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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

 


New Year Resolutions
30 December 2005

 

In keeping with the season, it is time to make the resolutions for the New Year. 2006 is an important time for the railroad; it's our Centennial Year! On September 29, 1906 Mark Requa, drove the Copper Spike that announced the conclusion of the building of the railroad from Cobre to Ely. It took the track crews a little more than year to construct the 140 miles of track to Ely.

Once they reached Ely, the job was by no means complete. In fact, it could be argued that they weren't even at the halfway mark yet. It would take another year before they reached the mines by Ruth. Another two years before the track was in to McGill.

It has been said that the Railroad Days Celebration in 1906 was the biggest party that Ely has ever seen. Hence, that is the first resolution. That the Centennial Railroad Days Celebration be the biggest party that Ely has ever seen. The Centennial Railroad Days Celebration will take place on September 29, 30, and October 1.

In support of the above resolution, there are tons of things that need to be done before September 29 to get ready. This is also our chance to leave a legacy. There are times that as a community I don't believe we understand exactly what we have here. We have a museum complex that is unique. It is a national treasure. And that's not just my opinion. William L. Withuhn, Curator, History of Technology & Transportation at the Smithsonian Institution, said:

"Among all railroad historic sites anywhere in North America, the Nevada Northern Railway complex at East Ely is—no question in my mind—the most complete, most authentic, and best cared-for, bar none. It's a living American treasure and a stand-out one."

Very high praise indeed, but with this accolade comes a responsibility. For a century, this site has existed. We are only temporary caretakers of this truly unique museum complex. The Centennial is our chance to develop and leave a legacy.

Last week I wrote the Twelve Railroad Days of Christmas somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But the first one, paving the plaza is needed. The plaza is the first thing that people see as they come walking up to the museum and it is in poor shape. So the second resolution is to pave the plaza this year.

In addition to paving, the plaza needs lighting. With more and more evening events planned for next year this need becomes critical. And to tie in to the community, it would be nice to match the streetlights downtown. So to get the most bang for our buck, we need the street lights installed before the plaza is paved. The third resolution is then to get lighting installed in the plaza before paving the plaza.

As people come to the museum one of our glaring lacks is signage. The signage we is have minimal and confusing. We have a wonderful kiosk with nothing on it. We have wonderful buildings but no signage to tell what they were used for. We spend tens of thousands of dollars to get people here and then we don't have anything to tell them where to go once they get here. So the next resolution is to get signage up through out the property, and to finish the Guide to the Yard.

Speaking of guides, we have two glaring lacks in that department also. All of our trips are narrated. We have had repeated requests for a printed copy of the narration which we don't have. So a winter project is to update the narration and print it booklet form.

Going hand in hand with this request is a book on the Nevada Northern Railway. The book that was done is essentially out of print. So with the centennial fast approaching we have nothing in print on the railroad. So the next resolution is get a small book out on the history of the railroad and print the narration.

Two years ago, we started offering guided tours of the engine house and yard as part of the excursion ticket. The program has taken off like a rocket. Now that we have the tour program, we need tour guides. So with the new season, our goal is to recruit tour guides. So if you enjoy working with the public, and would like a little exercise, we can do a joint resolution. I resolve to recruit tour guides and you can resolve to volunteer as a tour guide.

Lastly, I'll leave a resolution for you. The standing joke at the museum is that there is nothing to do around the museum grounds. This is said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. In getting ready for the Centennial, there are at least a thousand and one tasks that need to be completed.

If you have been following the progress of the museum you have probably said to yourself, "I should go down to the museum and volunteer someday." Well I ask that you resolve to do that this year. We have a need for train service volunteers, concessionaires, narrators, tour guides, carpenters, painters, and track workers, just to mention a few. There is always something to do at the museum.

 

 

 

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