Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

A Day At the Museum

On Sunday, Lisa and I went to the Nevada State Railroad Museum, where they were all steamed up for Memorial Day Weekend. There aren't a lot of places where you can see two steam locomotives in two different gauges working simultaneously, but this was one of them.

Taking Water

Shortly after we arrived, we took a trip around the grounds on the excursion train, seen here at the end of the run as Virginia & Truckee Railroad #25 took water at the Wabuska tank.

McKeen Car

The restored McKeen Motor Car (the only operating McKeen car in the world) sparkles in the sun. It was not operating, but it was open for inspection.

McKeen Motor Car

The museum has done a wonderful job restoring equipment including the McKeen car, the pride of Omaha when it was first built in the early 1900s.

Steam and McKeen

The McKeen's "porthole" windows were open, something they won't do when they're operating it because of concerns that the heavy windows might fall down and hurt someone. (The window design of the car is not very good.) This made a good frame for this picture of the excursion train going by on the "main line."

French Gratitude Train Car

Inside the train shed was Nevada's member of the French "Gratitude Train," a train of 49 cars (one for each state at the time plus one shared between DC and Hawaii) given to the USA by France after World War I. The Nevada car sat outdoors for many years deteriorating before being moved to the museum and restored.

Golden Spike Car

Sitting here in its final movie paint scheme is a former Central Pacific passenger car that was part of the "Golden Spike Special" that took CP's officers to Promontory, Utah for the driving of the ceremonial golden spike that completed the first transcontinental railroad. The holes in the side of the train are not bullet holes as many suppose, but holes made by woodpeckers. This car is in a state of arrested decay while the museum determines what to do with it. It has been changed many times in its lifetime, ending its active career in movie service.

One of the stars of the Memorial Day operations at the museum was the recently-restored narrow-gauge locomotive Glenbrook. We saw it standing at the depot as we drove into the museum, but for some reason I couldn't seem to track it down as it moved from place to place on the museum grounds. Finally I spotted it moving up to the the upper switch where it would then move down the "main line" back to the area near the turntable, and managed to shoot some video.

Glenbrook at the Switch

Glenbrook moves down from the upper switch to the lower switch.

Glenbrook on the Main

After a crew member threw the switch from the main line, Glenbrook moved onto the track leading to the turntable and the train shed.


Moving down to the turntable, Glenbrook traverses special track work that allows the narrow-gauge locomotive to "change sides" on the three-rail track that it shares with standard-gauge equipment. This is to avoid having to make a three-rail switch. At the end of this video you'll see Lisa and travelswithkuma move into the frame to chat with the docent guarding the grade crossing.

Glenbrook's crew was offering short rides up and down this section of track.


A few people at a time were allowed to climb aboard for a short trip up and down the track. What is difficult to show without a direct comparison is how small Glenbrook is compared to V&T 25.

Glenbrook Valve Gear

As with the McKeen Car, the restoration work on Glenbrook is beautiful.

Glenbrook Builder's Plate

This product of the famous Baldwin Works got its start hauling logs from Lake Tahoe to a flume that deposited the logs not far from the current site of the museum. It later worked on the Nevada County Narrow Gauge line from Colfax to Grass Valley and Nevada City.

Aboard the Glenbrook

Eventually it was my turn to climb aboard. This view points back at the locomotive cab behind me.

On Board Glenbrook

I took my place on board the tender as we eased our way past the train shed. This wood is not for show. Glenbrook is a wood-burning locomotive.

Stoking the Glenbrook

After each short trip, a couple of more logs went into the firebox. Amy here was tending the boiler. (She had been the docent on board our car on the excursion train earlier in the day.) She also of course was responsible for making sure there was enough water in the boiler. Letting the water level get below the top of the crown sheet (the top of the firebox where the fuel is burned) is a mistake that you generally only make once, because you usually don't survive a boiler explosion. (Today the issue was actually more water in the boiler than was quite necessary, which was making her hard to steam.)

Climbing down from the locomotive was slightly challenging because of the lack of a grab handle before you made the first step, but I'd watched other people struggle with it and managed to make it down in one piece. I thanked the crew and went to find Lisa, who had declined this particular cab ride and was instead talking shop with the volunteers.

As the day neared its end, we hit the museum bookstore, which is our major weakness. Although our membership gives us free admission and half-price train rides, we rarely escape the bookstore. In this case, they had a bunch of VHS train videos for sale at only $1 each, so Lisa jumped on them. We also bought some books that were on clearance, and a couple that were not, using our 15% membership discount on the latter.

After a full, enjoyable day at the museum, we headed north to Reno and had dinner at the Peppermill. Our original plan had been to do our large-scale grocery shopping after that, but what with the drive home from the Bay Area Saturday and the day out in the sun on Sunday, we did only a short stop at Whole Foods for cheese before heading straight home and making for bed as soon as possible.
Tags: kuma bear, lisa, museum, trains

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