Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark        Ely, NV

Be a part of the photo-line<br> as the vintage NNRY equipment works for you
Full head of steam out of East Ely
93, Wrecking crane, and outfit car
We have been asked if it ever snows in Ely for the Winter photo shoots
What could be finer?  You are actually standing right here, taking this picture.
Locomotive 40 and her original passenter cars <br>have been together on this rail for over a century
Get great shots that you just can't get during the regular season
Call to Action!<br>Send out Locomotive 93 with the wrecking crane
93 working the grade out of East Ely yard.

Winter Steam Photo Weekend Spectacular

Historic Railroad Steam Engines, Rolling Stock, and Maintenance Equipment

Fast Facts

WHO: Avid railroad photographers from around the world come to Ely for the annual photo shoot.

WHEN: Second and Third weekends in February. Three days, Friday through Sunday

WHAT: Most all of our vintage locomotives and rolling stock will be in operation. Organized run-bys, night photo ops, and working equipment demonstrations.

BRING: Cameras, tripod, and warm clothes.

HOW:  Reserve your weekend here

Also, keep in mind our
Photo Workshop

If you think you were born one hundred years too late to witness the glory of steam railroading, then we have good news for you: you weren't. There still exists a place where steam locomotives rule the rails.

Hidden away in the high desert of east central Nevada is a time capsule like no other, the Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark. Annually during the first two weekends in February, time travel is possible. Come to Ely Nevada, set your watch back a century, and photograph railroading as it was in the last century.

The Nevada Northern Railway is not a mishmash of equipment from different railroads or different countries, nor is the equipment prettified or garish. This is the original railroad equipment in the original paint schemes in the original setting, on the original Nevada Northern Railway mainline.  All of this equipment has been on the property for decades, and some if it more than a century, all of it still operating on the original track that was graded and laid a century ago.

This was the time when steam moved mountains. The real business of this railroad was copper and copper was king! It was the reason that the railroad was built in the first place. Ore trains ran day and night, year round. The demand for copper was insatiable. It was the miracle metal that made all of the newfangled inventions, such as the electric light and the telephone, possible. Today our trains still move from the mine to the mill—steam powered, of course.

What can you expect during the photo shoots? World-class photographic opportunities, steam locomotives pulling vintage freight and passenger cars that are original to the railroad. Here, trains are still made up with wooden cars whose origins date back as far as 1872. The crews will be in period dress, adding to the experience.

So why come to Ely in the winter? If you think that Steam locomotive 93 looks good on an 85-degree day in August but wait till you see it on a frosty February day. Billowing white clouds of steam plus plumes of black & gray smoke towering above the canyons and valleys. Snow? Weather here can be capricious! It can range from blizzard conditions to cobalt blue skies sometimes within minutes. In the past we've experienced every type of meteorological conditions that wintertime Ely experiences, including shirtsleeve weather. But regardless of the weather, the show goes on.

NNRY Wrecking Crane
Participants have won numerous photo contests, recording timeless scenes of a historical railroad that are second to none. Many of the "Winter Spectacular" photos rival the best that National Geographic has to offer.

Of course locomotives, rolling stock and tracks are a big and obvious part of this railroad. But its just part of what makes a railroad work. You also need the infrastructure: Enginehouse, machine shop, carpenter shop, blacksmith shop, depot and dispatcher building. Oh and don't forget, the locomotives go nowhere without stopping at the coaling tower and water standpipes. We have those too, the original ones!

Considered by William L. Withuhn, Curator emeritus, History of Technology and Transportation at the Smithsonian Institution, "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 stand-out one. Historic tracks, original depot and office building, Enginehouse, Freight Station, three original steam locomotives, five historic and rare wooden passenger cars, Kennecott diesel engines, 60 early freight cars, working machine shop, foundry-even the coaling tower and water tower that are icons of the site-everything is still there."

What will we have running for the next photo shoot?  It varies from year-to-year, but in general we have a broad range of original, Vintage Nevada Northern Railway equipment running out on the main line and in the East Ely yard. 

Take a look at the review written by Robert W. Scott of Trains Magazine.

We are offering "Steam, Steel and Strobes" Scholarships for two applicants, age 18-30.  Details here.

View more details here:

  • Photoshoot Frequently Asked Questions
  • Photoshoot Safety Rules
  • Welcome Letter
  • Night Photoshoot Instructions
  • Price and Discounts

    Winter Steam Spectacular 2023MemberNon-Member
    Either Weekend$638 $750
    Both Weekends$1,020$1,200
    Still Photography Workshop$995$1,170

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

    Dates and Reserve Your Spot

    Dates and Tickets for Winter Steam Spectacular

    You may also want to consider our Photography Workshop.

    Advanced reservations are strongly suggested since this event usually sells out.
    Do not drive to Ely unless you have a confirmed reservation.

    Read hundreds of Trip Advisor reviews Read hundreds of
    reviews about us

    Add Comment

    * Required information
    Drag & drop images (max 3)

    Comments (8)

    Robert Connelly (Myrtle Beach, US) says...

    I love remembering the days of my childhood walking to school and waiting for the steam locomotive to pass through our small town. The engineers would blow the whistle and wave to us kids. Days gone by……..

    Robert James (Toano, Virginia, US) says...

    I participated in a February 2022 Winter Steam Photo Weekend Spectacular. Spectacular is the right word. This is a great team on a superb property that loves to show their historic and unique property. Here you can see and do things not available at other railroads, including wandering (and photographing) the shops and yards. Because the railroad puts on its own program, there is added value and knowledge.

    Steve Somers (Chino Hills, California, US) says...

    If you even think this might be fun, THEN DO IT! I'm coming back in 2022 for my second round and love visiting the NNRY Museum. The staff is wonderful and the photo shoot is a hoot! Great setups and opportunities. Being able to rove and shoot throughout the train maintenance house is incredible. Dirt was nonchalant about the whole thing, but I loved it. This is a great piece of living history you'll never forget. I'd like to thank Mark for all he does to support this great endeavor. NNRY Winter Spectacular is one of a kind. Don't miss it!


    Steve, glad that you enjoyed the Locomotive 81 Inaugural Photo Shoot weekend.  We enjoyed putting it on and having everyone on board after all of the work over the past two years restoring 81.  Hope you see you again sometime.

    Andrew McDonald (Odessa MO) says...
    This past year (2019) was my second trip to Ely for the Winter Steam Photo Weekend Spectacular. As before, the weekend presented many fantastic photo opportunities. We had snow which made the photos even more incredible. Mark and the guys and gals who work on this railroad are passionate about making sure you get the shot you want.

    I capped my three days of train photography with driving #40 up Robinson Canyon on Monday. It was my first time in a steam locomotive cab. I learned a lot about how these amazing machines work from my Engineer/Teacher Mike and my fireman, Chris. I highly recommend it.

    So, if you love photography and you love steam, NNRY is the place to go in February. I'm headed back for 2020.

    I've got an album of photos from the weekend here:
    Admin: Andrew, glad that you enjoyed the experience, and that you were able to say the day after for the Be the Engineer experience.  Hope to see you back again soon.
    bob birdsall (Barnegat Light) says...
    I've been on many photo shoots. I have never been on one where the hosts work as hard as these volunteers to put on a great show and shoot. The scenery is spectacular and the engines and rolling stock are indescribable.. I hope to go back.
    Admin: Bob, Thank you for the kind note.  It really was our pleasure to have you along on the photoshoot.  We enjoy putting it on each year for such an enthusiastic audience.
    Gretchen (Nevada) says...
    I had a terrific experience at the 2017 Winter Steam Shoot. It was fantastic learning more about trains and being around a group of people who were so passionate about photographing them. The NNRY staff were wonderful hosts, very patient with doing lots of run-bys so we could get the perfect photo and willing to take suggestions on how to get a composition an individual wanted. I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I signed up for the weekend, and it exceeded all my expectations.
    Wayne (Idaho) says...
    This is a great event. I which I could make it back there every year. We get a really close look at some of the best historic railroad equipment in the country working in the snow and cold.
    Mark Pappalardo says...
    I've had the pleasure of attending the Winter Steam Photo Spectacular 5 times. If I could make it every year, I would. It really is like going back in time. The 93 & 40, the freight, passenger & work equipment, the shops and the people that keep the railroad running make for an amazing experience. The pride they take in the Nevada Northern shows.

    Mark and his crew do well at mixing things up each year to keep things as different as possible for the people who've attended before, while keeping some of the trademark scenes each year for those that are new.

    One of my favorite things to do is to simply wander in and around the shops to look for new details to photograph. And the low winter sun provides some interesting lighting inside the shops as it streams through the windows and changes angles throughout the day.

    Hopefully Mark and his crew will keep this going for many years to come. I still have a lot of wandering & photographing left to do.