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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:


The Queen of Steam — Photos
11 March 2005


This is only a small sample of the photographs that were taken over the eleven months that 40 was worked on. What makes this a truly exciting project is that it's the original locomotive being worked on in the original shop using the same tools and techniques that have been in existence for more than 100 years. In the quiet of the evening, as the sun was going down, it was difficult to remember exactly what year it was. This ritual has been going in East Ely for 99 years. As we move into our second century, we are keeping alive the skills, the knowledge, and the steam locomotives—all a part of our history, which you can experience up close at the Nevada Northern.


Locomotive 40 prepared for project
Beginning the process
40's been stripped. Everything that was bolted to the boiler is now gone. It is time to start taking out the tubes.
Three people are in this picture. One person is completely in the smokebox and he has two helpers outside. Work is just beginning in getting the tubes out.


Now the tubes are coming out.

To get the tubes out a person needs to drop down through the steam dome. The steam done is that cylinder on the left edge of the photo on top of the boiler.

A person goes in there with a cutting torch and a trouble light and starts cutting out the tubes. Both ends of the tubes will need to be cut out. This means that the person will need to slide along on his stomach to get to one end of the boiler to the other. Back and forth, back and forth for days will he been in his prison with a cutting torch and trouble light.

Removing tubes



Inside firebox
No. 40 firebox

You are in the firebox off locomotive 40. We are at the midway point. All of the old tubes are out. The boiler has been needle scaled and we are ready to put the tubes back in.

Hundreds of hours were spent in here getting ready and hundreds of hours will be spent in finishing the work.

There is no easy way to rebuild a steam locomotive. In our push button, computer-controlled world, we forget what got us here—sweat, steel, and hard work. Two workers are inside the firebox of locomotive 40 rolling tubes. The only way in is through the firebox opening (the small hole in the foreground). For hours they will stay in their tiny dungeon working on the tubes. Claustrophobics need not apply.



The culmination of all of the hard work is the first fire.

Here the crew lit off the locomotive for the first time in years. The fire will be built very slowly to give the steel boiler a chance to expand slowly. Must people don't know that a steam locomotive actually gets bigger when it's hot. So the fire must be built slowly.

The numbers on the backhead are the thickness of the steel. Every square foot of the firebox and boiler was checked.

The good news: 40 is in the same shape as when it left Baldwin ninety-five years ago. That says something.

First fire in No. 40


40 held in place by 204

Locomotive 204 is coupled to locomotive 40 to hold the later in place.

When firing up a steam locomotive for the first time you don't want it wandering off down the tracks. Locomotive 40 does not have hand brakes. As the locomotive builds up pressure for the first time, a throttle leak could cause the locomotive to move. Hence we use a big anchor—a 150 ton locomotive like EMD SD-9 No. 204.


The Ghost Train

This is what it is all about. The Ghost Train is in service once more. What year is it? 1910, 1930, or 1940? No, it's 2005 in Ely, Nevada where locomotive 40 will be doing what she was built to do by Baldwin in 1910—haul people.
So why is she called the Ghost Train? Once upon a time in America, this sight was as common as waking up in the morning. Now no more; 40 and her train are ghosts of a grand era in America.

This is a time capsule— steam locomotive 40, baggage/Railway Post Office car 20, and first class coach 5 are all together again on their home track ready for the next load of people.


The Queen of Steam





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