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Photos from the 2011 Annual Steam Spectacular at the Nevada Northern
February, the Nevada Northern Railroad
in Ely, Nevada hosts a photo shoot featuring real live, fully
operational steam breathing locomotives.
photo shoot happens in February because the cold clear mountain air
dramatically enhances the photographic effect of the steam from the
locomotives. The town of Ely
rests at an altitude of 6500 feet in the clear high desert air of Northern Nevada.
The morning of the first day of the Steam Spectacular, the temperature
in Ely was five degrees Fahrenheit.
About the Nevada Northern
1902, Virginia City mining and railroad entrepreneur Mark Requa had
found extensive copper deposits in the area west of Ely. Requa
organized the White Pine Copper Company, which constructed the Nevada Northern rail route. In
the Winter of 1904, Requa met in New
York City with a reluctant E. H. Harriman, President of the Union
Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads. Requa convinced Harriman to
allow Nevada Northern lines to connect with Southern Pacific rail
routes at Cobre, 140 miles North of Ely.
1904 White Pine Copper Co. merged into other mining properties and
organized as the Nevada Consolidated Copper Co. ( NCCCo). Later,
Kennecott took over operation of NCCCo, as well as the Nevada
Northern Railroad. The NNRR hauled ore to the smelter in nearby
McGill, and provided passenger and freight service between Ely and
the junction with Southern Pacific lines in Cobre.
Engine Number 40
Engine 40 was
built in 1910, and was used strictly in passenger service. She was
built for speed, as evidenced by how close to the drive wheel axles the
push rods are connected. Hauling passengers over the relatively flat
floor of the Great Basin between Ely and Cobre, Number 40 could attain
speeds of 70MPH.
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This final image demonstrates the down side of being built for speed -
no low end torque. Number 40 was attempting to back up a minimal grade,
and stalled with the push rods at dead center. The technical term for
this is "stuck". The remedy is to divert full steam pressure to one
drive piston then to the other, attempting to move the push rods off
center. It works, but is extremely
Engine Number 93
93 was built in 1909, and was strictly a freight hauler. Note how far
out towards the perimeter of the driver wheels the push rods are
connected. This is a torque machine!
out "on the line" we rode from photo op to photo op in various rolling
stock. Including a couple caboose, a passenger car, and an "outfit
car". The latter being a sort of RV for road crews working out on the
line for several days at a time. All of these cars were built in
the early 1900s except the KENNECOT caboose which was built
word "WOMEN" on the wall of the passenger car denotes the women's
section of the car. In the early 20th century, men and women were
segregated on rail cars, as well as in the station waiting rooms. Today
we would assume such segregation was to insulate the fairer sex from
the obnoxious behavior of men. While that may have been partly the
case, the main reason was to provide mothers traveling with children
the privacy to nurse their infants.
steam powered wrecking crane was built in 1907. An ore car was
deliberately derailed to provide an opportunity for us to see the crane
in action. Note all the moving drive equipment the crane operator had
to beware of.
The NNRR "dieselized" in 1948. This is
a 1950 vintage diesel locomotive.
steam locomotives carry enough coal and water to operate for half a
working day - about six hours. So a couple times a day they need to hit
the coaling and watering station to take on about a ton of coal and six
to seven thousand gallons of water. With sixty ore trains a day running
between the Ruth Mining District and the smelter at McGill, plus the
coal trains delivering coal from the Utah coal fields, this coaling
tower was a busy place in the early 1900s.
The museum staff working on train crews
wore authentic period
This was the early 1900s version of text messaging. The engineers and
switch men exchanged orders and other communications in writing.
Imagine making an exchange like this with the train moving 50MPH.
Out of the Barn
a typically cold and clear morning, we had the opportunity photograph
the engines pulling out of the engine house. It takes about four hours
for the steam locomotives to build up an adequate head of steam
to operate. The steam engine crews were in the engine house stoking the
fires starting at around three in the morning. The diesel crew shows up
at around 6:30 in the morning. They crank the diesel up with the
electric starter, go have a cup of coffee while the engine gets up to
operating temp, then they're ready to roll. And the cab of the diesel
locomotive is heated.
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freight depot, and remnants of Cherry Creek Station.
The depot at Currie, NV. The mid point between Ely and Cobre. All that
remains at Cherry Creek Station is the base of the water tower. The
town of Cherry Creek itself lies in the foothills seven miles to the
West of the station site.