Nevada Northern recreates unique 1956 Pontiac station wagon hi-rail

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The restored Pontiac hi-rail truck.
Nevada Northern
EAST ELY, Nev. – The Nevada Northern Railway Museum has recreated a unique piece of its history: a 1956 Pontiac station wagon hi-rail.

The recently restored Pontiac is nearly identical to one the railroad purchased from Fairmont Railway Motors, a Minnesota company that specialized in building maintenance-of-way speeders and motor cars, back in 1956. While many hi-rail vehicles were built from trucks, Nevada Northern Hy-Rail No. 18 was built from a four-door station wagon.

Nevada Northern President Mark Bassett says he found the 1956 Pontiac on eBay for a reasonable price and thought that it would make a neat project for the railroad. With the help of some grants from the State of Nevada and the Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership, the railroad worked with an auto shop to restore the vehicle and have the hi-rail equipment installed, enabling it to run on rails.

The vehicle was completed earlier this year and made its debut at a Nevada Day parade in Carson City on Oct. 26 (Nevada Day celebrates the day in 1864 that the state was admitted to the union). Bassett says the vehicle is already turning heads and garnering lots of attention from curious onlookers.

Bassett says the vehicle will be particularly useful at the museum on days when excursions trains are not running but visitors want to go for a ride. Bassett says the railroad expects to start giving rides in Hy-Rail No. 18 starting next spring.

The vehicle is also expected to make an appearance during the railroad’s upcoming winter photo charters, including Trains' “Farewell 40!” photo charter event March 7-8, 2020. The two-day charter will offer one of the final opportunities to see, ride and photograph 4-6-0 No. 40 before its federally-mandated 1,472-day boiler inspection. Along with No. 40, the charter will also feature 2-8-0 No. 93 and a chance to meet the railroad’s most famous resident, Dirt the Cat.
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