Engines of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad - Details

engines-eng 1Engine No.1

Baldwin Locomotive Works built Engine No.1 in July of 1875 for the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad.
The 42,000-pound locomotive, named "Grass Valley", spent its entire career on the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Engine No.1 was converted to an oil burner in 1908 along with Engines 2, 3, 4, and 5. Other improvements including air brakes and automatic couplers slightly changed its appearance.

The engine was set aside in 1933 with its flues passed their limit. In 1936, after 58 years of service, it was stripped of usable parts and scrapped.

engines-eng2Engine No.2

In July 1875, Baldwin Locomotive Works built NCNGRR Engine No.2, then called "Nevada".

Designed as a freight locomotive, the 2-6-0 Mogul had 36-inch driving wheels. It burned cordwood until it was converted to oil around 1908.

The engine suffered severe damage in the August 29, 1915 Grass Valley engine house fire. After a rebuild, it was coupled to the oil tender from the retired Engine No. 4. No.2 was damaged again in October of that year when the Grass Valley machine shop burned.

"Nevada" served faithfully for 58 years. In 1933, it was set aside, salvaged for parts, and scrapped.

engines-eng3Engine No.3

Engine No.3 was one of only three locomotives built new for the NCNGRR. John F. Kidder ordered engine No.3 due to the heavy use of Engine’s No.1, “Grass Valley”, and No.2, “Nevada”. It would be only a matter of time before one of the two engines would be laid up for repairs, and a third engine would be needed to pick up the slack… as well as being used for the increasingly popular excursions.

The new locomotive arrived in Colfax in November 1877, and went right to work. Several accidents marked its life on the narrow gauge before a fire destroyed it.

One incident occurred in 1886. As No.3 pulled into the Grass Valley, it was discovered too late that a switch was in the wrong position and the engine was headed across the turntable and into the engine house! The engineer threw it into reverse but it still slammed into Engines No.1 & No.2, jamming them together in a tangled mess. Although not badly damaged itself, the incident started No.3’s reputation as an "unlucky” engine.

Engine No.3's next mishap was the great circus train wreck in September of 1893. The Sells-Rentfrow Circus arrived at Colfax and transferred all its equipment and animals to an NCNGRR train for the trip Grass Valley. After the completing the local performances, the circus was reloaded onto a twenty-two car train double headed by the "Nevada" and No.3, and began the return trip to Colfax.

As Gerald Best described the incident, "The first boxcar of the train contained the circus's valuable show horses. One mile above Union Hill near the Maltman & Thomson Sulphurent Works was a horseshoe curve on a three percent grade. As the engines struggled to pull the heavy train around this curve, the horses in the first car apparently shifted towards the side of the car next the inside rail. Over went the first, followed by the two locomotives and the next two freight cars, one of which was a boxcar containing the cages of lions and a flatcar loaded with cage wagons filled with bears. The engine men were catapulted through the shattered roofs, to escape with bruises and scratches". The animals escaped injury for the most part, but the Circus' road manager and a young man catching a ride home to Colfax were killed.

It took two weeks to pull the locomotives up the hill and return them to Grass Valley for repairs.

On the evening of July 15, 1904, Engine No.3 was damaged in a roundhouse fire in Nevada City. The engine was parked "alive" and the engineer and fireman went home. At 10:40 p.m., the night watchman sounded the fire alarm the Nevada City fire company who shot water onto the engine...even in the face of a possible boiler explosion. The heat severely damaged the engine and tender and melted the engine's bell.

Engine No.3's next wreck occurred on February 2, 1907 at Log Cut in the canyon of Shebley's Creek. A culvert through the embankment at the end of Log Cut became blocked and a lake formed with water flowing over the tracks. The tracks gave way as the train passed through the flooded area; the tender derailed and the engine and two coaches overturned. Only a thick stand of trees near the track prevented the train from washing into the canyon.

The end came for Engine No.3 during the early morning of August 30, 1915 when fire broke out at the Grass Valley yards. The fire destroyed both engine houses, the machine shop, and other small buildings.

Four engines were damaged that night, but only Engine No.3 burned beyond repair. The cast iron framework was warped and cracked by the heat. The engine was towed to the bad order track and sat there for eleven years serving as a parts resource to keep Engine No.1, the "Grass Valley", operating.

Although that may have seemed to be the end of the line for Engine No.3, it was by far not the case. A mine in Virginia City, Nevada, purchased the locomotive’s boiler for a stationary power plant.

Around 1975, the mine had no use for the old boiler and planned to bury it in a hillside near Virginia & Truckee Railroad shop building. Bob Gray, then owner of the V&TRR, asked the mining people for the boiler and it sat near the V&TRR shop next twenty-two years.

In 1985, John Christensen visited the V&TRR and Bob Gray told him that the little boiler was from the old NCNGRR Engine No.3. Gray was willing to return it to Nevada County and Christensen asked him to save it until the museum group could retrieve it.

Twelve years later, the boiler made the trip from the state of Nevada to the County of Nevada, California with the help of Lowell Robinson, Tom Casper and Clay Chase of Robinson Timber Inc. who provided the lowboy truck and a large forklift. On October 18, 1997, the boiler returned home ending Engine No.3's seventy-one year absence.

The boiler is on display next to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum on the grounds of the adjoining Northern Queen Inn. Plans are to move it to the museum over the winter of 2013. Engine No.3’s tender is on exhibit behind Engine No.5 in the museum’s main gallery.

engines-eng 4Engine No.4

Engines No.4's history is being revised.

engines-eng 5Engine No.5

NCNGRR Engine No.5, an 1875 Baldwin 2-6-0 mogul, first saw duty for the Carson Tahoe Lumber & Fluming Company in Carson City, Nevada. The 26-ton locomotive, named "Tahoe", was one of a pair, her "sister" being the "Glenbrook". The "Tahoe Twins" traveled daily to the mill at Spooner Summit and each returned with six-flatcar trains of milled lumber.

The logging railroad was abandoned in 1898 and the equipment put up for sale. John F. Kidder, president of the NCNGRR, purchased the “Tahoe” on June 30, 1899. Included in the purchase were eight flat cars and four tank cars. Kidder also acquired a 0-6-0 Porter-Bell locomotive from the Lake Tahoe Railway, which became NCNGRR No. 4.

Engine No.5 arrived from Nevada on a Southern Pacific flat car and was unloaded at Colfax, California. As a wood burner with a recently rebuilt boiler, little was required to put it into immediate service and it quickly went to work pulling freight trains. No.5 had more weight on her drivers, and 25% more power than NCNG No.2, which until No.5's arrival, was the railroad's largest locomotive.

In February of 1913, Engine No.5's boiler was rebuilt at the Union Iron Works in San Francisco. Newly refitted, she continued her most favored status on the NCNGRR.

A disaster struck on August 30, 1915, that nearly brought the railroad to a halt. An early morning fire at the Grass Valley depot burned both engine houses and the machine shop. Parked inside the building, Engine No.3 burned beyond repair and No.6 was heavily damaged.

Engines No. 5 and No. 2 had luckily been sitting outside the machine shop and had only their cabs and running boards burned off. The fire destroyed the tenders of all four locomotives. The fire burned away the wooden decking and sills as well as warping the steel sides of the water and oil tanks. (Evidence of the fire is visible today in the wavy pattern of the sheet metal on the sides of No.5's tender.)

According to Johnny Nolan, the NCNG master mechanic, "the whole shop force worked around the clock to restore No. 5 to service without a cab. In less than two days they had the engine running!" For several weeks engine No. 5 pulled trains without the benefit of a cab and the engine crew had to hang onto a specially built railing when going into curves. Engine No.5 was soon fitted with a Baldwin replacement cab that was taller than the original.

In 1940, No. 5 nearly burned again when a tank car full of asphalt caught fire after a blowtorch was used to it to speed up the heating process. The depot building and the Kidder Mansion were not as lucky and suffered extensive damage.

It was during this period that two larger locomotives, No.8 and No.9, pulled the heavy freight trains and No.5 was relegated to helper duty.

Down in Hollywood, Frank Lloyd Productions was shopping around for a narrow gauge locomotive to use for an upcoming movie. Bob Paine, the NCNG train master, went down to Hollywood and closed the deal that would make the aging No. 5 a star brighter than the one on her Baldwin spot plate. No.5 was again rebuilt, including replacing tires on the wheels, and the installation of an all steel cab and running boards from the recently scrapped No 7. The engine was loaded on a truck and then transferred to a flat car at Colfax for the trip to Hollywood and her new career in motion pictures.

Engine No.5 appeared in the opening scene of the 1942 release of "The Spoilers" starring John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, and Randolph Scott. With its whistle blowing and bell ringing, it moved onto the screen evoking a romantic vision of steam trains during Alaska's Gold Rush. The engine went on to appear in many motion pictures, TV movies, and TV episodes.

After 1977, Engine No. 5 sat somewhat forgotten beside the train station set on the Denver Street back lot of Universal Studios. The locomotive and one stock car were used in one more bit spot in "Twilight Zone-The Movie" in 1979.

In August of 1983 the Nevada County Historical Society's president, Madelyn Helling, and director, Cliff Sommerstomm, formed the “Friends of the Narrow Gauge”. A group member, John Christensen wrote, “As the group's acquisition officer and vice chairman I set out looking for narrow gauge artifacts and equipment... By 1984, I had set my sights on old NCNG No. 5 and started writing to Universal Studios. By early 1985, I was able to open a dialogue with Universal Studios and along with other officers of NCHS and the Transportation Museum Division was able to negotiate a museum loan of Engine No. 5 and six other pieces of equipment.”

On May 10, 1985, Engine No. 5 returned to Nevada County and is now on exhibit at the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Nevada City, California.

1. "Nevada County Narrow Gauge by Gerald M. Best.
2. Universal Studios.
3. "In Search of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge" by John Christensen.
4. "The Studios Trains" (author unknown)
5. "A Tale of Two Cities and a Train by Juanita Kennedy Browne.

engines-eng 6Engine No.6

New York Locomotive Works Construction #22 became Cincinnati Northern Engine No.9 in 1883.

Between 1887 and 1915, it saw service on the following railroads: Toledo, Cincinnati & Northern, No.49; Portland & Willamette Valley, No.3; South Pacific Coast, No.25; and La Dicha and Pacific (Mitchell Mining Company) No.1.

The NCNG purchased it in July of 1915 as No.6. Before it could turn a wheel in revenue service, it was damaged in the Grass Valley engine house fire of August 29, 1925. The engine entered service after being rebuilt.

No.6 was a 2-6-0 with a greater drawbar pull than the other engines on the line. However, it was top heavy and rough riding and was used only during heavy traffic periods until being set aside in 1926.

engines-eng 7Engine No.7

Built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1881, the Carson & Colorado Railroad operated it as No.4 (originally called "Churchill"). The road name was changed to California & Nevada R.R., then Southern Pacific. The NCNG purchased it for $60,000 in June 1929, and it served as No.7 until 1934 when it was retired.

No.7 was scrapped in January 1937.

engines-eng 8Engine No.8

Engine No.8 began as Baldwin Locomotive Works Construction 6057 in February 1882.

Built as coal burner, she was Denver & Rio Grande Railroad's No.283. She became Engine No.8 when purchased by the NCNG in July 1933 for $700.

The engine was converted to an oil burner in the Grass Valley shops and was given the "whale back" tender from the retired Engine No.7.

During July 1942, No.8 was sold to the Dulien Steel Products Company and was used in the dismantling of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad. She was then sold to the Pacific Portland Cement Company (later U.S. Gypsum) in Plaster City, California.

Engine No.8 was retired and scrapped in 1948

engines-eng 9Engine No.9

Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1914 as construction # 41300, the 47 ton 2-8-0 was delivered to the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway as their engine No.14.

In 1928, the Southern Pacific purchased the 156 mile line and converted it to standard gauge. NCO engine No.14 became Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge engine No.1 and operated on the Keeler branch south of Reno, Nevada. After five years on the S.P., it was purchased by the Nevada County Narrow Gauge on December 31, 1933. No.9 was the largest, and last, steam locomotive on the Nevada County Narrow Gauge. It worked for nine years until the line's last revenue run on July 10, 1942.

With the country engaged in World War II the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad was sold for scrap and its assets were scattered to aid the war effort. Engine No.9 was sent to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and became the U.S. Navy's yard engine L-17. At the end of the war in 1945 the Navy declared L-17 excess.

There is conflicting evidence about what happened to N0.9. It may have been scrapped. It may have been sold to a pineapple plantation in the Philippines or shipped to China. To date, investigations have failed to uncover definitive evidence and Engine No. 9's final disposition remains a mystery.

engines-eng 10Engine No.10

The early history of No. 10 in unverified. Retired employees said the Plymouth switcher arrived from the Calaveras Cement Co in January 1936 and was wrecked and scrapped in June.

engines-eng 11Engine No.11

The NCNGRR purchased the Whitcomb switcher secondhand from Bates & Rogers Construction Co., Los Angeles, in 1936. It operated in the yards of the NCNG until the end of operations in July 1942.

engines-engine GlenbrookEngine "Glenbrook"

The locomotive was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1875. Together with its' twin, the "Tahoe", the "Glenbrook" was delivered to the Carson & Tahoe Lumber & Fluming Company.

The "Glenbrook" could haul six flat cars loaded with finished lumber from the Glenbrook mill to Spooner's Summit where the lumber was put into a flume for the eleven-mile trip down to Carson City.

The railroad was abandoned in 1898 with the closing of the sawmill and "Glenbrook" became the Lake Tahoe Railway & Transportation Co.'s No.1. The line carried passengers From Tahoe City, California to the Southern Pacific's main line at Truckee. It operated until 1926 when the SP leased and then standard-gauged it.

The other narrow gauge engines were scrapped but the "Glenbrook" was stored at Tahoe City. The Bliss family who owned it wanted it to be displayed. That display never happened and the locomotive was sold in 1937 to the NCNGRR as a source of spare parts for its aging twin, NCNGRR No.5.

The "Glenbrook" sat undisturbed until the NCNGRR ceased operation and was sold for scrap to the Dulien Steel Products Co. in 1942. The Bliss family purchased the "Glenbrook" from Dulien and donated it to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City. It rested in the rear of the museum until 1948 when it was moved out front, facing Highway 395. It sat there for more than 30 years providing a photographic backdrop for generations of tourists.

The engine relocated to the new Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City in 1980. As of 2012, it is undergoing a complete restoration.


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