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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

 


Projects Three — McGill Depot
28 September 2002


There are three major projects that the Nevada Northern Railway Museum is investigating funding sources for. The projects are the McGill Depot, the East Ely Machine Shop and Engine House Building, and of course Locomotive 40. The three projects share similar characteristics: they will cost about $500,000 apiece; they are all in need of immediate help; and they are vital to the Museum.

Starting with the McGill Depot, if stabilization work is not started in the immediate future we will have the McGill rubble pile. The roof has fallen in on one corner. The roof leaks throughout the structure and the foundation is sinking in a couple of places. What makes the McGill Depot unique is that it is the last remaining depot of that style left on the Nevada Northern Railway. It is the quintessential American railroad depot and is definitely worth preserving.

This view shows the damage that has been done recently. If a plan is not developed soon the McGill Depot will become the McGill rubble pile.

 

The McGill Depot is near the center of the photo. This photo was taken near the current end of track. Going to the depot would create a destination for the Hiline run.

So why preserve a depot that does not currently have a connection to the Nevada Northern Railway? Because it could have a connection and the connection could come from the Adverse or Hiline side. And that is just the project that we are proposing; restore the depot, lay track from Adverse to the depot, put in either a balloon track or wye at McGill for turning the trains and, voilà, you have a destination.

Okay you have a destination, now what? There is a world-class foundry in McGill, oddly enough right across the street from the depot. They would be interested in displaying their work in the restored depot. Since we don't need the freight part of the building, how about putting in a small food facility? Then there is the Rexall Museum in McGill and the McGill Club that has one of the oldest back bars in Nevada. As I was talking this over with a friend, she mentioned putting in a coffee shop, maybe another gallery, a couple of bed and breakfasts, all of this near the entrance to Great Basin National Park, "Now you're talking economic development."

   
Is this possible or is it blue sky? Well, good question. A model already exists, the Durango and Silverton Railroad in Colorado. The last time I was in Durango to ride the train was two years ago in mid-week in the middle of September. They ran three trains that day to Silverton. The extra fare cars were sold out for the next ten days! All three trains were full. My wife and I rode the train to Silverton. Took the first train out and the last train back from Silverton. While in Silverton, we explored the town and walked a good five miles and dropped about $200 on lunch, gifts and knick-knacks. Then we returned to Durango where we decided to go out to dinner on a Thursday night. Well, we walked another two miles to find a restaurant we could have dinner without waiting two hours.

What does all of this have to do with Ely and McGill? On the train last month I was speaking with a passenger who was wearing a Durango & Silverton shirt. Turns out she's been going to Durango for over 30 years to ride the train. Her remark to me was that Ely looks just like Durango did 30 years ago! The more we talked she related how the little depressed mining towns of Durango and Silverton did a complete economic turnaround. The catalyst for the turnaround was the railroad which 30 years ago was a broken down facility with old dirty steam locomotives and rickety cars. I should also point out that Durango is, believe it or not, even more isolated than Ely! Ely is closer to major metropolitan areas than Durango. We have the opportunity, if we can marshal our resources, one of which is a depot with no rail connection and a leaky roof.

The Museum is pursuing grants to build the track into the McGill Depot from Adverse and stabilize the depot. After the depot is stabilized, then we will restore it. This is not a project that will happen overnight, but it is a project that is worth doing.

There is a little mystery surrounding the depot. We're just in the preliminary stage of doing research on it, but an interesting story has popped up. It is believed by some that the McGill Depot was built at Currie, then moved to East Ely and then moved to McGill. I find this hard to believe. If you have information on the McGill Depot, I'd like to hear from you.

 

 


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