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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 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

 


The Twelve Railroad Museum Days of Christmas
23 December 2005

 

It is the Christmas season. We've been running Polar Expresses since the day after Thanksgiving. During this time, I have heard the Twelve Days of Christmas sung countless times by our passengers on the way back from the North Pole. It wasn't necessarily sung well, but it was sung with verve and vigor. Tonight as the Polar Express was approaching the depot on its trip back from the North Pole, I started humming the song. As I was humming, I was reflecting on Preservation Plaza.

Preservation Plaza is the area between the Depot and the Transportation Building. It is the area where we discharge our passengers and it is a mess. The paving has failed. There are tripping hazards galore and the lighting is poor to none existent.

So here I am, approaching the depot humming the twelve days. It's a dark freezing night. I have a trainload of joyous happy passengers who just came back from the North Pole after seeing Santa Claus.

I'm going to discharge them on to icy tripping hazards in poor lighting when it hits me. I could combine the twelve days of Christmas with the needs of the museum and I get...The Twelve Railroad Museum Days of Christmas!!!

I don't think the Bing Crosby estate has any worries. On the list of the Top 101 Christmas Songs of all Time, Bing Crosby's White Christmas is Number 1. When the Drifters sing the same song, it drops to number 45, but I digress.

The Twelve Days of Christmas comes in at number 72! (This does say a lot, because the number 2 Christmas song is…(drum roll)…the Chipmunk Song by, you guessed it, "The Chipmunks." But again I digress.)

As the train slowed down and was on the verge of stopping, I started putting together the Twelve Railroad Museum Days of Christmas. The first item was, of course, a newly paved Preservation Plaza. The second item was two streetlights (just like the ones downtown.)

No, I know this isn't going to be cheap. (In fact, the cost of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas is at a 21 year high according to PNC Bank. One of the reasons is that the costs of French Hens spiked, along with labor costs, but again I digress.)

With apologizes to traditionalists, here it is, not necessarily done well, but in keeping with the spirit of the passengers it can be sung with verve and vigor. Here goes:


On the First Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, funds to pave the (Preservation) Plaza (about $15,000).

On the Second Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, two street lamps like the new ones downtown (about $6,500).

On the Third day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, 30 tons of coal to keep the steamers warm ($3,600).

On the Fourth day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, 4 (Norton 50-ton) air jacks ($28,000).

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, five conductor coats ($1,250).

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, a 36 inch (Bullard vertical turret) lathe ($15,000).

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, seven kegs of spikes ($1,715).

On the Eighth Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, eight engine house door's maintenance ($4,000).

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, nine mannequins for displays (1,125).

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, ten paid days from the Honor Camp ($5,000).

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, eleven bundles of railroad ties ($11,880).

And on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, a donor gave to us, twelve months of payments on a new backhoe! ($7,800).


With the Centennial of the museum coming up next year (September 29, 2006), the financial needs of the museum are great. Where the song is somewhat in jest, the needs are real. The cost of the above list is $100,870. These are just basic items that the railroad needs to keep operating.

Our backhoe is on its last legs. We need to replace ties and the Honor Camp is great at this work. We need mannequins for displays throughout the property. The engine house doors need basic maintenance. For the new ties, we need spikes. To maintain the equipment we need the lathe and the air jacks. The conductor's coats help improve our image with the public. The coal is pretty self-explanatory; without coal, the steamers don't run. In the summer, we go through 30 tons in a week.

As more and more people ride the train and we do more and more trains at night, it is just a matter of time before we have a person stumbles and hurt themselves. This is definitely not the experience we want people to take home.

We want our visitors to enjoy their experience at the premier railroad complex in the country. So Santa if you're listening, here's the list.

 

 

 

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