On June 11, 12, and
13 the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in conjunction with the East Ely
Depot Museum, the White Pine Public Museum, and the White Pine Chamber
of Commerce celebrates the Long Steel Rails Festival.
This festival will
explore the impact railroads had in the building
of America. These parallel long steel rails changed America.
Nowadays, not much is given a second thought. Like so many things in
modern life we expect results with minimal effort; throw a switch and
you have lights. Need groceries, hop in your car and head to the store,
where there's fresh meat, fresh vegetables, and fresh dairy products.
Of course it wasn't always like this and especially out west, where
great distances and horses made for slow going.
The railroad tracks
that conquered the west were built one stick of rail at a time. Across
the high desert of Nevada ties were placed one at a time, then the rail
came forward. Thirty feet of steel weighing hundreds of pounds was lifted
by four men and placed on the ties. Then the spikers moved in and started
driving the spikes two per tie. As the spikers started their work the
rail carriers went back for another stick of rail to place on the ties
opposite their first one. The second rail was placed 4 feet 8 1/2 inches
from the first and then another team of spikers came forward driving
in two spikes per tie. A different crew came forward and bolted the
rails together joining the new rails to the new track that stretched
on until it disappeared over the horizon. This ballet played out, over
and over, again and again, covering immense distances, tying the country
The railroads were
the catalyst that led to the lifestyle that we now enjoy. Once upon
a time in America every town of substance had a rail connection. If
the railroad missed the town, then the town picked up and moved to the
railroad. It was the railroads that allowed for the development of the
interior of the country. The railroads touched just about everyone.
Today that is still true but it is not as obivious as it once was.
There is a place
where this connection is still very oblivious: Ely Nevada. Ely is the
home of the Nevada Northern Railway, a place frozen in time. The two-story
sandstone depot stands at the end of a broad street. Looming above the
depot is the original coaling tower and water tank. The yard is unique;
it consists of fifty buildings and structures with the majority of them
constructed shortly after the arrival of the railroad.
June 11, 12 and 13 the complex comes alive as the Nevada Northern Railway
celebrates the fifth Long Steel Rails Festival. The three-day event
will illustrate the influence that railroads exerted on everyday life
in America using songs, stories, and pictures.
To demonstrate this
influence there will be photography displays that graphically illustrate
the connection between people and railroads.
To show how track
building was done a track building demonstrationSteel Rails, Steel
Hammers and Steel Menwill be ongoing in the yard. Opportunities
to swing a spike maul and drive a spike will be available.
To tell the story
will be a series of singers, speakers and artists. They are:
Folklorist, who hails from Milwaukee Wisconsin. This gravelly-voiced
folk singer has written songs that have been recorded by at least
30 other artists. For more than three decades, Larry has played a
wide range of venues that have taken him from hobo jungles fires to
the Fiat Plant in Torino, Italy. He sings and tells stories of hard
work, working people, trains, life on the road, love, and pink flamingos.
Speaker/Photographer who lives in Summerland California. Joel began
railroad photography in earnest after his first freight train ride.
After about six or seven thousand miles, he figured out that he could
take better train pictures if he wasn't actually riding on the train.
Now several book covers and many magazine covers later, he is considered
by many to be the most controversial and creative railroad photographer
in the business.
Speaker/Photographer is a retired firefighter from Colorado. His specialty
is large format black and white photography. Greg travels the west
capturing imagines using a large format camera, which is not the easiest
piece of equipment to use. Greg's perspective is unique and one that
the public will find intriguing.
Speaker/Photographer, has spent a lifetime in the railcar leasing
industry. But before that, growing up, he was captured by the allure
of railroading. Starting in college, John chased railroads around
the west recording disappearing images before they faded into the
background. Now retired from a career in railroading, John still chases
trains; now it's around the world.
Speaker/Author was a college roommate of John West's and joined John
in chasing trains throughout the west. Gordon went on to join the
National Park Service and do historic research into railroads. This
expertise led Gordon to write books on railroads. The National Park
Service recognized Gordon's expertise on railroads by assigning him
to research and write the application for National Landmark Status
on the Nevada Northern Railway.
WITHUHM, Speaker/Author is the author of the Spirit
of Steam a book that is for anyone who was ever fascinated by
the railroad. A careful selection of images, combined with thoughtful
commentary makes the Spirit of Steam appealing to a modern,
general audience. The commentary is special, with challenging and
insightful ideas about the significance of the railroad in the twentieth-century
life. In concise, lively talks, Bill provides the larger, essential
context so often missing. Bill uses the power of the image-and puts
images and interpretation together in a fresh way. His evocative imagery
of both trains and the people who ran them, combined with the concise,
lively essays, offer a fresh and powerful perspective on the significance
of the railroad in the twentieth century. Bill is the Curator of Transportation
at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.
HERSH, Speaker/Photographer is a photographer who did a
comparative photographic study of the now Union Pacific Railroad and
the then Central Pacific Railroad. Lawrence went across Nevada and
located where Alfred A. Hart made his photographs recording the Central
Pacific Railroad in 1868. The author set his camera up to record the
same views in 1997. There is a striking comparison in that some areas
look the same today as they did 129 years ago.
currently works for the State of Nevada as the Director of the East
Ely Railroad Depot Museum. He has nearly two decades experience in
working in museums in the American West. He has earned a Masters of
Art degree from Utah State University in American studies with an
emphasis in Museum Administration and Folklore. He also completed
a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from Brigham Young University.
For the past fifteen years he has studied eastern Nevada's history
and shared that with locals and tourists alike. He is a published
author in Nevada Magazine and other publications. He has contributed
to numerous articles of railroad history and eastern Nevada folklore;
most recently to "White Pine County, Where the Great Basin Highway
Meets the Loneliest Road in America." He has been featured in
television documentaries of eastern Nevada history and regularly serves
as a tour guide for the Nevada Department of Tourism familiarization
tours. Sean is a frequent lecturer and presenter on the history and
heritage of the Silver State.
BUTE, Cowboy Illustrator, has spent most of his life out
on the open the range. This unique perspective has allowed him to
capture in paint a fading way of life. Larry's artwork ranges from
small pen and ink sketches to huge murals that are painted on the
sides of buildings. Larry is the artist who has created all of the
Long Steel Rails Posters.
In addition to the
speakers, the public is invited to record their railroad experiences
for future generations. The White Pine Public Museum will be hosting
an Oral History Program. This is designed to capture the remembrances
of what it was like to work for the railroad. This program will concentrate
on recording the experiences of the people who worked for the Nevada
Not all of the people
who rode the trains paid for the privilege. Some rode the freight trains
as hobos. A Hobo Camp will be set-up, for the public to listen, to what
it was like jumping trains and traveling the country.
For a remembrance
of the Long Steel Rails Festival, children will be able to assemble
a whistle made out of wood.
To experience railroading
up close, guided walking tours of the rail yards and buildings that
show the machinery and skills necessary to keep the iron horse running
will be available. There will also be speeder rides. Before the days
of cars and trucks gandy dancers (track workers) used lightweight gasoline
powered track carts to travel the track to inspect it. Of course the
ultimate opportunity will be to ride in the cab of a Diesel Locomotive.
This will be an opportunity for the public to experience what its like
to be in a diesel locomotive going down the rails.
Come join us for
what promises to be an exciting weekend exploring the connection of
the railroading and people.