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Become a Time Traveler

Yes, it is possible to go back in time and better yet, it is easy. All you need to do is head to East Ely, Nevada and experience what life was like in the middle of the last century.

For the second year, the Heber Valley Railroad and the Nevada Northern Railway have teamed up to offer an exceptional opportunity to photograph steam locomotives in the winter. The combined efforts of the two railroads will give you the opportunity to photograph three steam locomotives with vintage freight and passenger equipment in winter settings. Scenery will include rail yards, mines, ghost towns, mountains, and valleys. This is not an opportunity to be missed!

It starts at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely Nevada, now a National Historic Landmark. Here is what William L. Withuhn, Curator, History of Technology & Transportation at the Smithsonian Institution has to say about the Nevada Northern:

“Among all railroad historic sites anywhere in North America, the Nevada Northern Railway complex at East Ely is—no question in my view— the most complete, most authentic, and best cared-for, bar none. It’s a living American treasure and a standout one. Historic tracks, original depot and office building, engine house, freight shed, three original steam locomotives, five historic and rare wooden passenger cars, Kennecott diesel engines, sixty early freight cars, working machine shop, foundry—even the coaling tower and water tower that are icons of the site—everything is still there.”

There will be two opportunities to photograph this treasure, the Nevada Northern Railway. The first opportunity is February 2, 3, and 4. It is the 8th Annual Nevada Northern Railway Photo Shoot or what we like to call the Winter Steam Spectacular. Joel Jensen an award-wining photographer is the coordinator of this event. And in Joel’s own words . . .

If you like steam, have we got it for you! Clouds and clouds of it, once again, our railroad will strut its stuff in sub-zero degree weather (or close to it). Both steam locomotives 93 (a 2-8-0 built in 1909) and 40 (a 4-6-0 built in 1910) will be running! Both locomotives will be pulling vintage freight and passenger cars that are original to the railroad. Snow? We’ve had it on previous winter spectaculars, 6 inches of it during the 1999 version. Sub-zero? We hit -5 in 2001, and you should have seen the frost on the sagebrush. Sun? How about cobalt blue skies during the shoot? Point being, we’ve offered up just about every type of meteorological conditions that wintertime Ely experiences, including shirtsleeve weather.

The Nevada Northern is offering something special this year. We will have four train sets. Locomotive 40 with her original passenger cars, locomotive 93 with a wrecking train, 93 again with an ore train, and 93 with a mixed freight. A special treat this year is that the railroad will fire up its 1907 Wrecking Crane for a demonstration. We will also pull out the rotary snowplow. The second session at the Nevada Northern is on February 9, 10, and 11.

In between the two Nevada Northern sessions is the Heber Valley Railroad winter photo session. It takes place February 5, 6, and 7. Where the Nevada Northern Railway is high desert scenery, the Heber offers towering mountains, deep valleys, and a roaring river. There will be snow on the Heber—deep snow—and cobalt blue skies all in a mountain railroad setting. There will be opportunities to photograph the trains crossing timber trestles over a mountain river. Locomotive 618 will do the honors on the Heber pulling vintage freight cars through stunning Provo canyon.

The combined efforts of our two railroads will give you tremendous bang for your buck. Why do we offer such a photo adventure during winter months? Because we want our participants to get fantastic shots. If you think locomotives 93, 40, and 618 look good on an 85-degree day in August, wait ’till you see them on a zero-degree-day in February. They look pretty good in a snowstorm too, billowing white clouds of steam plus plumes of black and gray smoke that tower above the canyons and valleys.

The shoots start late in the afternoon of the first day as the locomotives make up trains and everything is positioned for a night photo shoot. Once the sun goes down, it is your opportunity to capture timeless images of railroading at night. For the second year, Steve Cris will do the lighting on the Nevada Northern.

Starting at 7:30 a.m. on the second day, just as the sun comes up you will be able to capture the locomotives coming out of the engine house. At this time of year, the locomotives will be wreathed in steam. The locomotives then head to their trains for a full day of shooting steam in the winter.

On the second night, there is an optional banquet for all of the photographers. It’s a time to trade stories and layout strategy for the next day. The next day starts again at 7:30 a.m. as the locomotives come out of the engine house. It will be another full day of runbys out on the line. As the sun sets, you will have incredible photos of the technology that built our country. You will be experiencing everyday steam railroading up close and personal. This is your chance to travel back in time.

The cost of one photo shoot is $385. Or you can combine both the Heber Valley and the Nevada Northern and receive the discounted price of $693. And for those who cannot get enough of steam railroading in the winter, there is the opportunity of doing all three shoots for $985. That’s seven and a half days of steam railroading in the high desert, mountains, and valleys in the winter—an incredible value.

In addition to fabulous steam opportunities, meals are also included in the price: two continental breakfasts and two lunches. The Saturday night banquet is optional at $25.

In years past, we have received requests to run a mini-diesel photo shoot. The Nevada Northern will hold mini-diesel photo shoots on Fridays starting at 1:00 p.m. We’ll go out on both ends of the line. This will give participants a chance to familiarize themselves with the railroad and get some great shots of a vintage diesel.

Bottom Line? World-class photography. Participants have won numerous photo contests, recording timeless scenes of a historical railroad that is second to none. Many of the “Winter Spectacular” photos that I’ve seen rival the best that National Geographic has to offer.

You’ll freeze your butt off (hopefully), but we’ll keep the fires burning in the cabooses. True, you may have to have your frostbitten fingers, toes, and nose amputated . . . but when you see your photos, you will be glad that you gave up a body part or two for images that will last a lifetime.

Each opportunity has a different emphasis. In any event, there will be plenty of steam and smoke with the exhaust nice and sharp as it reverberates off the canyon walls. These trips will provide a world-class show. For more information, contact the museum at (866) 407-8326.

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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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