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"At The Throttle"
by Mark Bassett, Executive Director

A weekly series of columns originally published in the Ely Times 
Mark Bassett is the Executive Director of the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation, operator of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. He can be reached at the museum (775) 289-2085 ext. 7 or e-mail:


All Aboard for the North Pole
07 November 2007


It is that time of the year again—the days are getting shorter, the weather is definitely colder, and we have had snow on the ground. Inside the engine house, the shop crew is preparing the equipment for some very special annual trips. What trips? Why, they are the most special trips of the year. Beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark offers a very special train—the Polar Express! Join us for a magical trip to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus.

The passenger cars Ely and Nevada will be decorated and ready for passengers. Then starting on November 23, the magic starts. Just before departure time, the conductor will yell, "All Aboard to the North Pole!" Passengers will start loading. Once everyone is loaded, the conductor closes up the train and signals the engineer that it is time to depart.

Santa aboard the Nevada Northern Polar Express!

Santa aboard the Nevada Northern Polar Express!

Up front, the engineer gives three sharp blasts of the whistle. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the huge locomotive starts to move. The engineer will bunch the slack in the couplers and then start pushing against the cars as the train heads for East Ely Junction. Once at the junction the train stops. The head brakeman will climb down from the locomotive and throw the switch to the mainline that will takes us to the North Pole. Once the head brakeman is back aboard, the engineer will give two toots of the whistle. Slowly, the wheels start turning and the train begins to pick up speed on its journey to the frozen north.

Our train is based on the popular children's book, The Polar Express. This is a story of a young boy and his sister who learn from their friends that there is no Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, however, the boy hears a distant whistle and sees a locomotive stop in front of his house; behind the locomotive are lighted passenger coaches. A door opens and the conductor steps down and says to the boy, "Well, are you coming?"

The boy asks, "To where?"

"Why to the North Pole, of course. This is the Polar Express!!"

After some hesitation, the boy boards the train and starts on the northward journey; the destination is the North Pole.

After arriving at the North Pole, he and the other children disembark. They learn that it is nearly time for Santa to begin his annual Christmas Eve journey. Before he departs, Santa will select one of the children to receive the first gift of Christmas, which can be anything that they wish. The young boy is selected, and after much thought, he chooses a bell from the harness of Santa's reindeer.

When he begins his trip to his home, the boy discovers that he had a hole in his pocket and lost the bell. The next morning, though, he receives an extra present: the bell with a note from Santa. His parents are disappointed because they do not hear the sweet jingle from it, and they think that it is broken. However, the boy and his sister DO hear the clear, sweet sound because of their faith.

Many years later, the sister could no longer hear the jingle, but the boy always could. He always believed in the spirit of Christmas.

We invite everyone to experience a real life Polar Express on the Nevada Northern Railway. We'll be heading to the North Pole to see Santa Claus from November 23 to December 28. This magical trip is for kids of all ages. On the way, we will serve hot chocolate and cookies to all of our passengers. During the trip to the North Pole, we will read the story of The Polar Express.

Then as we get closer to the North Pole, the excitement builds. Off in the distance the lights of the North Pole can be seen. Slowly the train backs around a curve and there it is—the North Pole! Standing outside is Santa! Slowly the train comes to stop. Then Santa boards the train and greets all of the passengers. Santa and his elves will present a silver bell to all of the passengers.

After Santa gets off the train, we head back to Ely. During the trip back, everyone is invited to sing Christmas carols. So dress warmly and join us for our annual trek to the North Pole.


Nevada Northern Railway's Polar Express Schedule

(The ride is approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours long, depending on the engineer and Santa Claus.)



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