Nevada-California-Oregon Locomotive Machine Shop

This sturdy yet unassuming building at 401 E. Fourth Street dates back to the late 19th century, subtly evoking Reno’s rich railroad heritage. It was constructed in 1889 as the locomotive house for the Nevada-California-Oregon (NCO) Railway, a narrow gauge line founded in Reno in 1880 as the Nevada and Oregon Railroad Company. A massive fire had burned down the company’s previous holdings earlier in 1889, requiring the rapid construction of a fire-proof brick and iron shop and engine house in the company’s existing rail yards.

Single-story with a foundation of rubble stone, the building was planned in sections, with the eastern wall constructed of wood to provide for easy expansion as needed. A turntable located just north of the shops allowed crews to rotate railroad cars and engines to enter the building for maintenance and repairs, while four skylights in the gable roof provided natural light. Tracks ran from the turntable just a few yards eastward to the company’s wooden roundhouse, nestled along what is now Valley Road.

The building underwent multiple reconfigurations over the next few decades, with a temporary wooden addition on the east side providing space for painting and woodworking. After the wooden car shop was removed and a new eight-stall brick roundhouse was constructed adjacent to the original locomotive house, the building was used exclusively as a machine shop.

The decline of the NCO prompted the sale of its Reno holdings, including the roundhouse, the machine shop, and the depot at 530 E. Fourth Street, to the Western Pacific Railroad in 1917. Since the narrow gauge facilities were incompatible with the new owner’s standard gauge equipment, the company leased the old locomotive house and machine shop to various businesses. These included the Crane Company of Nevada, a branch of the large plumbing supply firm headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, which operated its business out of the structure from 1921 until 1963. A small brick addition was constructed in the 1940s.

The Western Pacific sold the old locomotive house and machine shop in 1957 to the Yancy Company of Reno, and the building has changed hands several times since then.

Images

Machine Shop, ca. 1910

Machine Shop, ca. 1910

In this view looking southwest at the shops, ca. 1910, the arched entries appear just large enough for the railcars to pass through. Image courtesy National Register of Historic Places View File Details Page

NCO Railroad grounds, 1918

NCO Railroad grounds, 1918

An image from the 1918 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the railroad's brick shop buildings and roundhouse, extending northward from Fourth Street. Image courtesy of University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

The 1940s addition

The 1940s addition

A photograph from 1982 clearly shows the 1940s addition with its shed-like roof at left, the rubble stone foundation of the west elevation in the foreground, and engine doors in the center. Image courtesy National Register of Historic Places View File Details Page

West side, 1982

West side, 1982

Pictured in 1982, the west elevation of the building features rubble stone foundation windows. Image courtesy National Register of Historic Places View File Details Page

Rear view, 1982

Rear view, 1982

This rear view of the building from 1982 shows some door alterations. Image courtesy of National Register of Historic Places View File Details Page

Appliances and cabinets, 1982

Appliances and cabinets, 1982

In 1982 the building housed an appliance and cabinet center. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Image courtesy of National Register of Historic Places View File Details Page

Shop building, 2011

Shop building, 2011

A photo from 2011 reveals few changes to the building over the past three decades. Photo by Catherine Magee View File Details Page

Shop building, 2011

Shop building, 2011

Looking southward along the tracks toward Fourth Street, this view of the NCO Locomotive Machine Shop still evokes its railroading heritage. Photo by Catherine Magee View File Details Page

Street Address:

401 East 4th Street, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Alicia Barber, “Nevada-California-Oregon Locomotive Machine Shop,” Reno Historical, accessed May 28, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/51.

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