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Old Slobbermouth — Locomotive 80

by Steve Swanson

This is an article by Steve Swanson on the history of the Nevada Northern locomotives. In this piece he answers where the tender that we have in the yard came from. Enjoy.
Nevada Northern engine No. 80 entered service in April 1913, now as a conventional looking 2-8-0 with a tractive effort of 36,800 lbs @ 200 psi boiler pressure. With such credentials, No. 80 likely served as the Nevada Northern main line power between East Ely and Cobre. Locomotive Nos. 20 or 21 acted as the southbound helper unless the tonnage was sufficiently heavy to require a more powerful 90-class helper engine. Locomotive No. 95, a 1914 graduate of Alco’s Brooks Works, was designated as the main line helper engine when southbound tonnage demanded increased power and as the replacement for the regular main line locomotive when it was unavailable. Engine No. 96 was used to replace engine 95 when necessary.

Although engine No. 80 had sufficient power to meet the tonnages on the Nevada Northern main line, it was both ungainly and difficult to fire. Rough riding because of its high center of gravity (formerly offset by the weight of the water in the now removed side tanks), the engine swayed so severely on rough track that it was restricted to 20 mph on the main line. According to the late Vern Pugh, a long time Nevada Northern boilermaker, if No. 80 was working hard, the water tended to foam over and the engine would lose steam pressure. The engine would have to stop until the steam pressure could be built up. According to Pugh, “No. 80, a saturated steam engine, was called ‘Old Slobbermouth’ as a result of its penchant to foam over.”

World War I brought an unprecedented demand for copper resulting in the purchase of three new locomotives (Nos. 95, 96, and 81) and one used locomotive (No. 97) to meet the increased business. Early in 1917, as No. 80 came due for major repairs, the Nevada Northern took delivery of No.81, a new, modern, superheated 2-8-0 turned out by Baldwin Locomotive Works in April 1917. No. 81 was about the same size as No. 80 and therefore deemed adequate for Nevada Northern main line service.

When No. 81 entered service, it was probably only a few years before No. 80 was largely restricted to suburban duties at McGill, Copper Flat, Ruth, and Kimberly, in large measure because of its poor steaming, riding, and tracking capabilities and its 20 mph speed restriction on the main line. Moreover, after 1918, the copper market became so depressed that Nevada Con shutdown operations from January 1921 until May 1922 and canceled the Ruth-Kimberly and McGill mixed train. No. 80 was generally relegated to moving cars delivered to East Ely by the main line local to Ruth, Copper Flat, and Kimberly and pushing cars left by the local at McGill Jct. up to the yard at the McGill depot.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, light tonnage often annulled the suburban engine and engine No. 80 saw only sporadic use until business began increasing by 1936-1937. In addition, engine No. 20 often replaced engine No. 81 on the local when southbound tonnage was light due to the crippled economy. In 1938, after years of light use, engine No. 80 received its first repairs in six years owing to the General Manager’s order prohibiting the use of No. 81 as the switch engine except on days when called for the Main Line Local. Thereafter, its 1938 general repairs complete, engine No. 80 was designated as the full-time switch engine with an ore haul 90-class engine designated as a helper if needed or as a backup if No. 81 was unavailable. Tonnage to Copper Flat, Ruth, and Kimberly consisted of explosives, mine timbers, locomotive coal, domestic and company coal, petroleum products for the Standard Oil bulk plant in Ruth, and various car loadings of supplies for both Nevada Con and Consolidated Coppermines.

Again, a world war this time World War II increased business. Had it not been for the manpower shortages at Nevada Con and Coppermines that tempered production, the Nevada Northern would have found it difficult to handle the increased business volume. In 1940, at the direction of J. C. Kinnear, general manager of Nevada Con, the Nevada Northern briefly considered purchasing a surplus engine from Nevada Consolidated Copper’s Chino Mines at Santa Rita, New Mexico to replace engine No. 80. Though modern, superheated engines, the Chino locomotives were all tank engines unsuitable for switch engine service on the Nevada Northern. Charley Rose, mechanical superintendent at Copper Flat, quoted $5000 to increase the coal capacity on a surplus Nevco Chino engine and this did not speak to the inadequate water capacity. Other Kennecott properties also had surplus steam locomotives. Utah Copper’s 1937 purchase of nineteen new electrics made some of their large 0-6-0s superfluous. In fact, Nevada Con had purchased Utah Copper No. 302 in 1929 as their 2nd No. 300 for use as a plant switcher at McGill, but no evidence indicates the Nevada Northern gave these engines any consideration. Abandonment of Kennecott’s Copper River and Northwestern Railway, between Cordova and Kennecott, Alaska, in 1938 left two of their small 2-8-2s (Nos. 70 and 74) stored at the Alaska Steamship pier in Seattle until their 1940 sale to the Midland Terminal in Colorado Springs, Colorado. No record indicating any consideration of these engines has been found in the Nevada Northern correspondence although Ray and Gila Valley Railroad records note that any number of Copper River and Northwestern steel flat cars were offered to Nevada Consolidated Copper, Ray Mines Division.

As World War II ground to a close, the demand for copper began to ease and Nevada Northern No. 80 was removed from service in March 1945 awaiting repairs. Stored outside in the East Ely deadline until January 1952, engine No. 80, sans tender, was scrapped at McGill the following March. The tender, originally from Rotary Snowplow “B,” was retained for use with Steam Wrecker “A.” It saw service for weed spraying during later years on the Nevada Northern and remains stored in the East Ely yard to this day.

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