Boulder City Magazine® August 2006 Issue
|Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride, Boulder City Museum & Historical Assn.
It was an emotional day for a lot of old-timers who worked at Hoover Dam. September 7, 1961 was the last day that Old 8810a diesel switch engine that had been hauling equipment for Hoover Dam since 1931hauled its last load back up the hill to the Safety First building in Boulder City.
Boulder City Magazine®
|The line on which 8810 ran was known among dam workers as “BC & B”Boulder City and Back. It was the last segment of what had been a far-flung system of construction railroads around the Colorado River that had delivered equipment to the dam site and carloads of gravel from quarries upriver. Even though Hoover Dam is only about 6 miles from Boulder City, the BC & B line was twelve miles long to accommodate the steep grade, and it passed through five tunnels on its way to Black Canyon. When Hoover Dam was finished, all the construction lines except the BC & B were taken up, and 8810 was kept on to deliver equipment as new generators were installed over the next 25 years.
The last generator installed at Hoover Dam was N-8 in 1961. On September 7 the railroad tank car that had delivered oil to fill N-8’s transformer needed to be returned to Boulder City. That morning, engineer Amber Slack guided 8810 down to the crest of the dam where the government cableway lifted the car from the river-level ramp to the top of the dam where it was set onto the BC & B track, then coupled to the engine. Workers who remembered 8810 and knew it was the engine’s last day of operation stopped work to watch. Boulder Canyon Project manager Lloyd Hudlow watched from his seventh-floor office window in the power house. Dam Maintenance Superintendent (and Boulder City mayor) Morgan Sweeney stood with guide supervisor “Blackie” Hardy swapping stories about early dam-building days as they watched 8810 vanish up the line back to town.
The Bureau of Reclamation sold 8810, but where it went has been lost in time. The BC & B tracks were taken up and sold for scrap. Some proposed the old rail bed be made into an alternate scenic highway to Hoover Dam, and a Las Vegas Sun reporter drove a Volkswagon beetle along the road and took photos of the scenic vistas. Instead, the tunnels were sealed off and planned for use as fallout shelters.
Today, however, opened once again, the old BC & B rail bed and tunnels are the Historic Railroad Trail.
Sponsored by the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum.
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