Restoration of historic Glenbrook slated for May completion

The Glenbrook locomotive passes a steam test last week.

The Glenbrook locomotive passes a steam test last week.

When restoration of the historic locomotive Glenbrook is completed in May, historian Wendell Huffman says it will be the first time its whistle has been heard in 90 years.

The project, funded by a grant from the E.L Wiegand Foundation, took a major step toward that goal Nov. 19 when its boiler passed inspection. Crews have been restoring the locomotive at the Nevada State Railroad Museum since 2010.

The Glenbrook is well known to generations of Carson City residents who climbed all over it playing during the 40 years it sat in front of the Nevada State Museum.

Unlike the museum’s other prizes including the V&T locomotive Inyo, Glenbrook is a narrow gauge locomotive.

By Inyo’s standards, Glenbrook is almost petite — but only by locomotive standards. She weighs in at 46,000 pounds “wet” with her tender holding more than a cord of wood and 1,000 gallons of water adding another 16,000 pounds.

Delivered by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1875 at a cost of just $8,000, Glenbrook started service almost immediately hauling the steel track to complete the eight miles of track between Glenbrook and Spooner Summit at Lake Tahoe. Glenbrook would run on that track for the next 20 years hauling lumber cut at Tahoe to the flume that carried logs down to Carson City. Those logs were then cut into timbers to shore up the mines on the Comstock.

As that business wound down just before the turn of the century, Duane Bliss used his locomotives to haul tourists at the Lake and later moved the locomotive to a newly constructed track along the Truckee River between Tahoe City and Truckee.

Glenbrook and the line’s other three locomotives were sold between 1925 and 1937 and the others eventually scrapped. But Hope Bliss, Duane’s daughter, bought Glenbrook back from a scrapper in 1943 and donated it to the newly created Nevada State Museum.

Chris DeWitt, who is in charge of the restoration project, said gauges, brass fittings and many other parts would have been long gone by now had she not donated the locomotive to the state.

He said it was the first piece of rolling stock the museum ever had but, until the Wiegand Foundation’s $265,000 grant in 2010, there was never enough money to properly restore it.

DeWitt said that grant allowed the project to move forward.

When completed, he said it will be the most accurate restoration his shop has ever done because of the fact it sat in front of the museum for 40 years, it was never stripped of its original parts.

“A phenomenal amount of original stuff was there,” he said.

Huffman said the goal is to “present the Glenbrook as it appeared when new.” He said extensive research by Jim Wilke will give it the most accurate appearance of any locomotive yet restored — down to the ornate striping applied by Wilke, Jim Ingram and Loren Jahen.

DeWitt said it also will be the only 1875 Baldwin narrow gauge locomotive still running.

The Smithsonian has one, DeWitt said but that it was comical watching those engineers treat their locomotive with white gloves as though it was fragile when they rolled it out.

“We run them because that’s what they’re designed to do,” he said. “They lose some of their meaning if you don’t run them.”

To make that possible, he and his crew have already run the third track around the Railroad Museum in south Carson City to accommodate the narrow gauge. The museum’s other locomotives are all standard gauge.

The tender is done, but work on the locomotive isn’t finished yet. As federal inspectors tested the boiler, it still needed the boiler insulated and sheathed in a new steel outer layer.

But the new ash cab was installed last week, hand made by Jim Loverin of custom Manufacturing in Sparks.

Glenbrook is just the latest in a series of restoration projects DeWitt and his crew have worked on — including the Inyo and the McKeen Car.


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