deeply shocked and saddened to hear of our friend Jack Anderson's
passing December 1, 2004. The news from Ely, Nevada could not have
been worse. Jack and Carol had just moved into their new home in Ely
and Jack had settled in as Master Mechanic at the Nevada Northern
Railroad. No one was surprised that Jack was already well along in
the completion of #40's restoration together with ongoing maintenance
of #93 and the other rolling stock. What we could not believe was
that Jack left us so suddenly.
we that knew him will miss Jack's friendship, those in the steam community
who may not have had the privilege of knowing this gentle man will
miss his skills as a master mechanic. Let me tell you my view of our
friend Jack Anderson.
Anderson did not start out to be a master mechanic. After his schooling
in the northwest, Jack was a contractor in home construction. As a
child, Jack developed a life-long fondness for steam locomotives.
While growing up, on family vacations he would take every opportunity
to see active steam locomotives and on occasion, ride on these locomotives.
This instilled in Jack the love for the mechanics involved in a steam
1970s, Jack became involved in the attempt to rebuild Northern Pacific
#1364. This engine was removed from Tacoma's Point Defiance Park in
the early 1970s in hopes of bringing it back to life for America's
Bi-Centennial. Jack volunteered with those working on the project
and began learning his steam skills at that time. At the same time,
Jack began volunteering his extra hours at the railroad museum in
late 1970s, Jack and his friend Harold Borevec learned that Tom Murray
and George Weyerhaeuser, Jr. were planning to start the Mr. Rainier
Scenic Railroad. George and Harold had previously spent some working
time on Shay #7 at Point Defiance Park. When they learned that a bigger
operation was planned near the base of Mr. Rainier, both Jack and
Harold expressed their interest to Tom Murray.
Hillcrest Climax #10 and Heisler #91 were delivered to the Tacoma
Tide Flats in need of rebuilding. Jack Anderson was hired to restore
to operation both locomotives for use on the still planned MRSRR.
By the summer of 1980, Jack had performed many minor miracles with
very little in the way of tools and shop facilities. Many times working
out in the mud and the rain on the tide flats, Jack could be found
deep in the re-tubing and restoration of these two steam locomotives.
was widely respected by those who worked with him as a mechanical
genius. This is not a term that is used to describe many of the people
working in the steam hobby. Jack's ability to read and study and learn
mechanical skills in that fashion were second-to-none. During the
1980s, Jack wrote of series of excellent articles on steam boilers
for the Locomotive Railway and Preservation magazine. These articles
to this day are widely respected as the definitive works on steam
boiler maintenance done in the last 50 years.
restoration of Climax #10 and Heisler #91 proved to be excellent.
These two engines served for many years as the backbone to MRSRR.
The fact that these two "lokies" operate still today is
a testament to Jack's abilities as a steam master mechanic.
24 years at MRSRR, Jack Anderson restored nearly a dozen steam locomotives
back to operation. Additionally, Jack performed the rebuild of steam
locomotives that he had previously restored when their flue operating
time expired. MRSRR also became "the facility" for steam
operators in the Western United States to send steam components to
for rebuild and restoration. Additionally, the FRA held its training
courses on steam boiler inspections at the Mineral shops due to Jack's
knowledge of steam boilers. Jack's skills as a master mechanic and
machinist quickly became nationally known and respected.
of Jack's skills that have received less attention for but for which
he was equally respected was his ability to work with and encourage
volunteers. Many of us who have worked at MRSRR over the past decades
have both learned and expanded our skills purely as a result of Jack
Anderson and his encouragement. We all remember how Jack Anderson
always made every volunteer feel welcome and in fact, made them feel
that he or she was an integral part of the operation.
the years, I worked directly on a number of the steam locomotives
restored at MRSRR. Many a time Jack Anderson would stop in his already
busy schedule to offer me encouragement and training in the work I
was performing on any given component. Jack would always make me feel
as if this locomotive would not operate but for my humble efforts
to work on the engine. In this way, Jack made all of us feel important
at MRSRR and as if we were working on the locomotive as a team rather
than under his supervision.
in the early 90s, Jack took great pleasure each spring in sponsoring
a steam railroad event at MRSRR. We began operating double-headers
then triple-headers and even quadruple-headers at these events. In
the late 1990s, Jack was able to actually sponsor a quintuple-header
train powered by five engines, all of which were rebuilt by Jack.
This was certainly an achievement that few, if any mechanics in the
United States could equal.
24 years with MRSRR, Jack, Carol and Chris thought that a change of
scenery was in order. Jack heard that the Nevada Northern was looking
for a new master mechanic. After a national search, the Nevada Northern
was blessed to be able to hire Jack as their master mechanic. In late
2003 Jack and his family moved to Ely, Nevada where Jack quickly made
friends with those at the Nevada Northern and began working to restore
Locomotive #40. At his all too brief time at the Nevada Northern,
Jack quickly gained the respect of all of those both in management
and in operations at the railroad. The skills that Jack had honed
at MRSRR served him well on the desert railroad in northern Nevada.
Anderson's quiet and unassuming manner made him unique in the steam
restoration business. All of us are acquainted with those in the restoration
business that brag about their achievements even beyond what may be
fair and just. Jack Anderson, to the contrary, was man so shy and
unassuming as to be inconsistent with the monumental achievements
he actually performed in his years as a master mechanic.
me share one of my fondest memories of Jack Anderson. I think you
that knew Jack, will agree, this story exemplifies how Jack approached
year when we would run a special railfan event in the spring, Jack
would invite me up to help make up the trains, coordinate the event,
and run the photo-lines. Jack and the rest of us would spend hours
at the shops in the days leading up the event getting equipment ready
for the event. In many years, this would involve completing the restoration
on one of the engines Jack had been working on.
the day of the event would arrive, the multiple steam engines would
be fired up and readied for operation. Jack Anderson rarely, if ever,
assigned himself to act as crewmember on any of the steam locomotives.
Instead, the rest of us would take the engines out of the shop area
and down to Elbe to couple on to the passenger train. Jack would remain
back at the shop, as all of the equipment would leave. I would often
ask Jack if he was going to join us on the trip. He always said that
he had a "few things" to work on at the shop. Often, as
we left, I would see Jack start to clean up the mess that we had all
left in the final preparation of the equipment that was being used
on the daily trip.
year when we were operating one of the special spring trains, we had
all departed with our engines early in the morning and left Jack back
at the shop to 'tidy up'. Porter #5 was in the shop for a restoration
that was taking a number of years. I recall when we left the shop
Porter #5 was simply a boiler sitting on her frame and wheels and
little else. There was not even a smoke box on the engine.
that afternoon when we brought the excursion train up to the shop
for the railfans to tour, I noticed, in our absence, Jack Anderson
had single-handedly mounted the smoke box for Porter #5 back on the
boiler. While the rest of us were "playing trains," Jack
Anderson had been busy continuing the restoration on one of his beloved
of us that knew and worked with Jack will miss him greatly. Our hearts
go out to Carol and the rest of Jack's family for the loss that they
have suffered. We can only hope that Jack's family knows that while
Jack Anderson impressed us with his mechanical abilities on a daily
basis, none of us would have dedicated as much time and effort as
we have at MRSRR had it not been for the wonderful character and personal
demeanor that we saw in Jack Anderson. Jack was a 'Master" at
so much more than just mechanics.