When Tom and I visited Great Basin National Park, we intended to spend time hiking. Because of afternoon thunderstorms, however, we moved on to the town of Ely, Nevada. We had reservations at the La Quinta hotel in Ely, about 60 miles from Great Basin. We also wanted to visit the Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark.
Having visited lots of historic railways, Tom and I thought we knew what to expect. But it turned out we were wrong. The Nevada Northern Railway is a series of buildings that look like the Nevada Northern is still running the area. Instead, when the company left town, they turned over everything to the non-profit organization that runs the railway today. It was eerie to walk around the area feeling like a train could pull up any minute.
Trains do run at the Nevada Northern Railway most days of the week. We arrived too late to ride but we were still able to walk, unescorted, into any of the buildings on the grounds. We saw two men go by on a handcart. Tom and I met a mechanic who told us that every hour the trains are on the rails, requires 10 hours of maintenance in the yard. We talked to the woman in the ticket booth who told us to wander anywhere but to “stay safe!”
The Engine House was definitely the most interesting part of the Nevada Northern Railway. Tools were laying out, ready for the next person to pick them up and continue the job. A timetable told when different engines would be running. Tom loved exploring the huge blacksmith’s shop where they fixed or created parts for the engines. We saw the forms for creating new railroad car wheels. The rail yard cat followed Tom around with an unerring instinct for the person least likely to feed it.
The Nevada Northern Railway includes 56 acres and 63 buildings, shops, and structures. We saw two operating steam locomotives and three operating diesel engines. Because they have all the equipment, the railway runs a national training program in preserving and maintaining historic engines and train cars.
The whole time Tom and I walked around, we were the only visitors. We had the whole place to ourselves and were largely ignored by the people who continued with their work on the railway. The Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark was a fascinating stop on our journey.