Nevada Northern Railway
Home Links Contact Us


"At The Throttle"
by Mark Bassett, Executive Director

A weekly series of columns originally published in the Saturday edition of the Ely Times 
Mark Bassett is the Executive Director of the White Pine Historical Foundation, operator of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. He can be reached at the museum (775) 289-2085 ext. 7 or e-mail:


I Want You to Volunteer for the Nevada Northern Railway
15 March 2003


As the days are starting to get longer that means we are getting closer to the start of the most challenging season in the history of the museum. Starting June 1st and lasting until September 1, we will be operating 6 days a week. Steam operations are Saturday through Monday, and diesel operations Wednesday through Saturday.

What this means is we need engineers, fireman, brakeman, and conductors. In recognition of this need, we are starting a training program that will mesh your desires with the museums needs. The starting point of this program is for you to communicate your goals in writing to us indicating what program you want to join.

The programs are as follows:

1. Steam program. This program will train individuals whose goal is to become a steam locomotive engineer. The progression steps are rear brakeman, hostler, head brakeman, student fireman, fireman, student engineer, and finally engineer. To begin this program you must first be a qualified brakeman.

2. Diesel Program. This program will train individuals whose goal is to become a diesel locomotive engineer. The progression steps are rear brakeman, hostler, head brakeman, student engineer, and finally engineer. To begin this program you must first be a qualified brakeman.

3. Conductor Program. This program will train individuals whose goal is to become a conductor. The progression steps are rear brakeman, head brakeman, student conductor, and finally conductor. To begin this program you must first be a qualified brakeman.

4. Brakeman Program. This is the entry-level position to all of the train crew positions. To begin this program you must be a current member of the museum.

The common thread through out all of these programs is you must be a member of the museum, pass a DOT physical, be able to devote the time, pass written and practical proficiency tests to graduate from the program. You will be provided with some study materials and you will need to purchase some additional study materials.

Because all of the volunteers are at different proficiency levels you will be evaluated and assigned to a different class. For example, a volunteer who is now qualified to be a fireman and joins the steam program could be evaluated to begin the program as student steam engineer in the class of '03. The goal of the museum and the volunteer would be to graduate as a steam engineer by the end of the 2003 season. Other individuals who now qualify as a student fireman could be assigned to the class of '04. Again, the goal being to train and qualify as an engineer by the end of the 2004 season. And individual who is qualified as a head brakeman now, would start the program as a student fireman and would be a member of the class of '05.

The steam program will take a volunteer the most time to complete. For example, 500 hours are needed as steam firemen before becoming a student engineer. Then 100 hours of student engineer time is needed before graduating to engineer. The diesel program is 100 hours of cab instruction.

How will this all work? First, the crew scheduling will be organized to reflect the training program. If two volunteers ask for the same weekend and one is in the steam program, then that volunteer will be scheduled in the cab of 93. Does this mean if you are not part of the steam program you won't be in the cab of 93? No, but program individuals will be assigned first. The program will also be very sensitive to hours of service. To move from one position to another position you must complete a defined number of hours of service. It is then imperative that you record your hours of service on the appropriate forms and keep a logbook for yourself.

Again, the ultimate object of the program is to mesh the desires of the volunteers with the needs of the museum. Building on the success of last year's schedule, we are moving into a challenging future for the museum. I believe we will be successful in 2003. A successful 2003 will lead into a 2004 with an increase in operations. The more trains we run, the more passengers we will carry, the more revenue we can earn and the more money we can invest in our museum property. I encourage all of you to reflect on your goals and sign up for the program that you want to participate in. We need to know what your goals are in writing and if you are coming to the training by April 15th.

Please mark your calendar for April 26 & 27, 2003 for the volunteer training weekend. This will be a two-day affair with classroom and hands on training on Saturday and written and practical testing on Sunday. This test is mandatory for all train crewmembers. If you cannot make this weekend another training session will be held over Memorial Day weekend.

For individuals who are not interested in train crew positions there are many other ways that you can assist. We will need narrators, concession workers, ticket sellers, museum tour guides, plus bartenders, waiters and waitresses.

New for this year is the Ghost program. We are looking for individuals who will dress up in period costume, and ride the train as an individual from 1917. This is a new program and I am looking for an individual to serve as Head Ghost and others to serve as Ghosts. This program would be similar to a Chautauqua program. A Chautauqua program is where an individual has studied the persona of a person in the past. Then dresses, thinks and acts as that individual. The goal would be to have a Ghost on all of our trains by 2005.

And if that is not enough, there is plenty of work that needs to be done around the property. We have three volunteer weekends planned for 2003. I need three group leaders for each weekend. If you are interested please contact me ASAP. Working together, the 2003 season will be record breaker.


Legislative Update

The hearing date for the railroad bills is Monday March 24th from 8:00 am to 11:00 am. If you are interested in traveling to Carson City to show your support for these bills, please let either Paul Johnson or myself know. If a large enough group goes to Carson City, the school district may be able to provide transportation. If you are interested in going please contact either Paul Johnson or myself. Paul Johnson is the chairman of the Legislative Coalition group who is pushing to get these bills passed. Paul's contact information is email: or (775) 289-4851 x125. Working together we can get these bills passed and save a large part of White Pine County's heritage.



Call Us 1-866-40STEAM or 1-866-407-8326

Copyright © 2003 Nevada Northern Railway - Ely, Nevada
All Rights Reserved - Page Last Updated 15 March 2021
Site maintained by Keith Albrandt