The First National Bank of Ely announced that it will match donations to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum’s Phoenix Dare Fund to return Locomotive 81 to service, dollar for dollar.
If you grew up in Ely, you may remember the two steam locomotives that were at the White Pine Public Museum, Locomotives 81 and 93. When Kennecott retired the steam locomotives, they were given to the community. No one ever thought they would run again. In 1990, the locomotives were returned to the Nevada Northern Railway engine house for restoration. Locomotive 93 was restored to operation in 1993 and Locomotive 81 was restored to operation in 2021.
Maintaining steam locomotives in the 21st century is not for the faint of heart. The Nevada Northern Railway Museum owns the four remaining original locomotives left on the planet. Locomotive 81 was built in 1917 by Baldwin Locomotive Works. It is our “newest” locomotive. She was built for freight train service between East Ely and Cobre, a distance of 139 miles.
Steam locomotives lead a tough life. Every time we light a fire in a steam locomotive, we consume a portion of it. This is because of the cold/hot/cold/ hot/cold cycle. When you heat metal it expands, when it cools it contracts. If you were to run a tape measure around the boiler when the locomotive is cold and then do it again when it is hot – the boiler is actually larger! This thermal cycle puts immense stress on the metal of the boiler which can result in cracks. A crack is the last thing you want on a boiler!
At the top of the boiler ,where the rear flue sheet joins to the crown sheet is called the boiler knuckle. There are compound curves here, one side of the metal is exposed to the fire at 2,000 degrees fahrenheit and the other side is exposed to water at about 600 degrees. There are tremendous forces at work here stressing the century-old metal to the nth degree and with time it will fail. That’s what happened to Locomotive 81.
BUT the cool thing with steam locomotives is that you can repair them. In this case, we used a torch and cut out the piece of the boiler knuckle that was failing. Once we had the piece out on the workbench we found that this was not the first time it had been repaired. We found repairs that had been made 70, 80 or 90 years ago!
Now that we know what we are up against, we can make repairs. The repair will be forming a new knuckle out of comparable metal, drilling holes in, welding it in place, attaching the boiler stays and installing new flues.
Additionally, we also found some loose rivets on the boiler shell. We will need to replace the rivets. Fortunately, we found rivets! Once both projects are done, the boiler will be ready to be steamed up once again.
We have another issue with Locomotive 81. Before firing up a steam locomotive, we meticulously inspect it. During the preoperational inspection, it was found that the nut that holds up the Bissell post had sheared off. This is no small nut, the nut measures 6 inches across and the Bissell post measures 2 ¾ inches in diameter!
So, what does the Bissell post do? It helps guide the leading two wheels of the locomotive (the pilot) around curves. We’re fortunate to have the original plans for Locomotive 81 scanned and available. Then we examined the pilot truck and the problems multiplied! The pilot truck frame was worn, the pilot wheel flanges were worn, but they can be turned one last time – a setback, but it can be repaired. As we started turning the pilot wheel flanges, we discovered the axle itself was bent! Ok, bummer, but we can fix this!
Ok, these are setbacks, which truly are not unexpected. After all, Locomotive 81 is 106-years-old! But it is a very big BUT! We can FIX it, but only with YOUR support! The estimated cost of repairs to Locomotive 81 is $95,000.
That’s the bad news. The good news is The First National Bank of Ely will MATCH all Phoenix Dare Donations https://nnry.com/donate/#phoenix DOLLAR for DOLLAR to get Locomotive 81 steamin’ once again! And if you donate $50 or more, we have a gift for you too! More on that in a bit.
Steam locomotives are marvelous machines but they are incredibly high maintenance machines! We figure for every hour a steam locomotive is hot, we pick up three hours of maintenance! We will fire off a steam locomotive early Friday morning and then dump the ash late Monday afternoon. Four days of operation means 12 days of maintenance! That’s the economics of steam locomotives! This is the reason that railroads cut up almost new steam locomotives in favor of diesel locomotives – the maintenance!
To get Locomotive 81 steamin’ once again, the railroad depends on the generosity of its members and donors. For without them, the steam locomotives would not be in operation, ticket sales alone will not cover the cost of maintaining a century-old steam locomotive.
It is memberships and donations that give us the financial fuel to maintain and operate the original locomotives of the railroad, on the original track and store and repair them in the original 1907 machine shop/engine house building. This is why the railroad is a National Historic Landmark!
To keep these marvelous machines operating, I need YOUR help! Either become a member or renew YOUR membership today to do so visit our website https://nnry.com/
PHOENIX DARE – STEAM LOCOMOTIVE CHALLENGE COINS – Ensuring the continued operation of our three National Historic Landmark steam locomotives is a very costly, huge challenge; one that we can accomplish! Overcoming this herculean challenge will mean extraordinary financial help; over and above membership contributions.
To encourage this extraordinary financial help, we have created three Challenge Coins, one for each locomotive #93, #81 and #40.
The Challenge Coins are only available to people who make an extraordinary donation above their membership contribution to the Phoenix Dare fund https://nnry.com/donate/#phoenix
The minimum donation levels to receive the coins are: $50+ for the Locomotive 93 coin; $100+ for the Locomotive 93 and 81 coins and $500+ to receive all three coins – Locomotive 93, 81 and 40.
To made donations click here: https://nnry.com/donate/#phoenix
REMEMBER YOUR DONATION to get Locomotive 81 steamin’ again will be MATCHED by The First National Bank of Ely!
Working together, Locomotive 81 will be steaming once again in the near future!