Construction begins: A museum takes shape |

Construction begins: A museum takes shape

The railroad museum story continues:

Nevada City had its grant funding in place from the Nevada County Transportation Commission and the state of California. The process was competitive and Nevada City scored high with both the state and county. In the grant application the city explained that the “project (the museum) would be of both economic and cultural benefit to both Nevada City and county (and) would be a great attraction to railroad buffs.”

Additional help came from funds pledged by the Nevada County Historical Society and from the city’s general fund. With easements from TDK Semiconductor Corp. and Hooper and Weaver Mortuary, Inc. and almost two acres of land deeded to Nevada City by the Roy E. Ramey Family Ltd. Trust, owners of the adjacent Northern Queen resort property, the project was ready.

Nevada City architect Bruce Boyd’s plans were selected, reviewed and approved by the Nevada City Planning Commission and then put out to bid. General Contractor John E. Schugren of Nevada City was the low bidder and was awarded the contract. Conley S. Weaver was named by the city as coordinating architect.


Work commenced almost immediately and a new road was built to the museum site from Bost Avenue and named “Kidder Court,” to honor John and Sarah Kidder, whose longtime association with the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad is legend. Additionally, the museum site is designated “John and Sarah Kidder Park.” Fittingly enough the street address of the museum building is No. 5, to honor narrow gauge locomotive No. 5 now on permanent display.

Crews wasted no time and, after the groundbreaking, went right to work clearing and grading the property, being careful to save as many trees as possible. Excavation for undergrounding utilities and extending the sewer line was well under way as the concrete floor for the 40-foot by 100-foot main building was laid out and poured. Rails of narrow gauge width were placed in the concrete floor to accommodate locomotive No. 5 in the future.

A 30-foot by 80-foot shop building to the rear of the main building would be built to house rolling stock in various stages of restoration and already owned by the historical society. Hundreds of feet of rail and scores of ties together with the necessary plates, spikes and other accessories had been stockpiled by the society. Two sets of rails would be placed in the concrete floor.

Construction moved along at a brisk pace during the summer of 2001, with the result that the building was ready for dedication and on Dec. 21, 2001, was given a “house warming” sponsored by the city of Nevada City. To avoid any conflict with state law, since the entire City Council would be present, the dedication was advertised and became a “Special Meeting of the Nevada City Council,” and was called to order by Mayor Kerry Arnett. Also attending were historical society officers, Grass Valley City Council members and officials, Nevada County supervisors, department heads and officials; state of California representatives, many Nevada City staff members and a multitude of dignitaries from far and wide.

A musical program featuring selections from the history-of-the-railroad production of “Never Come, Never Go!,” was presented following the obligatory introduction of honored guests. A few short speeches and a multitude of well deserved kudos rounded out the formal presentations.

Mayor Arnett observed, “Today, we dedicate the building. Then, over the next few months, displays will be installed and the interior will take shape. In May (2002), the Nevada County Historical Society will have its grand opening with appropriate pomp and ceremony…” However, it took a bit longer than the mayor’s optimistic projection to bring the building to grand opening status.

The afternoon festivities concluded with the audience joining the choral group in singing “We’ve Built the Narrow Gauge,” the finale to the musical show about the railroad. All left that afternoon with a feeling that they had indeed helped “build the narrow gauge” or at least lent a hand in its reconstruction.

As the late Bob Paine, (Nevada City native, longtime city councilman and a former mayor and the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad’s last freight and passenger agent) was often heard to observe at successful civic functions, “Only in Nevada City!”

NEXT TIME: The Saga of Locomotive No. 5


Bob Wyckoff is a retired newspaper editor, author of local and California history and a longtime Nevada County resident. You can reach him by e-mail at: or by mail at P.O. Box 216, Nevada City.

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