On Sunday 19th June, I arrived in Carson City, where the Nevada State Railroad Museum was located, with the unique Mckeen Rail Motor Car. This had been under restoration since 1995, and in 2010, it was finally operated its’ first passenger service in preservation. On my visit, I was able to take a ride on the motor car, which is a Nevada monument to the railroads. Also in operation was the steam excursion train, which would alternate with the railmotor every 45 minutes. With two trains in operation, it made the museum (which is made up of the depot and a short loop which ran around the yard and sheds) very busy, and full of kinetic energy, something that is missing from other museums that I have visited.Not only was the restoration a first class job, but the 1920s streamlined interior and exterior is a sight to behold. Pictures really do not do it justice. The craftsmanship on each of the very large opening windows is beautiful, and it feels distinctively American. As I was talking to one of the volunteers, he said that if you turned the body of it upside down, it would resemble a boat, which with the front of the locomotive being very streamlined, would look very similar.There was a steam locomotive operational, which was also doing cab rides. I was lucky to be able to visit the cab, and take a tour around the excursion line. While on board, the engineer and firemen told me the history of the line and museum. They also showed me how to operate the locomotiv, and when to use the bell. While on board for my second loop around the museum, an apprentice firemen was on board, learning the ropes of operating a steam locomotive, and being part of a crew. It was very pleasing to see the future of American Railroading is in very safe hands at the museum.
On the 23rd June, I returned to the museum to look around their sheds, and to see the other locomotives that were out of service. There were no trains running on this day, as they only operate at weekends. I was also able to look inside the Mckeen Motor Car, as the pictures below show the cab of the railmotor, along with the diesel engine, which was not authentic for the locomotive
While inside the locomotive, a conductor told me the history of the restoration of the railmotor, which is unique in North America, as No. 22 is the only one of the class that could display the current state of high integrity and preservation, along with being one of the two left that are of the 70-foot model. The rest of the other railmotors were not in the position that they could be preserved to this standard. One has been converted into a passenger rail car in Anchorage, Alaska, one was cut in half and used as a shed in Price, Utah, while another was converted into a diesel-electric switcher.
From 1995 to August 1997, the Nevada State Railroad Museum had conducted a feasibility study of whether the McKeen could be restored to working order. The study found that most of the historic material needed could be salvaged or replicated, with the exception of the engine, transmission and acetylene lighting. The restoration led to the Motor Car 22 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 6, 2005.
While purists would not be happy that the railmotor is using an engine that is not authentic, there is something magical seeing a locomotive with this distinctive style being used around the museum. It really is a one of a kind machine.Two of their locomotives are old wood burning engines that would not look out of place in a Western movie. They have both starred in movies which made them household names. Enyo and Glenbrook. Two weekends later, they were both operational over the 4th July weekend, where they operated around their loop. While they are not able to pull stock, due to not having an air brake, I will have to visit some time in the future to see them both operating.
The unique livery and attention to detail shows the pride that the original pioneers of the railroads had on their locomotives. I was told of one of the volunteers who hand painted all of the lining that needed to complete the livery, to make it authentic. These locomotives are synonymous with the wild west and romantic portrayal in movies, many alongside the Hollywood greats, such as Clint Eastwood and John Wayne.
There were a couple of locomotives undergoing repairs or restoration, such as locomotive 8, the other main steam locomotive for the line. They are currently raising funds for the overhaul to take place. A full boiler repair will need to be completed before it will be able to operate for 15 years before its’ next major overhaul. This surprised me as in Britain, our locomotives have to undergo an overhaul after 10 years of service.
Also in the yard was another railmotor, and while more conventional in its style, it is still a unique piece of equipment. They are currently waiting for parts to arrive before they can finish the repairs to the vehicle, but were hoping to have it finished before September.
While I was there, I looked around their museum, which charted the history of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, and there were a couple of original locomotives on display. The smaller tank engine was used for the mines, while the larger tender locomotive was used for the passenger service.
I had a fantastic time visiting the museum, and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Nevada, as it does bring to life the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. The staff were very pleasant to talk to, and very knowledgeable on the history of the railroad, and the operation of the locomotives, so a big thank you to everyone who volunteers at the museum.
Above is my video from my visit, and below are a few more pictures.Thanks for reading.