In a high plains valley of northeastern Nevada is a railroading treasure, the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in the town of Ely. Donated to the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation when progenitor Nevada Northern Railway (1905-1983) owner Kennecott Copper Corporation ceased local operations in 1983, the Nevada Northern Railway Museum is a living museum. "Among all railroad historic sites anywhere in North America, the Nevada Northern Railway complex at East Ely is—no question in my view—the most complete, most authentic, and best cared-for, bar none. It's a living American treasure and a stand-out one." William L. Withuhn, Curator, History of Technology and Transportation, Smithsonian Institution.
Mr. Withuhn’s statement is expounded upon by Mark Bassett, executive director of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum :
"For the past twenty-two years, people with vision have worked to save the railroad and the complex. Their work has paid-off. Today, steam locomotives 40 and 93 are back into service. Coach 5 and Baggage/RPO 20 are still in service carrying passengers as they have been for the past century. A person can purchase a ticket at the original ticket window, board the original passenger cars, and leave Ely behind the original locomotive heading out on the original track."
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne designated the East Ely yard complex, locomotives and rolling stock as a National Historic Landmark, declaring the Nevada Northern Railway is, "The best-preserved, least altered, and most complete main yard complex remaining from the steam railroad era."
Celebrating its centennial, NN Ry is open for a variety of options. Visitors can tour the grounds, volunteer, ride the trains ( special theme trains included ), take caboose and engine cab rides, and even rent locomotives to run as the engineer!
The latter brought me to the property, which encompasses a 56-acre outdoor National Historic Site containing 66 buildings and structures, steam locomotives, electric locomotives, and over 50 freight cars. In addition to the yard and shops, the museum owns 30 miles of track. After taking the written test on safety and operating rules, I met the engineer and fireman of each locomotive I had rented. First, they presented me with the train orders for each run. Next, I was familiarized with the controls. When they were satisfied I was no danger to life and property we pulled away from the station into the yard. After practical demonstrations of handling each respective locomotive, we were cleared onto the main, and the thrills began.
If you rent a locomotive, under the instructor crew’s watchful eye you will handle the throttle and braking, bell and whistle or horn. I had the Alco for just short of two hours, just shy of an hour and a half for the steam loco.
Time well spent!
Dozens of photographs were shot on this trip. I will share them with you in five sections: Nevada Northern Railway Museum: Steam Locomotive, Diesel Locomotive, Property & Physical Plant, Rolling Stock, and Enginehouse & Shop.
Information about the museum's steam locos can be found at: Nevada Northern Railway Steam Locomotives
, and the diesel feature is here: Nevada Northern Railway ALCO RS-2 No.105
Mr. Keith Albrandt has an outstanding site featuring far more about NN Ry than I could possibly research and provide within a decade: Nevada Northern & Railroads of White Pine County
This includes track plans
I can not emphasize strongly enough what a thrill this opportunity is for those who would like to experience hands-on locomotive handling! Nor can I more strongly impart that this property is an amazing time capsule of early Twentieth-Century railroading. The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is staffed by employees and volunteers who make you feel welcome and are enthusiastic for their positions. If you appreciate railroading, this should be on your itinerary.