[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.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Nevada Northern Railway – routes and fares: http://www.nnry.com
Nevada Tourism: http://travelnevada.com