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"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 Railroad Foundation, operator of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. He can be reached at the museum (775) 289-2085 ext. 7 or e-mail:


Apples and Paint
30 August 2003


One of my favorite words is dichotomy. Dichotomy means dividing something into two contradictory opposite groups. A favorite example is an old railroad term, ‘deferred maintenance’ another is ‘military intelligence’. So what does this all have to do with the railroad museum?

Two incidents happened at the museum recently that just hammered home the term dichotomy. The first incident was that someone took an apple from one of the trees in the plaza, and threw it through the storm window in my office. The other incident was the Ely Lions Club painted the building that they adopted and it looks great.

Nothing develops greater frustration in me then discovering vandalism on the museum grounds. On the flip side, nothing develops a greater sense of joy than having a project completed that preserves the museum; hence the dichotomy of managing a museum.

So what’s the big deal about a broken window? It’s big! Behind the storm window is the original window that was installed when the building was built in 1917. Because the manufacturing of glass was not perfect then as it is today, there are imperfections in the glass called ripples. As you look out of the window, you can see the imperfections. This type of glass is in windows of the buildings through out the complex. Of course when you throw an apple through the window that piece of glass that has been there for as long as 97 years is gone. One senseless act destroys a piece of our heritage that simply saying sorry cannot replace.

Not only is the destruction senseless, it is expensive and detracts from the historical fiber of the complex. Recently we replaced all of the broken windows in the engine house and machine shop building and covered all of the windows with screening. The job cost $70,000.00, or if you prefer, think of it as seven million pennies. As part of the process of replacing the windows, we covered the windows with screening to protect them. When the building was originally built, it did not have screening on the windows. So now, we have changed the historic fiber of the complex, all because of broken windows.



It may just look like a broken window, but the pane glass behind it is 86 years old. Last year the museum spent over $70,000 in replacing windows and putting up screening to protect them.


The broken windows have additional ramifications. The $70,000 that was spent on the broken windows would have been enough money to have Locomotive 40 back in service. The RIP Track building has plenty of broken windows, too. Cost to replace those windows is about $20,000. Total cost to repair the broken glass almost $100,000.

That $100,000 only buys modern glass not the historic ripple glass. That would be a budget breaker.

You might be asking yourself why spend the money on windows and not Locomotive 40? Easy, water freezes at thirty-two degrees. Steam locomotives use a lot of water. As water freezes, it expands and ruptures pipes and fittings. Replacing the windows in the engine house keeps the heat inside where the temperature remains above freezing. Keeping the temperature at a reasonable level allows the shop crew to work on the equipment in the collection during the winter months when they have the time.

By now, I hope you can see that the one broken window is a big deal. It costs the museum ten of thousands of dollars, changes the historic fabric of the complex, and diverts resources from critical projects.

Your help is needed in preserving this resource by explaining to children the importance of respecting the museum grounds. If you see acts of vandalism report them to the sheriff’s department and to the museum. Your help in this manner is greatly appreciated.

Next week we will concentrate on the joy aspect of this job, having volunteers working to preserve the complex.


Pictures Needed

A project at the museum is putting the ash pit back in service. Thanks to T.J. Lani who knew where the original ash pit was and Keith Carson who dug out the pit. I now have a big hole in the ground and a small problem: I don’t know what the track structure looked like that went over the ash pit. If you know what it looked like or might have a picture of the structure please let me know.




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