[Ely,NV] — In Ely, Nevada at the beginning of the twentieth century, copper was king. Between 1902 and 1907, more than 50 mining companies operated in the Ely area. Much of that copper was transported by the Nevada Northern Railway, which began operating in 1906.

Today the railroad is a National Historic Landmark, offering a fascinating look at the steam and early diesel train era. “The Nevada Northern Railway Complex is the best-preserved, least altered, and most complete main yard complex remaining from the steam railroad era,” according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

During my motorcycle ride along Nevada’s “Loneliest Road in America” — U.S. Highway 50 — last spring, I stopped in Ely and visited the historic rail yard, taking a 14-mile roundtrip train ride. The train I rode consisted of several 1920s passenger cars pulled by a 1950 diesel locomotive, but if I’d arrived earlier I would have had the opportunity to ride the “Ghost Train,” pulled by Engine 40, a 1910 Baldwin steam engine. Stories vary as to why it’s called the Ghost Train, but according to an article on the railroad’s website: “Once upon a time in America, this sight was as common as waking up in the morning. Now no more; [Engine] 40 and her train are ghosts of a grand era in America.”

After the train ride, I toured the cavernous engine house where they work on and restore the locomotives. Eighty-year old tour guide Bob Dallons shared his encyclopedic knowledge of the railroad and its locomotives with me and several other visitors. From inside the shed, we watched  as a historic steam engine chugged in, steam hissing and bell clanging — an impressive sight. The Nevada Northern Railway is an authentic piece of railroad history — a look into a rapidly-vanishing era; a fascinating stop along America’s “loneliest road.”


Nevada Northern Railway – routes and fares: http://www.nnry.com

Nevada Tourism: http://travelnevada.com

About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer specializing in motorcycle touring and travel. He is regular contributor to Harley-Davidson's HOG Magazine, and his travel features appear regularly in motorcycle magazines and other publications.

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  1. Sasha

    February 20, 2012

    Enjoyed your article! I rode the Ghost train during the 4th of July celebration/fireworks that they have every year. My younger brother, mother and father all really liked the unique way to spend tha holiday.

    I am also posting because I am doing an article on visiting Ely, Nevada in my college magazine writing class and was wondering if I could ask you some questions about your time in Ely and on the Ghost train.

    I hope to hear back.
    – – Sasha Wollenburg

  2. There’s just something about steam trains, isn’t there? I just love them and I have no idea why.
    A few years ago I was riding my bike over an overpass in Melbourne when a steam train came along underneath. I was so excited — and I had no one to share it with, so I just yelled out “yahoo!!!” And I actually didn’t feel like an idiot. It was a STEAM TRAIN, after all.
    Barbara – The Dropout Diaries recently posted..23 Tips For Taking A Toddler On A Tour Of Vietnam

  3. Rosalia

    October 9, 2011

    I love travelling by train and this is one of the second reasons why I read your post and felt it was interesting, the keyword ‘ghost’ being the first reason. It is ghosts that intrigue me and give me a feeling of thrill but hardly I could find a ghost in this post . Overall an interesting post!
    Rosalia recently posted..Los mitos de la alimentacion : alimentos sanos y grasos

  4. Technosyncratic

    October 8, 2011

    I used to be obsessed with trains. When I was seven this would have made my year! 🙂
    Technosyncratic recently posted..Photo Essay: Stonehenge

  5. Ashley

    October 7, 2011

    Fun! I used to take train rides all the time as a kid somewhere outside of Jamestown, CA. Always had a great time.
    Ashley recently posted..How Art History Affects My Travels

  6. Cathy Sweeney

    October 7, 2011

    Glen, your posts about U.S. Highway 50 are really bringing back great memories from trips through that part of Nevada. I’d love to take this train ride in Ely.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Round Rainbow

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