The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum’s summer season begins April 28 with the annual commencement of the popular railbus rides. In celebration of the museum’s 15th year, plans are in place to operate both of the museum’s fully-restored railbuses, the Donna Jeanne and the recently refurbished Sarah Kidder.
The Donna Jeanne, also known as #97, has been in service for several years, taking passengers along Gold Run Creek past the Inn Town Campground to the Northern Queen, paralleling a portion of the original route of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad. During much of the time that Donna Jeanne has been in service, Sarah Kidder was in the restoration shop getting a makeover.
Originally used as a shuttle vehicle at the Westside & Cherry Valley Railway, the Sarah Kidder is an open-air railbus with polished wood bench seating, meticulously lettered signs, and brass accents that give it a style reminiscent of times gone by. The railbus is named for Sarah Kidder, the former president of the NCNGRR from 1901-1913, and the first female president of a railroad in the United States.
Railbus rides are approximately 35 minutes in duration and are offered on Saturdays only during the summer season. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be arranged by calling the museum at 530-470-0902. The timetable of departures is available on the Museum’s website: www.ncngrrmuseum.org.
Docent-led tours of the museum, including restored rail cars in the yard and the restoration shop with its works in progress, are available. The restoration shop is chock full of projects to be viewed including the just-acquired former Florence & Cripple Creek 2nd class passenger coach #52 which was built in 1897 by the St. Charles Car Company. The coach was transported to the museum on March 31 from the Nevada State Railroad Museum with the help of Clay Chase and Robinson Timber, long-time supporters of the NCNGRR Museum through their donation of transportation for railroad equipment acquisitions. According to John Christensen, Director of the museum, the newly acquired coach will require extensive restoration before being put into service as a meeting room for the NCNGRR Museum.
Currently the restoration crew is working on a very special locomotive, Engine #5, that, along with its tender is the centerpiece exhibit inside the museum building. Engine #5 and its tender are the two surviving cars of the original NCNGRR operation in the late 1800’s. While these two cars are in in good mechanical and cosmetic condition, Engine #5 lacks a boiler, the critical component necessary to generate steam to power the locomotive. Restoration efforts to rectify that are underway, with anticipated completion in 2021.
Additional projects in process include the Denver & Rio Grande stock car #5672, which had experienced many design changes during rebuilds over the years. It is being restored back to its “as built new” in 1904 condition and it will be displayed as circa 1911 with the addition of equipment that was mandated by the Federal Safety Appliance Act of 1911. Also in the works is the 1941 West Side Lumber Company skeleton log car #113, the first of its type to be fully restored and put on exhibit by a museum.
Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Tuesday. There is no charge to visit the museum or ride the railbus, but donations are always gratefully accepted. The museum is located at 5 Kidder Court at the intersection of Bost and New Mohawk in Nevada City.
About the photo: The Sarah Kidder (left) and Donna Jeanne railbuses stand ready to take passengers on rides at the NCNGRR museum.