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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 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

 


Planning for the Future
24 September 2004


 

The days are getting shorter and the kids are back in school. The museum is plowing new ground by continuing the daily (except Tuesday) 9:30 a.m. excursions. Ridership has been fair, so far. The excursions have paid for themselves and brought additional revenue to the museum. But all of this begs the larger question of what should the museum be in five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years into the future? How important is ridership versus historic preservation? What yardstick do you use to measure success? A ridership of 50,000 per year or having the grounds looking like it's 1950?

Why the push for crystal ball gazing? Different events have all coalesced recently, which show the need for a development plan. The first event is that the Museum is twenty years old this October. Secondly, visitorship and ridership are growing at such a rate that the current facilities are being overtaxed. Thirdly, the museum has limited resources—where should those resources be directed?

The museum is now twenty years old; where should the museum be in twenty years? I have one vision of where the museum should be in twenty years, but I'm curious what your vision is. So in keeping with the season (school starting) I thought that giving you a homework assignment would be a good place to start. So this is your assignment: you are the museum director of the best-preserved standard gauge rail facility left in America; it is your responsibility to preserve it, maintain it, and interpret it for the public. What will the museum be like in twenty years under your stewardship? How will you reach these goals? Where will you find the money to achieve these goals? That's the homework assignment and it is due on November 1, 2004.

As a starting point let's review what the museum is currently. The museum consists of fifty-six acre grounds that include fifty buildings or structures, the oldest dating from 1906. The museum's collection consists of three original steam locomotives, nine diesel locomotives (five are original), seven passenger cars (five are original; the oldest is 133 years old), fifty freight cars (forty-five are original), one steam wrecking crane, one steam rotary snow plow and thirty miles of track. The track includes two rail yards, six road crossings, one timber lined tunnel and one concrete tunnel, plus two branches that go in opposite directions. The entire package is a National Historic District, which is being upgraded to National Landmark Status. The City of Ely and the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation jointly own the complex.

Here are a couple other tidbits that you will need. The Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-profit corporation. This year ridership should come in at 11,500 and our visitors at about 16,000 for a combined total of 27,500, which is a 44% increase over last year. Also, unpaid volunteers operated 99% of our trains. The Foundation must raise all of its own funding.

Okay you have the background, your plan needs to cover four aspects: people, money, promotion, and historic integrity. Why four aspects? Well, it isn't fair to say, get all of the steam locomotives, steam crane and steam rotary into operation. You need to figure out who will do it, how to pay for it, when it will be completed, and is it needed?

Quite the homework assignment isn't it? Well to make it worth your while we do have some rewards. The plan that is the most complete will receive a steam locomotive rental. The second place plan will receive a diesel locomotive rental. Honorable mentions will receive two wine train ticket certificates. And anyone who submits a plan will receive a train ticket. All plans need to be received by November 1st. You can send them through the mail or e-mail them to the museum.

Well, there you have it—your chance to help plan for the future of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. As the museum moves forward in developing its twenty-year plan your thoughts will be added into the mix. We want all ideas-use your imagination. Your idea combined with others is the spark that we need.

Now hit the books. The excuse that your homework was needed to start the fire in locomotive 93 will not be accepted.

 

 


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