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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:


If the Shop Could Talk
01 December 2006

by Marty Westland, CMO


When I first sat down to write a column about our recent achievements in the shop, it seemed logical to begin simply by listing the projects we have completed. The list is long and the recounting would be pleasant. But after some consideration, I began to realize that it is not our list of accomplishments that should be celebrated. It is our growing ability to accomplish tasks and repairs that deserves recognition.

Let me explain. If you had visited the shops of the Nevada Northern in the past few months, you would have seen some things that have not occurred here for a very long time.

You would have seen Chris Brophy turning new rod brasses for locomotives 40 and 93, using a recently repaired ninety-year-old lathe. (And you would have noticed how much quieter those locomotives are running now.) You might have noticed Jared Bissen removing cylinder heads from diesel locomotive 105, an Alco RS-2. He might have been grinding the valves or lapping in the cylinder liners with equipment unused for decades. You would surely have noticed Jeremy Harding diligently working at a donated sewing machine to recreate the canvas diaphragms between the coaches so the Polar Express won't feel quite too polar. (Diaphragms are the bellows that keep the passageway between the cars weather tight).

Or his new bride, Kelly, steadily painting beautiful bright new lettering on the side of our wooden boxcars. (I'm sure this is the nicest these cars have looked for sixty years). You might have seen Jason Lamb—or maybe not—he's often a blur as he tends to any number of problems, mechanical or otherwise. Jason organizes and coordinates. He balances available volunteers with train crew requirements. Scheduling locomotives and crews or twisting a wrench, Jason keeps it all running smoothly. You may not have noticed Al Gledhill. He was quietly brazing a cracked valve body or showing some of the younger "hands" how to get things done on the Nevada Northern.

You are looking into the firebox of locomotive 40. Jeremy is in the foreground seal welding a staybolt. You can just barely make out the head of his assistant. This is the type of work that keeps the steamers rolling.

This is Marty truing the bore on one of the air compressors for locomotive 93. This air compressor is being completely rebuilt in our shop.

You probably did not see Kurt Shaull or Ed Shurtleff. They were out inspecting and repairing track. Oh, pardon me. That was Ed that you saw, showing Jared how to torque the rod bolts on the Alco. Ed worked on diesels for years and, thank goodness, is passing along as much information as we can absorb. No, our success cannot be measured by listing what we have done. It is measured by what we can do. More and more. Steadily increasing as we gradually put old tools back into service and learn old techniques almost forgotten. Every new part that came out of the shop this summer was a bit of preservation. Every hardship that we encountered was a lesson. All of it adds up to a constantly improving Nevada Northern.


This is Ed showing Jared tips on working on the piston for locomotive 105. Ed worked on diesels for years and, thank goodness, is passing along as much information as we can absorb.

A view of locomotive 93's boiler through the steam dome. The face looking back is Chris, checking the boiler in preparation for its annual inspection. Talk about learning something from the inside out, that's just what Chris is doing.



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