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Nevada \ Nevada Short Line

Nevada Short Line Railway.

By Greg Maxwell

T he Nevada Short Line was the brainchild of Arthur Ashton Codd. Codd was president of the Rochester Hills Mining Company which was working a lease in the Rochester Mining District in north central Nevada. Wagons hauling ore from the Codd’s mine on Nenzel Hill to the Southern Pacific at Oreana ran into trouble negotiating the sandy alkali-flat that lay between the foot of the Humboldt Mountains and the railroad. To bridge this section, Codd decided to build a 4.3 mile long tramway. Codd organized the Nevada Short Line as a sole-proprietorship. The line was poorly capitalized and construction was funded largely by proceeds from the Rochester Hills Mining Company. Codd built and equipped the line with a minimum of expense. 56 pound rail was leased from the Southern Pacific and the rolling stock, consisting of 10 four wheel dump cars was purchased second-hand from the Utah Construction Company. Power for the line was to be provided by a two-ton gasoline locomotive that Codd had ordered from the Hall-Scott Motor Car Company of West Oakland.

Construction of the Nevada Short Line commenced in May, 1913. The Hall-Scott engine arrived on August 4 and the NSL started hauling ore on August 8. After only two weeks of operation, the Hall-Scott locomotive, “Mike” broke its crank shaft. To keep the ore moving, Codd located a steam engine to fill the gap. By November, 1913 “Mike” had been repaired and returned to service. Soon both engines were working day and night hauling ore from the Codd Lease and from other mines on a contract basis. In spite of the brisk pace of operations, the NSL failed to turn a profit.

Codd incorporated the Nevada Short Line Railway on April 24, 1914 after announcing plans to extend the NSL 5.5 miles up Rochester Canyon to Lower Rochester. To supply rail for line up the canyon, Codd purchased the assets of the Golconda & Adelaide from a California scrap dealer. It would take the Nevada Short Line a full year to reach Lower Rochester. Once the line to Lower Rochester was complete Codd sought for the NSL to become a common carrier. Before beginning service to Lower Rochester, the NSL filed tariffs with the ICC and Nevada Public Service Commission on January 1, 1915. On January 22, mail and passenger service was instituted with the delivery of a new motor car.

While the NSL was being extended up the canyon, the Rochester Mines Company had begun work in Lower Rochester on a 160 ton cyanide mill. The new mill when completed would be capable of treating most of the ore produced in district. Codd realized that this would eliminate the need for shipping ore to the Mason, NV smelter for processing and in turn deprive the NSL of its principal source of traffic. In order to retain some ore hauling business, Codd decided to proceed with a long talked about second extension of the NSL to Upper Rochester and the mines on Nenzell Hill.

Although the last segment of the NSL would be short in distance, a little over two miles, it would be both costly and difficult. The right of way would have to be carved from the steep canyon walls and require grades up to 7%. The job of building the “high line” was granted to a California contracting firm, the Hillyer Deuprey Company. The existing stable of locomotives was not suitable for operating on such steep grades and none of the line’s rolling stock was equipped with air brakes. This required the NSL to purchase a second-hand Shay locomotive and several cars with automatic air brakes. To raise funds for these expenditures Codd recapitalized the company from $100,000 to $150,000 with plans to sell the additional $50,000 of equity to the public through sale of stock. When the stock offering didn’t pan out, Codd managed to obtain a $50,000 mortgage secured by the NSL’s assets. The mortgage was to be converted into long term bonded debt over a five year period.

Grading the high line was under way by the end of April, 1915. The Shay locomotive arrived in July and had been in service moving construction materials for only a short time before it was involved in a run-away accident on July 28, 1915. The Shay was sent to the SP’s Sparks shops for repairs costing $1,000. The Shay returned on August 20 and the final spike was driven three days later. The NSL’s two air-brake hopper cars were delivered on September 2 and shipments to the mill commenced on September 9.

By summer’s end, 1915, Codd was being hounded by a small army of creditors. To satisfy the NSL’s most pressing debts Codd sold the Rochester Hills Mining Company’s lease on Nenzel Hill to the Rochester Mines Company. Ore movements on the high line started slowly. Once the train crew gained confidence operating on the 7% grade the tonnage steadily increased. The NSL’s monthly revenue for October, 1915 reached $3,732. Codd claimed the railroad was at that point operating in the black, although his calculations did not include the cost of servicing the line’s mountain of debt.

Just when it seemed that Arthur Codd and the Nevada Short Line had turned the corner, disaster struck. On November 30, 1915 a fire broke out in the NSL’s engine house at Oreana destroying the Shay and a Porter 0-4-0. With the loss of the Shay, the NSL was forced to suspend operations on the high line. Codd’s financial house of cards quickly collapsed.

As soon as the big mill at Lower Rochester ran out of ore it too had to shut down. The Rochester Mines Company moved to have the NSL put into the hands of a receiver. In order to get the mill up and running, the mining company purchased a Porter 0-4-2T from the Mammoth Copper Company and hired a crew to operate the engine. The locomotive arrived and went to work on December 16. Later in December, 1915 the District Court appointed Frank M. Manson as receiver for the NSL. On January 29, 1916 the court decided that the NSL had defaulted on the $50,000 mortgage held by the Washoe County Bank and granted a motion to have the NSL foreclosed upon.

Manson purchased the Porter tank engine from the mining company and a well-used Heisler from the Pacific Coast Borax Company as a backup. As Receiver, Manson did the best he could but the Nevada Short Line was beset by a string of calamities preventing reliable operations. Passenger service was restored on February 21, 1916 only to have the motor car wrecked four weeks later. On February 12, 1917 the Porter tank engine got away from her crew on the high line, left the tracks near the mill and rolled down the hill. The Heisler was pressed into service but soon suffered a gear box failure.

Late in 1916 the Rochester Mines Company began work on an expansion of their mill in Lower Rochester. Louis Friedman, president of the mining company calculated that if the NSL was operating at full capacity, which was rarely the case, the railroad could not supply the expanded mill with enough ore to be run profitably. The decision was made to build an aerial tramway between the mill and Nenzel Hill.

The aerial tram went into operation on April 25, 1917. Without the ore movements on the high line the NSL’s revenues plummeted. Steam trains were run on an as needed basis and locomotives rarely went as far as Upper Rochester. In November, 1917 the NSL lost its mail contract due to irregular service. In March, 1918 the Nevada Short Line’s receiver was quoted as saying that the line was adopting a “tri-monthly schedule”; they would make a round trip one month and try to make one the next.

A flash flood hit Rochester Canyon on June 17, 1918 badly damaging the railroad. The line as far as Lower Rochester was restored for service with the motor car but trestles and culverts were too badly undermined for steam trains. The NSL regained the mail contract in July, 1918 but the $473.24 monthly payment did not warrant continued operation. The Nevada Short Line would sit dormant until it was sold for scrap in November, 1919.

Revised: July 22, 2015.

Earl, Phillip I. (1990). Uphill All The Way: Arthur Ashton Codd and The Nevada Short Line Railroad. Humboldt Historian: North Central Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Winter-Spring 1990, Vol 12, Issue 1-2
Hilton, George W. (1990). American Narrow Gauge Railroads. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2369-9
Myrick, David F. (1962). Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California: Volume 1. Berkeley: Howell-North Books. ISBN 978-0874171938
Lovelock Review-Miner, various issues, 1912 - 1919
Court Records: Washoe County Bank v Nevada Short Line Railroad, 1915 - 1919

Reference Material Available Online:


Collected Nevada Short Line Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.


Passenger Tariff 1A, January 18, 1914. PDF 0.99 MB

Nevada \ Nevada Short Line
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