Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark      Ely, NV



"At the Throttle"

A Series of articles on the Nevada Northern Railway
By Mark Bassett, Executive Director, NNRY


Twelve Days of Christmas at the NNRy
23 December 2009

Everyone knows the English Christmas Carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas." What would be more appropriate then the Nevada Northern Railway Museum version at this time of year?

2010 promises to be a busier year than normal for us. Leading off on our wish list is one steam locomotive rebuild—locomotive 40 the official locomotive of the State of Nevada. Built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1910, locomotive 40 is worn out. In 1941, the General Manager of the railroad was asked, "Did he want to start steam powered passenger service again?"

His reply, "No, my passenger locomotives are worn out!" In the past sixty-eight years since then locomotive 40 has not gotten any better-no surprise there. So for the First Day of Christmas: A Steam Locomotive Rebuild; cost about $400,000.

The Polar Express prepares to depart the Plaza
at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum


For the Second Day of Christmas we need two hi-rail trucks. These are normal vehicles that can go on railroad trucks. We have two hi-rail trucks now—one is past its service life and the other is awfully close to the end. We use these trucks for track maintenance. Estimated cost is about $30,000.

For the Third Day of Christmas we'd like three locomotives repainted: locomotives 105, 109, and 204. Locomotive 105 is in the correct paint scheme; it's just that the paint job is at least forty years old. Locomotive 109 was repainted about fifteen years ago but the color and lettering is wrong, a faux pas for a museum. And finally, the plan is to paint locomotive 204 in the Nevada Northern Railway paint scheme that was developed for locomotive 401 and renumber her 402. Figure $15,000 per locomotive or $45,000 for all three.

For the Fourth Day of Christmas, we need four wooden pergolas. Pergola is a fancy word for an exhibition area. The number one question that we're asked by visitors is, "Where's the museum?" The plan is to build four pergolas in Preservation Plaza (that's the space between the depot and the transportation building.) The pergolas would provide shade in the summer (something that is really needed) and tell the story of the Nevada Northern Railway. Four pergolas, signage, lighting, seating, sound system, and paving the plaza: Oh, figure about $80,000.

The Fifth Day of Christmas is easy: 5,000 ties! Yup, 5,000 ties to be installed between East Ely and Keystone. Estimated cost about $75 per installed tie or $375,000.

The Sixth Day of Christmas continues with painting: six passenger cars. The two cars that we are currently using really need paint. This is the first impression people see as they come on the property and it doesn't reflect well on the railroad. We have two additional steel cars and they need paint, roof repairs, and interior repairs. Then finally, we have two of the original Nevada Northern wooden cars; they need paint too. Figure $15,000 per car or $90,000 to bring the passenger cars up to snuff.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, we need seven oversize map cabinets. We have drawings and drawings and maps and more maps. These need to be protected and stored correctly. Figure $500 a piece or just $3,500 (and then where are we going to store the filled cabinets?)

The Eighth Day of Christmas request will warm the cockles of the heart of the Roadmaster: eight railroad switches rebuilt. A railroad switch is not like a light switch. It's made of rail and ties, and allows a train to move from one track to another. We have eight switches that need rebuilding. Cost about $40,000 per switch or $320,000.

For the Ninth Day of Christmas it is back to paint. This past summer we painted three and half buildings in the Nevada Northern Railway paint scheme. The paint scheme isn't fancy—boxcar red with white trim—but boy does it make an impact. Instead of looking abandoned and run-down, we look vibrant and alive. And the paint protects the structure until additional repairs can be made. Nine buildings at an estimated $5,000 per building and the total for vitalizing the complex is $45,000.

The Tenth Day of Christmas ties back to the Fifth Day of Christmas. If you're going to install 5,000 ties, you need ballast. So for the Tenth Day of Christmas we'd like 10,000,000 pounds of ballast. Yes sir, that's a lot of ballast. But we have lots of railroad—thirty miles of track that needs ballast, lots and lots of ballast. 10,000,000 pounds of ballast is actually fifty hopper cars of ballast. This would be enough to ballast the railroad; of course more is always better. Figure about $100,000 for 10,000,000 pounds installed.

For the Eleventh Day of Christmas it's eleven spike mauls. If you're doing all of this track work you need something to pound spikes with—a spike maul. At $25 apiece these are a bargain at $275.

And for the Twelfth Day of Christmas in keeping with the season, twelve switch brooms. A switch broom is used for sweeping snow away from the all of the moving parts of a switch. It looks like a regular broom except it has a metal chipping tool on the opposite end for chipping ice. And these are a real steal at just $12 apiece or $144 for the group.

To recap:

Total cost for the Nevada Northern Railway Twelve Days of Christmas—$1,488,919. I told you we have our work cut out for us in 2010. To all a very Merry Christmas and boxcar load of good cheer.