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554Nevada County Narrow Gauge Museum building new steam locomotive - Trains Mag

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  • Doug Jensen
    May 22, 2007
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      May 18, 2007NEVADA CITY, Calif. - The Nevada County Narrow Gauge
      Museum's shop crew has embarked on an ambitious new project: The
      construction of a fully operational 0-4-0 steam locomotive from the
      ground-up. The locomotive's design will be reminiscent of a 1880s
      industrial engine. While the cab evokes the lines of a Baldwin, the
      frame, running gear, and stack strongly resemble a Porter locomotive.

      A significant departure from tradition was made in the design of the
      steam plant. Instead of a traditional fire-tube boiler, a modern
      steam generator will produce steam. The power plant will produce huge
      volumes steam on demand without the need for a pressurized vessel. It
      will require only about five minutes to fire up and the same amount
      of time to shut down. Fueled by propane, the boiler will be clean
      burning and won't present a fire hazard while operating in the Sierra
      foothills.

      The 13 foot-long locomotive will take three years, 5,000 volunteer
      hours, and $35,000 in material to complete. The Museum has acquired
      initial funding and work has already begun. Construction got underway
      with the acquisition of drive wheels and axles. The original plan
      called for casting the wheels locally, but a little research revealed
      that the wheels from a scrapped Vulcan locomotive were available. The
      salvage was a big job, but it was accomplished in one day. Purchase
      of the used wheels reduced expenses to one-third the cost of casting
      new wheels. The salvaged parts included wheels, axles, bearings, and
      springs. The design drawings for the new engine were modified
      slightly to incorporate the Vulcan parts. The bearings were removed
      and inspected; the Vulcan's gears were cut from the axles and
      scrapped.

      The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum is dedicated to the
      preservation of local transportation history and artifacts from the
      narrow gauge railroad era. The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad
      began operations in 1876 to provide year-round transportation to the
      rich mining districts of western Nevada County. The original 22½-mile
      route began in Nevada City, traveled to the railroad's headquarters
      in Grass Valley, and then on to Colfax for connections to the Central
      Pacific. During 62 years of operation, it hauled out more than
      $200,000,000 worth of gold while bringing in mining machinery,
      lumber, petroleum products and other essentials. Thousands rode its
      passenger trains, mixed trains, and occasional special excursions.
      The narrow gauge line boasted the highest railroad bridge in
      California for its time (the 1908 Bear River Bridge), and was the
      first railroad in the U.S. to have a woman president (Sarah Kidder,
      1901-1913). The outbreak of World War II led to the closure of the
      gold mines and, with its major customers gone; the railroad was
      abandoned in 1942.

      Today visitors are offered a docent-led historical tour of the
      museum, railroad yard, and restoration shop. Exhibited in the main
      gallery is engine No. 5, an 1875 Baldwin that began service hauling
      lumber, then passengers and freight for the NCNGRR, and finally as a
      movie engine at Universal Studios in Hollywood. The yard houses a
      collection of wooden cars, some restored, others waiting their turn
      in the shop.

      The Museum is asking the public for financial support for the steam
      locomotive project. Donors of $50.00 or more will receive a brass
      commemorative plaque and a semi-annual progress report. The Museum
      will acknowledge all donations and they are tax deductible. For more
      information go to www.ncngrrmuseum.org.
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