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A SWAT for a bill that needs to be derailed

Submitted by on Friday, 24 April 2009 No Comment

There’s no denying that Nevada Northern Railway’s Engine No. 40 is a beauty.

Built in 1910, it pulled passenger cars 150 miles or so between Ely and Cobre, Nevada – in the central part of the state, roughly along the path U.S. 93 follows now – daily for three decades.

Though she’s down for repairs now, she’s part of a historic railway, running on her original rails, operating in her original depot and sheltered in her original engine house.

“Aesthetically, 40 is the prettiest 20th century locomotive running anywhere—handsome, light of step, with stylishly tall wheels and graceful in motion,” William L. Withuhn, the Curator, History of American Transportation, Smithsonian Institution, said in an article originally published in The Ely Times. “The 40 is unique to Nevada, and thus is a uniquely Nevada icon, not duplicated elsewhere.”

I’ll give him all of that, especially the “handsome” part. I’ll even give the railway a chunk of our money one of these days for tickets, because riding behind an honest-to-gosh steamie of this repute would send Thomas-crazed Boots over the moon. Even train-jaded Big Guy would be impressed.

But what I won’t concede is that a train is so important that it has to be designated the official state locomotive of Nevada – an idea that so offended fans of other trains, by the way, that it’s now been watered down to “an” official locomotive.

I just don’t get the point, unless it’s to give children more useless trivia to learn during Nevada history class. Or maybe bill sponsors are getting kickbacks from text book manufacturers, which would be able to charge districts for pricey new editions to add this vital update.

Nevada certainly isn’t alone in this silliness.

California has a state soil - proud to say my former state senator sponsored that important legislation. I guess there is some value to term limits.

More than half the states have official beverages. Most of them are milk, though you have to admire Alabama’s guts for going out on a limb and selecting Conecuh Ridge Whiskey. That’s a fancy name for moonshine for the uninitiated.

Massachusetts has an official bean, berry, cookie, doughnut, dessert and muffin, with “Boston cream” winning in both dessert and doughnuts categories.

And all of this matters … why?

My guess is, it doesn’t other than to a handful of folks back home that such a designation might appease.

Except in the case of Nevada’s official train, the proposal actually became controversial when supporters of other historic locomotives were offended. Nothing like a needless flap over unneeded legislation.

The Nevada Assembly has approved the bill, but there’s still hope that the state Senate will Stop Wasting America’s Time before other states without official modes of transportation decide they need to get on board.

After all, dealing with trivialities is much easier than figuring out how to balance budgets.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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