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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

 


It's 8003!
20 December 2003

 

Before the letters and phone calls start, yes I know its 2003 and that we are not 6,000 years in the future. (Do you think there will people who care enough in 8003 to keep a steam locomotive running? I do.) Be that as it may, the 8003 I refer to in the title is the number of passengers we carried this season. That makes 2003 our largest season ever. This beats 2002, which was our largest season ever. Our increase was 835 more passengers this year than last. Not quite as good as 2002 versus 2001, but I am pleased.

According to industry scuttlebutt, tourist railroads throughout the West were experiencing a drop off in ridership for the second year in a row. Where here at the Nevada Northern, we had two good years in a row. So what do I attribute our increase too? It's been said that a lucky person is also a hard working person. And the staff and volunteers of the Nevada Northern worked very hard this past season.

First off, we ran trains six days a week. We had trains running every day except Tuesdays during the summer. Then we increased the schedule to run until November 1st. Then we added two haunted Ghost Trains and three additional Polar Express Trains. On top of that we added a special photographer's weekend the morning before the Polar Express Trains in December. Plus we had over seventy engine rentals this past season. All in all, it was a very busy and successful season.

In addition to running more trains, we trained more volunteers than ever before. Ninety-nine percent of our trains operated with volunteer crews this season. To run safely we worked with the volunteers constantly, giving hints, supervising, and watching. I'm please to report our volunteer pool is the largest it's ever been. We actually had one person move to Ely and build a house here so he could volunteer on the Nevada Northern. Three other people moved to Ely for the summer to volunteer with us and plan to be back next year. That's dedication.

I'm also happy to report that all of the equipment also came through the season with flying colors. Locomotive 93 did yeoman service and operated more this year than any year since she retired from active service. Locomotive 109 also did yeoman service this year. 109 handle about ninety percent of the diesel runs this year. Locomotive 105 was put back into service and locomotive 204 received repairs so she could handle the cold weather trains.

Plans have already been made for 2004. We will be running six days a week with at least two trains a day. Steam excursions will be four days a week, Friday through Monday.

We have booked more charters than last year already and the engine rentals are already being made for 2004. The Long Steel Rails festival is back on the calendar for the second full weekend in June. The steam crane renovation should be done in the spring of 2004. Then locomotive 40 is scheduled to make a come back by October of next year, too.

We ended the season by doing track work and that program will continue in the spring of 2004. We have another culvert to renovate, ballast to spread, and ties to replace. As mentioned previously, work will continue on the engine house, the new (old) ash pit, and pushing the tracks back into the McGill depot along with stabilization and repair of the McGill Depot.

Smaller projects that were not accomplished this year will be rolled over to 2004. At the top of the list is the painting of our diesel fleet. Locomotives 109 and 105 will be painted in their Kennecott colors, and hopefully 204 will emerge from the paint shop as Nevada Northern 402.

And if that is not enough to keep us busy, the transfer of the track from Los Angles to the community should be complete by the spring of next year. This will coincide (with a lot of luck) of having the mine reopen. If this happens then ore trains will roll again on the Nevada Northern.

2003 was definitely an interesting year, and 2004 promises to be even more exciting, come join us.

 

 

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