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Be the Engineer - Your Hand on the Throttle

Hands-On History - Become a Steam Engineer for a Day An experience you are going to remember forever.

Be the Engineer - Your Hand on the Throttle

Yes, you can drive a steam locomotive. Sign on as a Nevada Northern Railway engineer for your own trip "Up the hill" through Robinson Canyon toward the old Ruth Mining District. You (and a friend, if you like) will climb on board and experience what railroading was like in the last century - at the throttle of one of the original Nevada Northern STEAM locomotives.

graduate from the Steam Engineer program holding a certificate

What to Expect

You begin your engineer experience by studying the safety training materials that our regular and volunteer crews learn.
Download Materials.

When you pass the basic test, you head down to the century-old Enginehouse and help prepare your locomotive for the day.

Climb into the cab, and learn how to operate the iron horse. Your mentor engineer will show you the ropes as we move the locomotive out of the engine house, through the yard, and out onto the original NNRY mainline.

It's then your turn! Climb up into the engineer's seat and receive personal instructions from your mentor engineer on controlling the throttle and brake. Once the basics are under your belt, the moment comes for you to sound the whistle, have your hand on the throttle, and head up the mainline toward the mines.

Available Options

There are several options available. You can take control of one of the vintage steam locomotives, or one of the vintage diesel locomotives, or operate both. You can also choose to operate the locomotives with the train or without it. Most people come and take the locomotive out without a train attached. It is an easier way to start, and requires less training.

Frequently Asked Questions

This program provides the Be the Engineer participant with both training off-the engine and on-the-engine with instruction by one of the NNRy’s certified engineers. During locomotive operation, the NN Ry certified engineer is in charge of the locomotive and is ultimately responsible for its safe operation.
After successful completion of the written test, the Be the Engineer participant will move to the on-the-engine instruction. The Be the Engineer participant is placed at the controls of either the steam or diesel-electric locomotive and is allowed to operate the engine under the direct supervision of the NNRY certified engineer. The engineer instructor may at any time take partial or full control of the locomotive in order to demonstrate a particular task, to assist the student with the operation of the locomotive or to maintain the safe control of the locomotive.
Since you are the engineer, you are controlling the speed of the locomotive. The faster you go the shorter the trip time wise. The distance is 14 miles round trip out on the original mainline. Most people do the trip in 1.5 to 2 hours. Depending on when your trip is, you are welcome to help the crew prepare the locomotive for the day or help them put the locomotive away at night.

All participants must:
– Be age 18 or older.
– Hold a valid driver’s license in your state or country of residence.
– Sign a liability release form.
– Pass the written test.
– Be physically able to climb into the cab of the locomotive unassisted

Yes, two individuals can split the on-the-engine instruction time and the associated cost. Each individual must successfully complete the test and fulfill our requirements.
Yes, an additional person may ride along. They must be 12 years old or older. In the cab of the steam locomotives there is constant activity with the fireman hand-shoveling coal into the firebox and adding water to the boiler. Seating is only available for one additional person, for a total of two people in the cab plus the crew. The fireman may give up his/her seat to a passenger. However, the fireman will often request that the passenger move or shift position in the seat so that the fireman can gain access to various controls
No; due to safety reasons changing persons riding in the locomotive cab is not possible in route.
Be the Engineer participants will receive information on the safe operation of a locomotive and the hand signals involved. Study is expected before the on-the-engine program. The NNRY rulebook for is available on-line here.
Your on-the-engine instruction will be given on the locomotive that you will be operating.
No, due to mechanical issues, FRA requirements and the needs of the museum, it is not possible for us provide a certain locomotive for a person’s Be the Engineer Experience.
The on-the-engine training is conducted in the yard before your trip. Once training is done, the steam locomotive is operated on the Keystone Route and requires one and a half to two hours to complete. The Main Line Diesel program is on the McGill Junction Route for the on-the-engine instruction and requires two hours to complete.
Steam experiences use the Keystone Branch. It features two tunnels and plenty of road crossings that you will need to blow for. Diesel trips general take the Hiline, it has plenty of road crossings too. On both branches you will be going up and down hill and learn a whole new appreciation of gravity.
The on-the-engine instruction is limited to operating the locomotive only in certain situations. The Be the Engineer participant is not qualified to couple onto any cars, operate the engine during switching maneuvers or operate the locomotive on the wye at either Keystone or East Ely. Nor is the Be The Engineer participant qualified to haul passenger trains. Be the Engineer participants can operate a freight train but only train crew can ride in the caboose.
Yes, for the steam Be the Engineer Experience, the tax deduction is $450 and for the diesel Be the Engineer Experience the tax deduction is $250.
Yes, pictures can be taken in the cab of the locomotive as long as the Be the Engineer participant or the NN Ry crew is not being distracted by the photographer. The instructor engineer has the final authority to decide if the photographer is being too distracting. Please note! Cellphones CANNOT be used as a camera while the locomotive is in motion.
Yes, gift certificates are available. Once the gift is presented, the recipient can then call us to make their arrangements for the experience.
Ely does not have air, train or bus service. Ely is located 240 miles west of Salt Lake City or 240 mile north of Las Vegas. Our recommendation is to fly into Las Vegas and rent a car from there and drive to Ely. Travel time is about 4 hours. We have found that the air fares into Las Vegas are usually cheaper than Salt Lake.
Prices and Discounts

The prices displayed are for the Engineer Experience. That can be one person, or two people sharing the experience.

These prices represent our best estimate for the long-term sustainability of the locomotives, right-of-way, and maintenance facilities. We are an independent non-profit foundation that relies on your continued patronage to sustain the programs here.

A portion of the program cost may be tax deductible. Hover over the prices below to determine the amount that you can speak to your tax advisor about. We will provide a receipt when you purchase an event.

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

Be the Engineer OptionsMemberNon-Member
Steam Locomotive Only - mainline 14 mile round trip$995 $1,170
Steam Locomotive freight train - mainline 14 mile round trip$2,847 $3,350
Ultimate Package - Steam & Diesel - Locomotives Only - 2 trips$1,696 $1,995
Supreme Package - Steam & Diesel - Locomotives with trains - 2 trips$3,953 $4,650

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Hours of Operation

Monday - Saturday | 8AM - 5PM
Sunday | 8AM - 4PM

Our Location

1100 Ave A, Ely, NV 89301

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