Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark      Ely, NV

Trackwork, firsthand
Yard gets 300 feet of new track, Campers learn trackwork
Learning about managing joins and yardwork - the life of a brakeman
Throwing a switch
Air brake training
At the Contols
Changing positions
Campers experience all phases of railroading.<br>Here the participants are learning about the cutting torch.
Using a cutting torch
Bill Withuhn demonstrating proper firing of a steam locomotive
Warming Lunch

Railroad Reality Week

Immerse yourself in a Week-long Railcamp

Fast Facts

WHAT:  Spend a week and find out what Workin' on the Railroad really means.

WHEN:  Week-long railcamp during summer months. See schedule below

WHO:  Dedicated railfans who want to roll up their sleeves and immerse themselves in all aspects of railroad operations.

BRING:  Work gloves, work clothes, boots or sturdy shoes, long sleeve shirt for locomotive operations.

HOW:  Reserve your week here
OR:     Buy a Gift Certificate

Spend a week this Summer workin' on a National Historic Landmark railroad, and the best preserved standard gauge railroad in America.  Experience what it was like during the golden age of railroading.  Become an integral part of the preservation in-progress.

You begin the camp by attending our rules and safety training. And yes, you will be tested on the training materials. After training and testing you will rotate through train operations, working in the shop and out on track.

As part of the crew you will help get a train over up the hill and back again safely.  In the shop, you will get hands on experience maintaining the locomotives and cars.  It is dirty, oily, greasy work.  Without it, trains don't run.  As part of the track crew, you will see up close what it takes to keep the railroad running.

Everything comes together at the end of the week.  You are part of the switch crew that make up a train in the yard.   You'll rotate through the positions of engineer, brakeman and switchman.  The training from the week will now make sense as you couple up and move the cars.

At Railroad Reality Week you will have the greatest adventure of your life!  It's hands on, intense, and takes you behind the scenes on what it takes to keep a railroad running, but feel free to take it a pace that is comfortable for you.  Come and be part if it this Summer.  

Participant Requirements

Any person over 18 who has the physical capability to get into a locomotive cab by themselves, has a valid drivers license, and a sense of adventure can join the program.  Note that the Adult/Teen week is for teens 14-18 and their parent or guardian participating together.   The teen does not need a drivers license, but must be an enrolled student in good standing at their school during the previous year and must be physically eligible for a drivers license when they are of age.

Local Conditions

Ely, Nevada is at 6500 feet above sea level.  At that elevation it has a climate more like Denver or Salt Lake than Las Vegas or Phoenix.  It is a dry climate, but expect it to rain several times each week.  It can get cool in the evening and may get up to the low 90s during the day. Be prepared for these conditions.   We provide water at all locations.

How to get here and where to stay

We have compiled quite a bit of information about the area, how to get here, and where to stay.  At the main menu (above), select VISIT, then look for Tourist Info + Maps.  You can start planning your trip here.

What to Bring

The Nevada Northern Railway is an operating 19th century railroad with all the dirt and grime, you'd expect.  We ask that you bring clothes that you can get really, really dirty.  You will need work boots and work clothes that can hold up to dirt, sweat, and grime.  You will also need at least one long sleeve cotton shirt to be worn in the cab of the locomotives.  Bring sunscreen, sunglasses (or clip-ons), and a hat for when you are out in the sun.  If you wear glasses, please bring a pair of safety glasses or goggles that will fit over your glasses.

Equipment provided

The Nevada Northern will provide hard hats, safety glasses, and work gloves, although you are welcome to bring your own.    You will also receive the Nevada Northern Handbook of Operating Rules and a binder with information on the surrounding area as well as history of the railroad, mining, and track repair information.

Experiences of Previous Attendees

Railroad Reality Week Prices and Options
Single Participant$925 $1075
Single Participant with Steam Locomotive Rental$1485$1740
Adult and Teen Duo (both)$1345$1645
Duo with a Steam Locomotive Rental$1840$2225
Stay in the Bunkhouse - Adult Session (8 nights)*$645 $1,080
Stay in the Bunkhouse - Teen Session (5 nights)*$475 $675
*Limited availability - Price per room - Up to 2 people per room

Members receive discounts.   Memberships start at $30.
No other discounts apply to this experience.

Railroad Reality Week Schedule
4:30 p.m. Welcome train ride and introductions
7:45 amRailroad safety and rules training with NN Ry crews
8:00 a.m.Railroad safety and rules training with NN Ry crews
1:00 p.m.Railroad safety and rules test
8:00 a.m.Work Day - Track, Shop or Operations (in rotation)
8:00 a.m.Orientation - Video Ore to Copper; History of the Nevada Northern Railway.
MorningDirector's tour of the National HIstoric Landmark.
1:00 p.m.Tour of Robinson Copper Mine
8:00 a.m.Work Day - Track, Shop and Operations (in rotation)
8:00 a.m.Work Day - Track, Shop and Operations (in rotation)
8:00 a.m.Operate a diesel locomotive; switchman; brakeman
Operate Speeder and Velocipede
1:00 p.m.Tour of depots
4:30 p.m.Caboose Ride and Pizza
6:00 p.m.Graduation and Group Photos
11:00 a.m.Ride on train for all attendees and their families
Please be advise the schedule may change due to operational considerations.

Parent or Spouse Suggested Activities
(for those not participating in Railroad Reality Week)
Day 1Tour Great Basin National Park and Lehman Caves
Day 2Ward Charcoal Ovens, Tonopah Canyon and Garnet Hill
Day 3Success Loop and Cave Lake State Park
Day 4Mural Tour, Renaissance Village and Downtown Walking Tour
Day 5Pioche Tour and Lunch

Each Railroad Reality Week starts on a Friday, so hover over a Friday start date to book your railcamp experience.

June 2017
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If you still have a question about this program or the schedule click here

Comments from those who have done this (2)

Topic: realityweek
5/5 (2)
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Michael Lewis (Nipomo) says...
This June(2015) I attended the Nevada Northern Railway Reality Week. (along with four other guys), What a fantastic experience. Mark Bassett the NNRR Executive Director is amazing, he gave historical context to every activity that we participated in. Mark, Joan (Mark's Wife) and the entire staff of the NNRR made us part of the NNRR family for the week that we were there. The Nevada Northern RR is frozen in time 1900's to the 1950's. The purpose of the RR reality week is for people to experience ... Read More
Michael,  we are glad that you came up to Ely for the Railway Reality Week, and that you had a gerat time.  Thanks for your note!
20th July 2015 8:43am
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarEmpty Star
Kenny Lombino (Los Angeles Ca) says...
I just found out about this. I am an avid rail fan, both full size and HO scale. I can't make this year, but please let me know the dates for next year so I can book a trip.
Kenny Lombino

Thanks for your note.  Yes, this event should be on your to-do list.  

The best way to keep informed is to sign up for our email newsletter.  Look at the top of almost any of the webpages, and you will see the Newsletter Signup button.

11th June 2015 7:14am
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