Since as far back as he can remember, Scott Dam has loved trains.
“I’ve been a lifelong model railroader,” he said. “I started model railroading when I was 5 or 6 with my grandfather. I switched to HO (larger scale) when I was 10 and later built some model railroads in junior high and high school. When I had kids, they were girls, but I had railroads for them and a small train set when the grandchildren came along. We went from small wooden push ones to electric.”
Now, Dam has turned that childhood hobby into much more as he serves as president of the Friends of the Nevada Southern Railway. He joined the Boulder City-based group in 2011 and about a year later was named secretary of the organization. Then, he was eventually named president and it’s been full steam ahead ever since.
“I feel like I’m making a contribution,” he said. “That’s my criteria. If I can make a contribution to the organization, and if people feel it’s better with me rather than without me, I’m happy to do it.”
As for his interest in trains and model railroads, he said. “I’m an engineer but not a train engineer. When I joined in 2011 my true interest was in the model railroad. I helped design and build the layout for the model railroaders. It’s one of those things that I really enjoy.”
In terms of FSNR, Dam said volunteers are tasked with a variety of jobs to help the railway. They assist with the state membership program and once the railroad opened more than 20 years ago, their responsibilities increased dramatically.
“When the state started this museum, it started using volunteers to help do a lot of the work,” he said. “It was very clear early on that the budgeting for a new museum here did not allow for the normal staffing like they have at the railroad museum in Carson City. Volunteers picked up the roles they would have had state employees do, obviously with state oversight. The volunteers do the maintenance on the equipment, the track, do inspections and all crew operations. The car attendant, brakeman, conductor and engineer are all volunteers.”
Like many of his fellow volunteers, they have had an interest in trains in one way or another. And since many have been giving their time to the museum for years, they have become a tight-knit group.
“For me, it’s the people,” Dam said. “This is such a good group of individuals. We’re providing something the public can truly enjoy. It’s so much fun, particularly for the younger riders. It’s so much fun getting to see their smiles when they get off the train.”
As the Friends’ role, its website adds, “We support the Nevada State Railroad Museum at Boulder City, Nevada, and its programs for the education and benefit of the public and museum visitors through donations, staffing, maintenance, operation, construction and restoration of historic railroad equipment and models.”
Currently there are 130 volunteers, with most being active in the group. Others come in during some of the busier times of the year, including special events, two of which are coming up.
With the holidays just around the corner, the railroad will be hosting a pair of popular events before the end of the year. First up is the Boulder City Halloween Express, which will take place Oct. 13-15, 20-22 and 27-29. (Visit https://nevadasouthern.com/ for times and costs).
“Last year we ran the Train of Terror, which didn’t have enough terror for those who wanted terror and a bit too much terror for those who didn’t want it,” he said, laughing. “It didn’t meet our goals in bringing in some new people so we decided it was much better keeping our family-oriented program.”
Santa Express will be gearing up for December and then a similar event around Easter called the Bunny Express. Those dates and times have yet to be determined. But, all three will be utilizing a new events center, which will be a temporary covered structure east of the railroad museum.
“Again, it’s the excitement of the kids and families as they enjoy the holiday together,” he said of what he and fellow volunteers enjoy about the holiday events. “For many, it’s become a holiday tradition as we see a lot of repeat customers. That’s something we’re very proud of and hope to continue for years to come.”
Ron Eland is editor of the Boulder City Review. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9523.