ground and a small problem: I donít know what the track structure looked like that went over the ash pit. If you know what it looked like or might have a picture of the structure please let me know.

 

 

 

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