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There is an old saying, “You can’t see the forest, because all of those trees are in the way.” I recently went through a bout of being unable to see the forest. It is easy to get so wrapped up in all of the things that need to be done here at the museum that we forget what we have accomplished.

Two recent events reinforced that the museum has come a long way. The first is that Dave Raber, a volunteer, put together a slide show that is on our website. (Another volunteer, Keith Albrandt, maintains our website.)

In scrolling through the slides, I was struck by how much has been accomplished. Slide 3 shows locomotives 40 and 93 about to pass one another (on separate tracks) and in the background is the grassy area between the depot and the freight house.

What is striking about this photo is that you have two working steam locomotive in the 21st century. Both locomotives have had their boilers re-tubed in the 21st century. At one time, it was thought that 40 would not run again, because of the money needed for the boiler work. The money was found and now 40 will be steaming for another decade.

Slide 47 shows the steam crane working in the winter. The crane was put into service a year ago. The intention was to use it for demonstration projects. Well, if you have an operating steam crane and you need to unload boxcars, guess what, you use the crane to unload the boxcars. Ironically, if you look closely at the boxcar, it is an old UP car with the slogan, “We Can Handle It.” Pretty much sums up what the staff and volunteers do here.

If you continue to scroll through the slides, you come to the fifty-ninth slide. This is a view of the inside of the machine shop and frankly, the shop is a mess. Since that time, the shop has been cleaned up, organized, with new machines added. People have a romantic view of working at a railroad museum. A lot of the work is unglamorous, just picking things up and putting them away.

One of the biggest changes made to the property is controlling weeds. Slides 60 and 73 show the problems that we have had with weeds. Today there are no weeds in these areas. The enginehouse looks like a working enginehouse not a derelict that’s been abandon. But this change comes at a cost. We spend about $9,000 a year for spraying weeds.

The other big changes are showcased in slides 69 and 79. Slide 69 is a view of the freight house and the area just to the east of it. It is a large, weedy area that really detracted from the experience of visiting the museum. The area was adopted as an Eagle Scout project by John Pitts. The weeds were cleared out, a sprinkler system installed and sod laid down. Now what was a tremendous eyesore invites our visitors to linger a little longer.

The Chief Engineer’s Building is shown in slide 79. The slide shows what looks like an abandoned building. John West provided money for a new roof and Motorcar Operators West provided the labor to redo the windows on the west side. By putting on a new roof and fixing windows, another eyesore was converted to an attraction of the museum.

Slide 64 shows the changes to great advantage. A beautiful summer day, clear blue skies, historic equipment in the background, two hot steam locomotives, and people getting their picture taken. This picture so impressed Kalmbach publishing, that they used it in their advertising. So this was a one-two punch for the museum. By cleaning up, we received national exposure.

In scrolling through the slide show, it just reinforces what a special place the Nevada Northern Railway Museum is. But what the slides don’t show is the immense amount of work that has gone on to the buildings. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been invested in the buildings, which is not visible to the naked eye.

The enginehouse, machine shop, coach house, and the McGill Depot have all had money invested in them. In fact, the enginehouse/machine shop complex was saved from collapse by the money invested in it. Then let’s not forget the ash pit. By putting the ash pit into service, we removed a fire danger from the property.

Then there is the RIP building and the new coal pad. The RIP building is now useable because over 600 broken windows have been repaired. And the coal pad protects both the coal and the fireboxes of the locomotives. Both of these projects were funded by a generous donation from Malcolm Mackey.

Remarkable strides have been at the museum. As we look ahead, we can see that a lot of work still needs to be accomplished. Yet, at the same time, we need to reflect back on all of the work that has been accomplished.

Slowly but surely, the museum is beginning to realize its potential. There is a phenomenal amount of work that needs to be done. But we must never lose sight of the phenomenal amount of work that the staff and volunteers have already accomplished!

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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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