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Highball for Another 100 Years

Highball: a railroad term for a signal indicating full speed ahead or to move ahead at full speed. On September 9, 2005, the Nevada Northern Railway turns 100 years old and starts a yearlong centennial celebration. To get from here to there we need a plan. On October 19th, the management board and interested volunteers sat down and started roughing out the plan. Its name is, Highball for Another 100 Years

The first item accomplished was the development and adoption of a mission statement. Sounds like a simple task, but the mission statement defines who we are and where we are going. Everything we do needs to be a reflection of the mission statement. Thanks to the efforts of Phil Leibold, who came with a roughed out mission statement this task was accomplished quickly. Our mission statement is: “The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is dedicated to the restoration, preservation, interpretation and operation of the Nevada Northern Railway historic facilities, yards, and rail collection. This evolving museum gives people the opportunity to experience a world class historic working railroad.”

This simple statement now defines who we are and what our goals should be. It makes my job easier because now I have general guidance on what I’m supposed to be doing and where to assign resources.As a Main Street Project Manager in Laramie Wyoming, I learned the importance of not only having a plan but that the plan must have components that cover the entire operation. Based on this knowledge, I divided the operation of the Museum into five different and distinct areas. The areas are: Organization, Financial, Training and Operation, Infrastructure and Equipment, Promotion and Marketing.

Why the five areas? The National Trust for Historic Preservation developed a program to preserve the downtowns in this country. The program is the Main Street Project. Pressures from the large chain stores, demographic shifts, and lack of available cash were hammering downtowns across the country. These pressures were causing the downtowns to die, killing the heart of small communities everywhere.

The downtowns were the birthplace of the community and community groups were trying to save them. There were miscalculations. A group would raise money to preserve a historic structure. Then the restored structure would sit empty because, where the restoration was a thing of beauty, there was not an economic reason for the restoration. Or if there was the economic reason for the restoration then the restoration was not promoted and marketed. You had a fabulous restoration but you kept it a secret. This was self-defeating. Finally, you could have a great restoration that was economically feasible, that was promoted, but where was the organization to insure that other structures would be restored and that the theme was carried out?

What is revolutionary about the National Main Street program was that it recognized that you needed an organization, a promotion plan, an economic plan, and a unifying design that reflected the heritage of the community; and that all of these components must work in sync and mesh together smoothly. For there was no reason to restore if there wasn’t the economic justification. If the numbers worked, then it must be promoted. To promote there must be a unifying theme. And to make sure that this all worked together there must be an organization that includes the downtown property owners, downtown business owners, the public, and government entities. And it does work. The Main Street Program has successfully rescued downtowns across the county.

So what does the Main Street Program have to do with the Nevada Northern Railway Museum? Well, we have historic structures and railroad equipment that needs restoration. Is there an economic reason for doing this work? And when we do this work how will we promote it? A strong organization is needed that includes the staff, volunteers, the public, and the government entities to insure the plan is implemented and reviewed. Where the Main Street program has four components I added a fifth one for our museum, it is; training and operations.

By using the blueprint developed by the National Main Street program, the Museum has a starting point to develop a plan to insure that the Nevada Northern’s wheels are still turning in 2105, hence Highball for Another 100 Years. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be sharing the plan with you. You comments and ideas are welcome; please send them on to me.

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Hours of Operation

Monday - Saturday | 8AM - 5PM
Sunday | 8AM - 4PM

Our Location

1100 Ave A, Ely, NV 89301

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