Nevada Northern & Railroads of White Pine County

Ore Line — History and Operations

by Steve Swanson
as told to Keith Albrandt

III — Diesel Operations


KCC Diesel Operations    

Alco RS-2 diesel-electric locomotives began replacing the coal-fired "90-series" Alco steam Consolidations beginning in late 1948 and continuing through early 1950. They were numbered sequentially from 101 through 107. A single RSD-4, No. 201 was delivered in 1951. In addition, six GE 70-ton, 490hp switchers (No.'s 61-66) were acquired in September 1949 for use in the pit and switching at Copper Flat.


Meet near Ruth, NV
31 March 1972
Copyright © 2001 Keith Ardinger
Used with permission


The 201 was initially used on the local to Cobre replacing the No.'s 81 and 93 2-8-0 steamers. When the Nevada Northern's new EMD SD-7 No. 401 arrived in 1952 the 201 was transferred to ore duty. However, this "lease" arrangement between the Nevada Northern and KCC Nevada Mines Division continued as a hedge against mechanical problems with the Nevada Northern's single unit diesel fleet -- the 201 always relieved the 401 on the local as needed. Occasionally they were MU'ed but reportedly did not run well together.


NN 401 and KCC 201 Doubleheading the Local — July 1973
Copyright © 2001 Keith Ardinger; used with permission

"The one shot of the NN with KCC 201 was the only time I saw them together. The 201 was a back up for the 401. The line haul had been an especially large one that day, though I was only able to shoot it after they made the set out to the mill." — Keith Ardinger


Initially, engines 101, 102, 106 and 107 were used at Copper Flat leaving only 3 units, the 103, 104, 105, on the Hickey Pacific (ore haulage to McGill). The four units in use at Copper Flat had a large single digit on the hood, the last digit in the road number, so the pit dispatcher could visually keep track of the train movements. Originally, one RS-2 handled thirty cars from Copper Flat and from East Ely to McGill on the Hiline. Long time Nevada Northern rail Joe Lani notes that the diesels were slower than the steam engines when running single with the same thirty-car train.

The 70-ton GE engines were originally purchased to spot cars at the shovels in the Liberty Pit. The idea was to have No.'s 61-66 spot cars for loading at the shovels, with three of the four Copper Flat Alcos on the line haul to the ore yard. This was the plan, but it was never implemented. The 70 ton GE's were only 490 hp and didn't have the power to handle seven loads and some empties at a shovel particularly if any upgrade was involved.

Prior to 1956 most ore trains out of the pit were double-headed: 14 ore cars with two Alcos or 10 ore cars with an Alco and a GE (if conditions were good). The GE 70-ton engines were virtually helpless: they could only bring out three loads with a good hogger, and with wet rail the GE's could barely manage to move two ore cars.

The 102 and 106 were usually used as pit engines, a service that was very hard on the locomotives. The 106 didn't pull as well as the other engines and gave more trouble overall. It threw two rods and required a crankshaft replacement in 1957. No. 102 fell into the same general category as the 106 and engineers preferred the 101 and 107 if given the choice. The 107 was such a particularly good engine that it was transferred to the Hickey Pacific in the mid-1950s. Thereafter one of the Hickey engines was dropped at Copper Flat every morning before 7:30 a.m., used for both the day and swing shifts, and returned by 11:30 p.m.


Dual Alcos with Ore Train
near Tunnel #1 — July 1972
Copyright © 2001 Keith Ardinger
Used with permission

In 1955 MU kits containing cables, air piping and related materials had been ordered and installed on the Alco's with long-hoods running forward in either direction as was the KCC-NMD practice. The MU'ed 2-unit consists could pull up to 50 cars and reduced the crew size required. Typically, operations in the 1970s had eight daily scheduled trains each with 48 ore cars (80 tons/car) and a trailing caboose.

Photographic evidence indicates that the 103, 109, and 201 were built with MU cables.


The 201 neither worked well MU'ed to the RS-2's nor was reliable for pit rail haulage as it had difficulty negotiating the tight curves in the pit due to its long wheelbase trucks. Nevertheless, it wasn't until sometime about the mid-1960's that it was decided to use it less on the ore line. The 201 was also somewhat unpopular as it rode rough.


KCC 201 and 102 at East Ely
August 1969
Copyright © 2001 Keith Ardinger
Used with permission


Pit trains were discontinued in the Liberty Pit: April 1, 1958.42 With the removal of the trackage from the Liberty pit in 1958, the 201 was used for switching at Copper flat along with the 101, one on the skip loader and the other in service to Kimberly and Veteran. The other six RS-2's were in ore line service to McGill. It's interesting to note that the Alco builders photo of 201 show it lettered for "Ray Mines Division", the Kennecott Copper sister operation in Arizona. It is unknown if it was delivered to Nevada with the inappropriate lettering. However, later photographs show it lettered on the side of the cab as "NEV MINES DIVISION" whereas all the other units had the word "NEVADA" spelled out completely. Apparently, it was preferred to re-letter over "RAY" with "NEV" than re-center the longer version.

As ore production began to come from other sources, including the Star Pointer and the Morris-Brooks (Tripp) pit, and as production was cut back in the Liberty Pit, the GE's saw less use. No. 61 would be sent to McGill as a back up for the rotary dumper GE Electric engine No. 80. It was also used at McGill as a replacement for Baldwin VO 1000 No. 803 and Alco S-2 No. 800 switchers. The GE's saw little use after 1956, although they were used on waste trains in the summer of 1957 stripping on the two level behind the new five yard (Copper Flat East Ore Yard).

By 1964, McGill VO 1000 No. 803 at was worn out and the Copper Flat machinists said they didn't have the tools to overhaul the prime mover. It sat out of service at McGill for years. About this time the No.'s 63, 64, and 65 were sold to Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting. No. 62 was stored outside at McGill, and No. 66 was the spare dumper engine if the electric went down. No. 61 was stored inside the Copper Flat engine house and probably used occasionally to switch out the car shop and the rip tracks. There were also muck/waste trains to be powered and the Alcos did most of that work.

No.'s 62 and 66 were transferred to KCC Utah in 1966 and No. 61 served as the replacement power at McGill as necessary. It was transferred to Utah in 1978 when the Nevada Mines closed.

In 1969, Ray Mines Division in Arizona received new GP-39's and their two Alcos, No.'s 100 (RS-2) and 109 (RS-3) were transferred to Nevada in 1970. The 100, originally delivered to Ray in 1948, was renumbered to 108. Steve Swanson notes that "the Ray engines should have had far less service than the Nevada engines, normally being used only one engine at a time while the Nevada engines were overused the first ten years".

By the 1970's the ore was being transported by truck haulage to Lane and only the 201 was required in switching service there to spot cars, leaving the remaining 9 Alco's for ore line service to McGill.

Specific details on each of the ten Alco locomotives, including their final disposition, can be found on the Mainline Ore Haul - Diesel Locomotive Roster page. Photographs of these and additional units may be viewed in the Locomotives Photo Gallery.

Locomotive engineer Ed Arnn received the 101 new and made sure that the shops took especially good care of her. He wouldn't run another engine if the 101 was available and she was used exclusively at Copper Flat, usually as a switch engine with a three man crew. In this dedicated but limited role, the 101 never required inspection by the ICC. After Ed Arnn's untimely passing in a 1972 automobile accident, the 101 had MU cables installed for the first time and was put into service on the ore line. ICC inspections were initiated thereafter.


Ore Line — History and Operations
  Table of Contents  
  Page I — History  
  Page II — Stations  
  Page III — Diesel Operations  



Last modified 13 March, 2003 by Keith Albrandt