Nevada Central Railroad

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Nevada Central Railroad
HeadquartersAustin, Nevada
LocaleBattle Mountain - Austin, Nevada
Dates of operation1879–1938
Track gauge3 ft (914 mm)
Route in 1883
Route in 1931

The Nevada Central Railroad was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad completed in 1880 between Battle Mountain and Austin, Nevada. The railroad was constructed to connect Austin, the center of a rich silver mining area, with the transcontinental railroad, Southern Pacific, not the Western Pacific, at Battle Mountain.

However, by the time that the line was finished, the boom was almost over. Major silver production ended by 1887, although there was a slight revival later.


Austin was founded in 1862, as part of a silver rush reputedly triggered by a Pony Express rider, William Talcott whose horse kicked over a rock. By summer 1863, Austin and the surrounding Reese River Mining District had a population of over 10,000, and it became the county seat of Lander County. In 1871 the Manhattan Silver Mining Company had consolidated most of the claims. The company grew to have a lot of influence in the area and its secretary M..J. Farrell was the state senator for Lander County. Farrell set out to fix the lack of a railroad with a controversial project, approved only after a bitter debate in the 1874 legislature, overriding the Governor's veto. The legislature authorized Lander County in 1875 to grant a $200,000 of its bonds as a subsidy to build a railroad, a time limit of five years was set to finish the project.

The Nevada Central Railroad (NCRR) wasn't started until 4 ½ years later, Anson Phelps Stokes the grandson of the founder of the Phelps Dodge Corporation and a partner in the mining company came to town. With Stokes involved he brought in General James H. Ledlie, a former Union officer in the Civil War. The crews went to work desperately, only to bring the line within 2 miles (3.2 km) of the Austin town limits with less than a day left before the deadline. An emergency meeting of the Austin Town Board extended the town limits by two miles and the last rails were laid just minutes before the deadline. The line from Battle Mountain to Austin was 92 miles (148 km). Nevada Central was only profitable as long as the mines at Austin were operating at full capacity.

Stokes' son, James Graham Phelps Stokes, was president of the NCRR from 1898 to 1938.[1] By the middle 1930s most of the mines that generated traffic at Battle Mountain were shut down and boarded up and the NCRR had passed into receivership for the last time in 1938.

Steam Locomotives[edit]

# Builder Type SN Built Acq Ret Disposition Notes
1 Brook Locomotive Works 2-6-0 230 5/1875 1879 1880 Sold to Utah Eastern #1
1 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 Unknown 1881 1881 1938 Scrapped Sister engine to second #2.
2 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4t 461 7/1872 1879 1881 Renumbered #3 Purchased from Eureka & Palisade #1. See history.
2 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 5575 4/1881 1881 1938 Sold to Ward Kimball See below.
3 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 3625 7/1874 1879 1880 Sold to Utah Eastern #3 Purchased from the Monterey & Salinas Valley #1.
3 Mason Machine Works 0-4-4t 461 7/1872 1881 1882 Sold to Utah & Northern #45 Was #2. See history.
4 Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 3682 1875 1879 1938 Scrapped Purchased from the Monterey & Salinas Valley #2.
5 Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 3843 3/1876 1879 1938 Sold to Golden Gate International Exposition See history. Built for the North Pacific Coast #12. Preserved at the California State Railroad Museum.
6 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 4562 3/1879 1924 1938 Sold to Golden Gate International Exposition See history. Purchased from Nevada Short Line #1. Preserved at the California State Railroad Museum.

Remaining equipment[edit]

Emma Nevada at the Orange Empire Railway Museum.
  • The Emma Nevada once named "Sidney Dillon" numbered 2 is an 1881 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 "Mogul" 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge steam locomotive purchased by Disney animator Ward Kimball and his wife Betty for their backyard "Grizzly Flats Railroad" in 1938. Originally built for the short line Nevada Central Railroad connecting Battle Mountain with Austin, the beautifully restored locomotive features Kimball's own artwork on the cab and headlight and was finally fired up in 1942. Complaints of Kimball's neighbors because of the coal smoke forced Kimball to sideline the locomotive in 1951 and operated his railroad with a small 0-4-2T locomotive. Kimball, one of the Orange Empire Railway Museum's founders, donated the locomotive to the museum and it can be seen today in the museum's "Grizzly Flats" car barn.


  1. ^ "J. G. Phelps Stokes Dies at 88; Former 'Millionaire Socialist'" (PDF). The New York Times. New York City. 9 April 1960. Retrieved 26 January 2016.