Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark        Ely, NV

Locomotive 93 at East Ely Depot
View from the NNRY Offices and Visitor's Center
What was life like 100 years ago in a brand-new mining town? Pots, pans, nails,<br>and even underware all would have passed over this very deck on their way to you
It is a simple, yet beautiful site:<br>Headquarters for one of the last remaining short-line railraods in America.
Learn what happens here as you walk through the century-old shop.
The narriated tour will explain some of the Why's of steam railroading

Walking Tour of the East Ely Yard Complex

Walk in the footsteps of history here

Fast Facts

WHAT: Walking tour of the historic East Ely Yard and Shop complex.

WHY: Acclaimed as the best preserved and most original example of an American railroad facility.

WHEN: Daily (except Tuesdays in off-season, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day, New Years Eve and Day.  Arrive prior to 3:30pm (2:30pm on Sunday).

WHERE: Tickets available at the depot, 1100 Avenue A  Ely, NV (at the end of  E.11th Street, off of US 93)

DON'T FORGET: Sturdy walking shoes, hat, sunscreen.

Stepping back in time:

You can walk back to a time when the iron horse ruled the rails. Today, the Nevada Northern Railway is the last of its kind - the sole survivor from a grand era of railroading in the Silver State. Now a National Historic Landmark, it is America's best preserved short-line railroad and most complete rail facility still in existence.

The Nevada Northern Railway is a living, breathing, operating historic railroad.  Sometimes it's gritty, sometimes it's dirty, and sometimes it smells of coal smoke, creosote and sweat.  Locomotives whistle off, cars clang as they are coupled together and wheels squeal as the locomotive is turned on the wye.   When it comes to American Railroad Heritage, this is as real as it gets.

Starting your tour:

Begin your walking tour at the main depot at the end of 11th Street in Ely. When you register at the ticket window you will be given the Walking Tour Passport. It points out highlights of the history that is here.

As you step out of the station and onto the train platform take a moment to put yourself back 100 years. Think about what it would be like if you were one of the recent immigrants to Central Nevada. You might remember that it was only a few months ago that you first set foot in town onto this very platform. You completed the last hundred miles of your long journey in that very same railway coach sitting over across the yard today. You were pulled by the very same steam engine that is getting ready to pull the passenger train trip this afternoon.

East Ely Complex from the deck of the freight house<br>Original oil painting by artist April Raber

East Ely Complex from the deck of the freight house
(Original oil painting by artist April Raber)

Looking to the left you see the Freighthouse.  This was a beehive of activity. It was the place where merchants rapidly growing town sent their wagons to pick up wares. Think of it as the 1910 version of Costco. 

Beyond that, down by the Enginhouse you see the Railroad's original storehouse. There wasn't FedEx back then, so parts needed for the steam locomotives had better be in stock in that storehouse. When parts had to be fabricated they would be made in the main shop, just to the right, with belt-driven lathes and drills that are all still there.  Regularly locomotives would be pulled into the Enginehouse for a quick pit-stop-style maintenance, then dispatched back out on the line to haul more copper ore to help build the nation.

It's all still here, for you to explore.

Putting it all in perspective

This was what it was like.  This is how America was built.  This is how copper was prepared for the industrial process, and how all of the people associated with this industry lived their lives.  This story was replicated throughout the land. Ely produced copper.  Other towns produced steal. Some produced coal. Some made valves, levers, chutes, blowers, timers, drills, cans, needles, pipes, cloth, or books.

Realistically, Ely was just a cog in the big picture of America's Industrial Strength.  The only thing that makes Ely and the Nevada Northern Railway unique is that it was passed over and saved from the scrapping torch as this era came to an end since it was so remote.  At first it was preserved by neglect.  Now this treasure is preserved by conscious effort.  So come, walk through history with us.  Take a look around.  This is exactly how it was.

Map of the East Ely yard
Map of the East Ely Yard.       Click to enlarge.

Safety First:

Safety First -- The Ely Route

You are welcome to experience this firsthand by exploring the railway.  Before you start your explorations, take a look at the historic logo of the Nevada Northern Railway.  Prominent on the logo is the motto of the railroad—Safety First.   There is a reason for the motto: railroading is dangerous. A moment's inattention can cause serious injuries or death.   At one time railroading was the most dangerous occupation in the country.  You are welcome to explore what is the best-preserved, standard gauge, short line railroad left in America.  As you explore the complex, please remember Safety First, and these common-sense rules:

1. Do not park or walk on any track, or closer than six feet to any track.

2. When a train approaches, carefully move away, hold hands with your children, make eye contact with the crew to let them know you are ready to be safe as they pass. 

3. Do not climb on any of the equipment.

4. Look both ways each time you crossing a track; a train could be moving on any track, at any time, and in either direction.

5. Do not enter any of the railway buildings unless museum personnel are present.

6. Do not pick up, move, or collect any artifacts (natural or man-made) that are scattered throughout the grounds.

7. There is no smoking allowed on the railway equipment or grounds except in designated smoking areas.

8. Wear comfortable closed-toe shoes and clothing that doesn't mind getting a little dirty.  This is a real, working railway, so expect to see some oil, dirt, grease, and soot as you explore.

9. Pets are not allowed on trains or on the tours.  The railway is an industrial site that may have some grease, oil, or material fragments that are incompatible with your pet's paws.  Service animals and their owners are always welcome.  We recommend that you protect your service animal appropriately for an industrial setting. 

10. If you have a question, just ask any of the staff or volunteers.

11. Enjoy yourself as you step back in time!

2023 Ticket Prices
Ticket PricesAdultSenior (65+)Child(4-12)Infant (not yet 4)
Train Ride (includes Tour)$39 $33 $15 Free
Guided Tour of Yard and Enginehouse$18 $15 $9 Free
Museum Admission Only$10 $8 $5 Free
Ride with the Engineer (cab ride)$150 n/a n/a
Caboose-Private party-up to 8 passengers$200
Four Day Pass Upgrade$20 $10

Members receive discounts. Memberships start at $30

Members receive free admission to the grounds.
Non-Members are asked to stop by the depot first to pick up a tour guide and
make the General Admission donation of $6 adult and $3 for children 4-12

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Comments (8)

Robert C. Parrish (Tipp City, Ohio, US) says...

I'll be 80 yrs old on Jan 22, 2023. Loved trains all my life, and kittens and cats. The news about "Dirt" this morning made an old man cry. Hope "DJ" takes over for Dad. Hope I can make a trip to see everyone before I follow "Dirt". Sorry for all the guys in the shop, not having "Dirt" anymore except in their memory's. God bless all of you and "Dirt".


Robert, thank you for the note.  Yes, we home you go get to come out our way. 

Richard Sutherland (Wichita Falls. Texas) says...
I was a rental engineer on number 93 on June 8, 2018. My wife, Carolyn, joined mentor engineer Angie Stevens, fireman, Con, and master fireman, Mike, and took the engine from the East Ely yard to Keystone and back. It is one of the highlights of my life and a memory neither of us will ever forget. Everyone we met was very kind and helpful. To be able to step back in time was truly magical. To be able to walk the yard, see the buildings and talk with John and others was a very memorable experience!
Patrick Robinson (New Florence PA) says...
I just can not say how much I liked this tour and place .Coming from western PA and seeing trains being built most of my life . I just can not say enough about this place . Every chance I get out west I come to visit . Can not wait for my next visit .
Admin: Thanks so much for comming all of this way to visit the railroad.  We are glad that you enjoyed your stay here, and hope to see you back again sometime.
Ed O says...
We visited the museum and wandered through many of the buildings. Most interesting if you are a train/history buff but there are also some great black/white contemporary photos upstairs in one of the buildings. The real gem is the machine/maintenance building. The machine shop is so steeped in bygone tools/processes and a massive steam engine that you can just feel the ghosts of workers past. It is located in a huge industrial building with floor to ceiling (maybe 20 or more feet high) windows which cast a beautiful light for photography. You can wander around and see goose neck oil cans like my dad had in our garage and huge drill bits and see how the gigantic wheels were made (cast). We were lucky to be there on a cold day and had no other visitors to contend with spent an hour or so just breathing in and absorbing the history and work of the place. Don't miss this building if you go to the museum.
John Baz-Dresch (Spokane WA) says...
Was some years ago that I was there. Rode train, tour of shop. Is the rotary snow blower now operational? 
Good friend of mine used to work for Kennecott. He told me that it was exactly the same as it was during his Kennecott days.
Buck (Valley Springs Ca.) says...
Glad to see someone is saving our history
doc (pahrump NV) says...
We loved Ely and the train ride, it was great. Doc and the Wolf Pack.
JR (tremontonut) says...
Had a great time. Loved the train ride and the tour of the yards and shops. We will be coming back again to see changes and improvements!