Nevada County Narrow Gage Railroad Museum

Private Guided Tour, Sunday August 7, 2011

Posted August 10, 2011, updated May 19, 2018

When Mary and I arrived at the museum only the souvenir sales person and two other volunteers (Don Tallitsch and Al Dittmann) were in the building. Don offered to give us a private tour and we accepted immediately. The information in the captions below is from Don and several visits to the excellent museum website given above. Not given in the driving directions at their website is that the turns onto Hollow Way, Bost, and Kidder Court are each well marked by black on yellow RR signs and arrows to the museum. There are no street signs (rustic Nevada City!).

This is a splendid museum not far from the center of Nevada City, just off the Gold Flat exit from the 20/49 Freeway. See their website, link above, for directions and note that each turn has black-on-yellow railroad signs with arrows pointing the way.

You can view a narrated video slide show in addition to the captioned pictures on this page by clicking on the thumbnail below.


The narrow-gage railroad served Nevada City, Grass Valley, and Chicago Park and their 
gold mines, and met with the transcontinental wide-gage railroad station in Colfax.

The Nevada County Narrow Gage Railroad was in service from 1876 to 1942.  Engine #5 is an 1875 Baldwin 2-6-0 and was purchased in 1899 by RR President John F. Kidder from the Carson Tahoe Lumber & Fluming Company. It was in service on the NCNGRR until 1940 when it was sold for use in many Hollywood movies. 

Volunteer Don Tallitch took us on an excellent tour of the entire museum, railyard and shop. Here he explains that exhaust steam from the two power pistons (better seen in the previous picture) goes through this chamber at the front of the boiler. As it does it sucks fire flame and smoke through the heat exchanger tubes (to assist heat transfer to the boiling water) and then goes up the chimney. That's why smoke goes up with the steam as the engine choo choo's along.

Engine cab, with fireman's seat on left and engineer's seat on right.

Firebox door and engineer's controls on Engine #5.

The center wheels of this 6-traction engine have no flange, so they can slide across the track  without binding as the engine goes around tight turns on the winding Colfax to Nevada City route.

Don then took us to the maintenance shop behind the museum.

Old cars donated from here and there sit between the museum (in right background) and maintenance shop (behind camera).  Don said this car came from a desert town and was in good shape compared with others they've received.

You can see the volunteer restoration crew has its work cut out.
This engine, in the shop, was built from scratch by volunteers!

Cab of museum-built engine.

Streetcars also ran between Grass Valley and Nevada City. This one was built by volunteers to haul sightseers (see their website).

Tools in the shop, in addition to a welder, lathe, shaper, wood and metal band saws, and other machines.

Storage area for rebuilt RR cars. The platform and museum, on right, are designed so this is like a RR station.

Other items from the narrow-gage railroad era. There is also a display about Lyman Gilmore, who built a steam engine powered airplane in Nevada City which he claimed flew before the Wright brother's flight at Kitty Hawk. You have only to look at the model in the museum to see it was very unlikely his airplane flew more than to bounce up into the air occasionally.

Jeffery steam car, designed and built in 1901 by Richard Edgar Jeffery in Nevada City, and claimed to be the first automobile in California (a more plausible claim). The engine (seen under the seat) is demonstrated with compressed air and runs very smoothly.

Another carriage on display.

Restoration of this carriage was completed by volunteer Rolf Laessig just this week, and it is now on display next to the Engine #5 fuel car. The wheels were fabricated elsewhere and cost $500 each! (Museum donations welcome.) The engine and fuel car were converted from wood fired to oil fired by Sarah Kidder during her reign as president of the railroad from 1901 to 1913.

A slightly reduced scale model of the narrow gage railroad station in Chicago Park.

Scale model of Sarah Kidder's home in Nevada City. The railroad ran right past the home and a train could stop to pick her up.

A representative movie in which engine #5 appeared.

Wooden model of engine #5.