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"At The Throttle"
by Mark Bassett, Executive Director

A weekly series of columns originally published in 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:


Haunted Train Scary; Workload Scarier
31 October 2007


The last Haunted Ghost Train of 2007 has rolled. After the last train was put away that night, those involved held a chili feed in the men's waiting room of the depot. All of the ghosts and goblins were invited to celebrate a very successful Haunted Ghost Train experience.

The Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark will only succeed because of the determination and commitment of its volunteers. And this was very evident Saturday night. When people think of volunteers, they usually think of the train crews because they are the most visible, and for those train crews we had volunteers from Montana, California, Las Vegas, and Ely. However, although the train's crews are the most visible, they are not the only ones involved in a successful operation—for the Haunted Ghost Train to work you need ghosts, goblins, lighting, and special effects.

We had over thirty people from McGill, Ely, and Ruth who volunteered. It was well-ordered and coordinated thanks to the leadership, artistic talents, and efforts of Linda Bellander, Mary Williams, Chris Ricci, and Sally Gust. The ghosts staffed eighteen different stations, which they decorated, lit up, and at which they performed twice each night—once when the train went up the hill and then again for the return trip. After the second run-by, they tore everything down, packed it up, and got ready for the next "show." The post office has nothing on our ghosts and goblins; they were at their stations and performing, vowing that, "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these" ghost and goblins from their appointed station. This year they endured snow and rain. You wouldn't think heat would be a problem in October but it is; those rubber costumes are hot, especially on an unseasonably warm, low wind evenings like those that we enjoyed this year.

The Haunted Ghost Trains were an unqualified success. The first two did very well and the last two were sellouts. In fact, we could have over sold this last run because the evening was very warm and we were able to allow passengers on the flat car.

It has been an interesting year; we've had our challenges with track, locomotives, and building projects. On the track front, thanks to the generosity of our members, we were able to replace the bridge at Gleason creek. But other track issues have come forward that require our attention. For the past decade, track maintenance has been minimal, so for the past five years we have invested over $115,000 in putting the track to right. Although this is a commendable effort for an organization of our size and means, it is not keeping up with the amount of maintenance that is needed, let alone the maintenance deferred over the past twenty-three years or more.

Luckily, our Congressional Delegation was able to earmark $2,000,000 for track maintenance in the 2005 transportation bill and back in September of that year, we had a little ceremony here at the railroad, with Senator Ensign presenting a check to the mayor. For a variety of reasons, we were not able to put the money to use until now. Plans are now being formulated to finally put this money to work on track repairs next spring. In the meantime, work continues on the regular track repair efforts.

On the locomotive front, diesel locomotives 204, 105, and 109 are all in operation. However, both of our steam locomotives are down. As reported in recent months, locomotive 93 is down because of worn crown brasses, but new brasses have been ordered and we hope to have them here within the next couple of weeks. We are getting ready to ship axle number 2 to a facility in Boise in order to be turned. Once the crown brasses are ready and axle 2 is returned in mint condition, we can start putting locomotive 93 back together.

Locomotive 40 is in the shop for repairs to her pilot truck. This is the two-axle truck in the very front, which guides the locomotive around curves. Once disassembled, it was obvious that the truck had been repaired many times in the past, but is still in good enough shape for yet another mending. The best news is that both locomotives will be ready for the Winter Steam photo shoots in February.

After talking about it for years, the coaches have new speakers! You can now hear the narrations from no matter where you are sitting in the coaches. This project could no longer be kept behind others after the speaker system in the second coach failed during the third Haunted Ghost Train. Excellent quality speakers were donated and in two days, staff and volunteers installed the new system. It was certainly a rush job, and the installers ended up going for a couple of train rides while finishing up; they kept right on working as the train went up the hill.

Our biggest building project right now is the old boiler-building project. This is the little cinder block building just to the west of the depot. The building originally contained the boilers that provided heat for the depot, transportation building, and the general manger's house. The boilers had been out of service for years. It became apparent that they would never be used again at about the same time that our need for permanent public restrooms could no longer be ignored. During the summer season, we had been getting by with porta-potties, which worked well enough during 80-degree days, but were not a viable solution for the Polar Expresses. The boilers were removed using our own steam-powered equipment and now a contract has been let for the conversion of the building to restrooms. As part of the conversion, we kept the boiler smokestacks. Once the project is completed this will be a great addition to the museum.

The McGill Depot project continues. The roof repairs were completed and now the doors and windows are being sealed. We have yet to stucco a wall under the roof eaves and then the building will be sealed. A grant has been written to fund a development plan for the depot.

The museum is never idle; something is always going on, even if at times it may not look like it. Considerable work is being accomplished and with 2007 winding down, we are preparing for a dynamite 2008.



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