Ellsmere – The Grand Dame of the Nevada Southern Railway
Ellsmere was built in December of 1899 for Dr. William Seward Webb, then president of the Wagner Palace Car Co. of Buffalo, New York. This was the last passenger car and a private business car built by Wagner as in 1900 the company merged with the Pullman Car Co. of Chicago, IL. This car was the third variant of Ellsmere, a car dearly loved by Dr. Webb.
This is an all-wood passenger car, a partial steel underframe was added ca. 1915, due to a new railroad regulation regarding wooden passenger cars. Ellsmere was considered one of the finest and elegant private business cars of the era. As a comparison, an eighty-foot standard passenger car of the era cost $2,500, Ellsmere cost $25,000 according to company records. This was for regulations that required passenger cars to have at minimum the partial steel underframe, due to the propensity of all wood cars, like Ellsmere, to telescope into each other in collisions. She also received an upgrade in electrical equipment at this time. She served Dr. Webb as his personal car from 1900 to approximately 1915, when he reduced his worldly travels due to health reasons.
Dr. Webb and his family made many trips to the west coast and California during the many years he traveled. Most of his trips were from his home in the New York area to Chicago on the New York Central RR, to Albuquerque and Kingman AZ. on the Santa Fe RR to the Los Angeles area. Since these were extended trips covering many weeks, he and his family would travel with a nursery car, baggage cars and his friends’ private cars making up their own private trains.
The history of Ellsmere becomes a bit cloudy at this time due to World War I, we presume that she was in wartime service in the USA until after the war. After WWI she was purchased by the Missouri Pacific RR and was assigned to the Texas & Pacific RR, a subsidiary of the Missouri Pacific.
Ellsmere remained as a private business car on the Texas & Pacific until 1961. She received a major upgrade in the mid-1930s with an additional electrical upgrade, stainless steel sheathing on the walls of the galley, and the addition of air conditioning. The chilled air was provided by using the clerestory roof area for the ductwork, and a pan was added in the roof area over the galley which holds approximately 400 pounds of ice. The pan had two fans who blew the chilled air through the new ductwork and to the compartments. A propane stove replaced the original coal stove at approximately this time.
Ellsmere retired from regular fleet service on the Texas and Pacific RR in 1961. She was acquired by a museum in Texas, then transferred to another museum in Texas, to be sold with a number of antique cars to a casino owner in Las Vegas in the 1980s. She was moved to the Nevada Southern in the early 2000s, where she resides today.
The restoration and preservation crew at the Nevada Southern continue to work on Ellsmere by repairing some of the electrical allowing interior lighting to be used, cleaning the old layers of varnish from the interior, and polishing the interior brass. There are a number of additional projects to be started on Ellsmere in the future. The car needs new exterior sheathing, brake rebuild and other mechanical work for her to return to service. Your donations of time and money will assist us in bringing this former Grand Dame of the rails back into special service.
You can learn more from this brochure HERE.