By Mark Bassett
The 30th Anniversary of the rebirth of the railroad is this year, 2017. It is also the 100th birthday of Locomotive 81. To celebrate, the railroad is hosting an open house and its first annual meeting on March 11th at 11:00 am at the East Ely Depot, 1100 Avenue A.
Everyone is invited to come to the railroad to see all of the work that is going on. It has been an exciting year for the railroad. It started with Locomotive 40 being featured on the cover of VIA magazine last spring. Then we were in the New York Times in November. On Christmas morning, our presents was from CBS Sunday Morning which featured the Dark Skies of the Great Basin and the railroad’s Star Trains. And just when we thought it could get any better, on the February 9th episode of the Big Bang Theory, Leonard gives Sheldon a Be the Engineer Experience at the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Nevada. (And he even pronounced Ely correctly!)
The big news at the railroad is the Phoenix Dare. It’s a program to keep our steam locomotives steaming.
Why a Phoenix? From mythology, a Phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. A Phoenix typically dies by fire and rises from the ashes. The symbolism of a Phoenix fits a steam locomotive to a ‘T’.
Steam locomotives go through the same cycle as a Phoenix. Every time we light a fire in a steam locomotive, we consume a portion of it. A steam locomotive boiler’s life cycle is fifteen years. This is mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). At the end of this fifteen year cycle, a steam locomotive dies. But, just like a Phoenix, a steam locomotive can be reborn, to begin the cycle all over again. And that’s what the Phoenix Dare is all about, regenerating this 19th century railroad to face the challenges of the 21st century!
Locomotive 93 is currently undergoing her 15-year boiler inspection. We have also started on the restoration on Locomotive 81. Locomotive 81 sat by the White Public Museum for 30 years, you won’t recognize her now.
To do the inspection, a steam locomotive needs to be stripped down to her boiler shell. All tubes are removed from the boiler. The boiler is then cleaned and tested. If it passes the test, then the tubes are reinstalled and the locomotive is put back together.
The Nevada Northern Railway tells the story of when we, as a country, dreamed BIG. We took risks and accomplished MIGHTY goals. We conquered a continent and reached for the stars. As a country, we overcame huge challenges and built things that lasted. That is the take away of the Phoenix Dare – it is the story of BIG Dreams and NEW Beginnings!
This year is the celebration of the can-do-it-ness of the railroad. Thirty-two years ago the copper mine and the smelter closed. It looked the end of the line for the railroad and the City of Ely. Instead of wringing their hands and saying poor me, the community took on the challenge of preserving the Nevada Northern Railway. Talk about BIG Dreams and NEW Beginnings.
I invite you to attend our open house and annual meeting. As part of the open house Locomotive 40 will be steamed up and there will be tours of the Machine Shop, Engine House and RIP Building. There you’ll see firsthand BIG Dreams and NEW Beginnings in action.