If touring the average museum offers visitors a glimpse into the past, a visit to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum is more like a trip through time. The one-of-a-kind museum is dedicated to restoring, preserving, interpreting and operating its historic facilities, yards and rail collection, and offers visitors the opportunity to experience an actual working railroad straight from the past. Everything you see here—from the picture perfect blacksmith shop fit for the silver screen, to the original handwritten pay ledgers, to the incredibly pristine locomotives themselves—is all original to Ely’s Nevada Northern Railway.
After massive copper deposits were discovered in the early 1900s, the Nevada Consolidated Copper Company built a 150-mile rail line to haul copper ore from the mines west of Ely to regional smelters, and off for sale.Today, the section of track that runs from Ely to the tiny town of McGill is still in operation, ridden by the original steam and diesel engines that are painstakingly maintained by the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. Interestingly enough, the Nevada State Locomotive—Engine No. 40—is part of the Nevada Northern Railway’s fleet and proudly leads the charge for the annual Haunted Ghost Train of Ely, held each fall. Both the #40 and #93 steam engines are still in service as part of the historic working railway museum. Passengers board in the Ely yards for an incredible ride along the same routes that were once used to haul ore. The line is considered the best-preserved short line in the country and, along with the history Ely yard complex, locomotives and rolling stock, ranks as a National Historic Landmark.
For the most up-to-date information on the Nevada Northern Railway’s impressive lineup of events, click HERE.
DIRT, AND THE TRAIN CATS OF THE MACHINE SHOP
The museum yard is home to much of the original rolling stock, which has been carefully restored using the original equipment that was left behind when the rail shut down. Aside from the locomotives, a few other characters are part of the scene at the Nevada Northern Railway: Dirt & the Train Cats of the Machine Shop. The original locomotives, and all the history that’s happened on site is masterfully preserved in documents stretching back 100 years, yet somehow these cats seem to steal the show. Despite not knowing how old Dirt really is, he’s been a fixture of the Machine Shop for years, and even added a few of his own kittens to his posse.
A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM
What originally served as the Chief Engineer’s Quarters, the Bunkhouse was converted to modern lodging accommodations and lies within the still operating rail yard at the Nevada Northern Railway. Much like the crews themselves, the railyard comes alive very early in the morning, as locomotives are shuffled around, in anticipation of the days visitors.
If simply being inside the train yard itself doesn’t quite do it for you, behold The Caboose! Also a bookable lodging option, Caboose #22 was the last delivered to the Nevada Northern Railway over 40 years ago. At that time, Caboose #22 was considered to be state of the art, with all-steel sides and roller-bearing trucks. Though outfitted with an oil stove, but no electricity or air conditioning, creature comforts are minimal but are an ideal alternative to summer camping! For more information on how to book a night (or several) in the Bunkhouse or Caboose, click HERE.