WHAT: You will be in control of one of the original Nevada Northern Railway locomotives, running it on the original mainline.
WHEN: By reservation, so make plans in advance. Generally weekends from May thru October
WHO: You can share the experience with another person. Both of you will be in the cab and take turns controlling the locomotive.
BRING: Work gloves, boots or sturdy shoes, long sleeve shirt. and pants made from 100% cotton or wool.
Book the STEAM experience
Book the DIESEL experience
Buy STEAM Gift Certificate
Buy DIESEL Gift Certificate
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. Diesel experiences are also available. Click here for details.
Begin your engineer experience by studying the safety training materials that our regular and volunteer crews learn from (download here). There will be a test on the basics, but we are there to help you all the way through. It is then time to 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. You will be going through two tunnels and climb over 2.5% grades. Up toward the end of the line there is a wye. We will turn the locomotive then head back down to Ely, gaining hands-on experience with controlling a locomotive on a mountain grade. This is real standard-gauge main-line mountain railroading on America's best-preserved railroad. You are at the throttle. You are the engineer. You are running a steam locomotive.
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. Most people come and take the locomotive out without a train attached. It is an easier way to start, and requires less training. Taking the locomotive out with a complete train adds the additional skill of controlling a train on our mountain grades. You may find that it is easier to get the train up a grade than to bring it safely back down. Early in your trip you will begin to appreciate the genius of the Westinghouse Air Brake system, its complexities and limitations for mountain grades - especially on steam locomotives since they do not have dynamic brakes. You will also learn the "technical" term for using up all of your braking capacity by applying and releasing your train brakes too often coming down the mountain grade.
So what are you waiting for? You can have a hands-on experience with railroading in the last century. Make your appointment with history. Use the calendar below to pick your date, or call and book your locomotive rental or train rental today at 1-866-40STEAM (1-866-407-8326). You can operate a steam engine! You can drive a steam locomotive! !
P.S. What would be a greater holiday, birthday, or special gift than being at the throttle of one of our engines for a real engineer experience? You can buy an "open ticket" as a gift and select the exact date later.
Locomotive Rental Frequently Asked Questions.
NOTE: Participants must be able to climb up to the cab unassisted. Due to the harsh environment in locomotive cabs,
no medical devices or assistance, such as oxygen, is possible. Requires
sturdy closed-toed shoes, gloves, a long sleeve shirt and pants, all made from
all-natural material (cotton, wool, leather - no synthetics, vinyl, or rubber
except boot soles). You must
be over 18 years old and have a valid driver's license to operate
the locomotive. One rider, 12 years or older, may ride along in the cab at no additional cost.
(standing room only for rider).
Engine availability is subject to a variety of both controlled and uncontrolled circumstances. Both steam locomotives are over a century old and even the "new" diesels are a half-century old. It is very rare, but possible, that circumstances may require delays, substitutions, or rescheduling.
|Be the Engineer Options||Member||Non-Member|
|Diesel Locomotive Only - mainline 14 mile round trip||$760||$895|
|Diesel Locomotive freight train - mainline 14 mile round trip||$1,913||$2,250|
|ALCO and EMD Diesel Locomotives - 2 trips||$1,275||$1,500|
|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|
If you're ready to book your Be The Engineer - STEAM experience then hover any available date below to book!
reviews about us
My dream since I was 5 years old was to run a steam locomotive. I just turned 18 and that dream just came true. It was an absolutely amazing experience. It was everything I have dreamt and more. My dad came with me and even got throttle time as well. Our Engineer Josh and our Fireman Nick were amazing. Super kind and really made the whole experience by teaching us the ins and outs of operation! If you are looking to do this program I have two words of advice… DO IT! It is something you will remember for the rest of your life. Thank you Josh, Nick and the rest of the Nevada Northern Railway for making my dream come true!
Landon, So glad that you and your dad enjoyed your experience here. Thanks for your kind words. We will pass them on to Josh and Nick.
My wife and I just got back from our trip to Ely and driving 105. Driving was great, but Ben and Brian made it an exceptional experience. Their knowledge of the trains and Great Basin made for great conversations as we drove. The deer and antelope along the line were just a bonus!
Did the Diesel experience on September 25,2022. Just as much fun as the Steam experience last year. Now I have to figure which experience I am going to do next year. Both were bucket list items.
Had a fantastic weekend earlier in September with the NNRY team. Many thanks to Engineer Con and Fireman Josh for making the Be the Engineer experience so enjoyable and memorable with the #81 locomotive. I thoroughly recommend this opportunity to all steam railroad fans and the only caution is once you do this, you’ll want to do it again, and again…. Congratulations and appreciation to the amazing NNRY organization keeping the railroad running and expanding!
Is the Steam Locomotive coal or oil fired?
They are all coal fired. They were delivered from the factories over 100 years ago that way. In the 1940's the railroad experimented with converting one of them to oil, but restored it back to coal.
Great experience for any steam enthusiast. Engineer JIm and crew were excellent and seem to love what they do. My wife got to ride on the foot plate and loved the experience.
Tom, glad to hear that you and your wife enjoyed the experience. We will pass your comments on to Jim and the crew.
I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed my visit to the Nevada Northern Railway, on Saturday, April 8th, 2022. Getting the chance to operate a steam locomotive, was something that was on my "Bucket List" for a long time, The staff were all very friendly and a special thanks to my engine crew Josh and Nick. Nick was a great instructor, and I felt very comfortable sitting in the Engineer's seat and having control of engine #81. Anyone who is interested in running a locomotive, I would highly recommend the Nevada Northern Railway. It is a professional, first class and friendly operation, and you won't be disappointed with the experience It was an adventure of a lifetime, and when my friends asked me , How was it ?... I just told them it was a FANTASTIC experience.
Thanks again, for helping fulfill a boyhood dream.
Jeff, thank you for your note. We all here are very glad to hear about your great experience. We will pass your words on to Josh and Nick. Hope to see you back again sometime down the line.
I was the first Rental engineer to run the #81 2-8-0. September 2021.
Really a great experience. Crew seemed excited to find out too what #81 was capable of, and it's nuances.
I found the braking downhill a lot more challenging than going uphill.
Definitely a to-do if something you have always wanted or dreamed of.
Now, where can I be certified as a Steam engineer? I work as a full time medical doctor in PA. maybe in all my "spare time"
Steven, Thanks for your note. Very much appreciated.
Yes, it is possible to get certified as a steam engineer. We have had several volunteers through the years work their way up through the ranks and become fully certified locomotive engineers. It does take a time commitment. Not sure if there are any railroads back east that have as robust a volunteer program as we have.
I visited Ely in late September, and participated in the "Be The Engineer - Steam" experience on Sunday, 9-19. The adventure was truly a one-of-a-kind event, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My mentor engineer and fireman were sociable and patient in their instruction, and having my hand on the throttle of #93 as we traveled to the Ruth Mining District and return to East Ely was something I will not forget. Thank you to all the employees and volunteers of the Nevada Northern who make this experience possible. Hope to return again real soon.
Milton, thanks for the note. So glad that you enjoyed the Be the Engineer experience. We enjoyed working with you. Hope to see you again up in Ely.
I live in the Seattle, and I drove all the way to Ely. Three hotels, 2,100 miles, and 32 hours round trip. 100% worth it.
Michael, glad that you enjoyed the Be the Engineer experience. We have people who live in Europe and Asia that come up to Ely to have that experience. Hope to see you again down the line sometime.
CommeOur trip to the NNRy was beyond our wildest expectations! Your staff was amazing and we enjoyed them thoroughly. John, Nick, Mike and Angie all were so patient and professional. The equipment is awesome and I know how much work it must be to restore and maintain it.
You have a real treasure there in Ely and I look forward to supporting your efforts as much as possible.
PS – It was also great getting to meet Dirt!
My buddy Steve and I were there on March 13th to do the engineer experience on the Number 40 steam locomotive. Both of us had a awesome time! Conn and Mike were great and made learning easy! Can't say enough about how good they were.
If anyone is considering doing this, you will not be disappointed. Truly a "bucket list" type of trip!
My Dad was a 'Fireman' on the Canadian Pacific railroad & worked out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. How I wish he was still with us to see this opportunity. As it is, I am saving my quarters so I can be the Engineer. Praying that it is soon.
What a unique and wonderful experience to Be The Engineer. I have been a rail enthusiast all my life and operating a steam locomotive was a childhood dream. If you like steam power, or diesel locomotives, you will not regret doing this. All the folks at the NN were super nice, without exception, and made you welcomed and at ease, even Dirt the Cat. I will be back.
Doug, Thank you for coming all the way from Carolina to Ely for the Be the Engineer experience. So glad that you came and enjoyed it. We will pass your comments on to the entire staff, including Dirt the Cat :)
We drove two days to get there but the experience was worth every minute. The hospitality in Ely is terrific and everyone at the NNRR extremely helpful. Drove 93 with a four car train and gained a whole new level of respect for the people who drive mile long trains over the mountains. This fulfilled a 70+ year dream of mine and we hope to return next year to drive the SD9. So Henry, Con and Chris, thanks again for your patience as you explained all the preparations for the ride and a most wonderful experience.
Thank you for coming up to Ely and being part of the Be the Engineer experience. We are glad that you had a great time, and will pass your comments on to the crew.
I thank all at Ely for preserving these fine pieces of machinery for the youth of today to see, feel and smell.
I had a great time. The crew was super friendly and helpful.
These trips also keep NNRY funded and operating. Go for it!
Thaks for the great joy of driving a steam train!!!!!!!!!
For those who are part of one of the programs, please feel free to come to the engine house early and watch us bring a steam locomotive to life each day. We are following the tradition of getting Nevada Northern locomotives ready for the day that has been going on for over 100 years in that engine house, and with those same steam engines.
Thanks, again, Louis, for taking part in the experience.