Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark        Ely, NV

Fast Facts

WHAT: Capital campaign to finish the restoration of Locomotive 81.

WHY: Locomotive 40 will be shopped soon for a major overhaul, and two steam locomotives are imperative to keep the program operating at sustainable levels.

GOAL: To have Locomotive 81 operational by May 2020


Sponsor a Part of the Restoration.

Make a donation in any amount.

Start/Renew your Membership

Phoenix Dare:

This phase of the capital campaign is to finish restoring Locomotive 81 to full service.  Why a Phoenix?  Every time we light a fire in a steam locomotive, we consume a portion of it.  A steam locomotive can die, but, just like a Phoenix, a steam locomotive can be reborn, to begin the cycle all over again!  That’s what the Phoenix Dare is all about, regenerating this 19th century railroad to face the challenges of the 21st century!

Phoenix Dare Checklist:

How have we done in the last two years of the Phoenix Dare Campaign?

  1. Rebuilding the diesel engine in Locomotive 109 and return it to service. Check, DONE!
  2. Completing the 1472-day overhaul, rebuild, and inspection on Locomotive 93, and return her to service. Check, DONE!

Now we’re onto our third and biggest project, the return of steam locomotive 81 to operation!

  1. Prepare 81 for a complete overhaul.  Check DONE!
  2. Open the boiler, remove all tubes, and inspect.  Check, DONE!
  3. Rebuild boiler to original specs. Check DONE!
  4. Rebuild running gear.  Check DONE!
  5. Rebuild and reinstall all appliances and controls.  In Process!


Why the push to restore Locomotive 81?  Easy.  People come here to experience standard-gauge, main-line steam engines working like it was 1918.  In 2020, Locomotive 40 will go out of service for two years, for her 1472-day boiler overhaul and running gear rebuild. That would leave Locomotive 93 as our sole operating steam locomotive.  We learned the hard way, if we don’t have an operating steam locomotive, visitors won’t make the long trek to Ely!

In 2008, we experienced a year without steam. The results were devastating, our ridership dropped almost 30% and even worse, our revenue dropped over 40%! We cannot, we must not, let that happen again. Since 2008, like a Phoenix, due to the incredible hard work of our staff, volunteers, donors and members, we rose up from the ashes. Today, our ticket revenue has grown by over 70% from the depths of 2008.  We learned our lesson. By 2020 we must have two operating steam locomotives. If we don’t, we are setting ourselves up for a catastrophe!

Join / Renew / Donate

Would you like to Renew your Membership, or Become a Member?  Put that in the cart first,

Then you will be given the opportunity to also Contribute to the Phoenix Dare before finalizing your cart

You can also consider sponsoring a specific part for the restoration.

Locomotive 81 undergoing restoration

In the 1907 machine shop, the Phoenix magic has started, 81’s boiler has been stripped and the tubes are coming out. This photo, also illustrates our mission to train the next generation in the care and feeding of the iron horse.

Locomotive 81 undergoing restoration

Locomotive 81 back in the day.
What an amazing workhorse she is!

Cover letter of original order for Locomotive 81

On August 22, 1916, this letter from our archives, started the process for ordering Locomotive 81. Seven months later, at a cost of $23,700, it would be delivered here.