Large Scale Central

Annual Nevada Pilgrimage

Each year (mostly) I head to Nevada for the V&T RR Historical Society Conference in Carson City.

This year, the trip has a twist: a visit beforehand to the Nevada Northern in Ely (on the other side of the state) for their annual Symposium / gathering.

9 hour travel by plane tomorrow, followed by a 5 hour drive across the desert, should be interesting. I’m planning on having my first Red Bull or two, haha!

After the NN, will be in Tonopah for a couple days, then up to Carson for the conference.

Anyway, I’ll post here and there on the things I’m seeing or trouble I’m getting myself into.


1 Like

I’m gonna hold you to it !

The Nevada Northern is a great one to visit. I think they now have 2 or maybe 3 steam locos operational. You will probably get a shop tour, very interesting equipment. Have fun :smiley:

Nevada Northern has been on my list for a long while. With my kids and grand kids in Denver, I get closer almost every year. It’s a little too far to drive from Denver unless I have lots of time, like retired kind of time. But, with a minimum of 5 hour drive from Vegas plus airport and flight times the extra time might not be that much.

Jon, when you travel to the middle of nowhere, Ely is about another 20 miles :smiley:

1 Like

The big travel day went very well, no hiccups. Well, except getting pulled over… for weaving… cuz I was gawking at the scenery. But the nice officer gave me a break. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

The drive from Reno to Ely took about 5 hours, most of it with a 70 speed limit. Along the way I noticed lots of places I’d have been interested in stopping for, like all the markers for the Pony Express (hwy 50 was part of that route); two ruined ancient fort-like structures; Austin (super cool gold rush town!) and Eureka (ditto), both with museums; and just exploring. I needed to hoof it though.

The neat thing about this drive is that you’re cutting through a series of roughly north-south mountain ranges, getting higher in altitude. With each summit, you look down into the next valley. And to a significant degree, each range and valley has a unique look.

So I couldn’t help stopping several times to snag some shots with the phone camera, some of which I’ve just stitched together. Obviously, I made it to the hotel. :grin:

These mountains look like those above Virginia City, and they give me ideas on how to better “foliate” them.

I think the white strip is alkali, which made the waters of the “40 mile desert” so poisonous to early immigrants and their livestock.

I had to get out of the car for this scene, just because.

Tomorrow at 8 am the Nevada Northern symposium starts.


How did you like that climb heading east out of Austin?

1 Like

Amazing Rick, and great view at the top!

Cool little town, tons of mining history, wish I could have stopped!

After walking around the Ely yard, we registered at the depot there.

The initial event was to tour the McGill depot, 15 minutes north of Ely, which the NN organization also owns and is restoring. They plan to extend their train runs up to that point.

They also own the Kennecott mining office buildings next to that depot, which were opened a year ago for exploration (after being boarded up since the 70’s). So we toured that creepy-fascinating time capsule by lantern. All kinds of ephemera still on the walls, like corporate literature; lots of old equipment.

Mo’ later…


Neil has Lionel

Rod has his H.O. empire


Warren has

Just saying ?

I also forgot to ask where the short guy urinal is while standing in line for a ticket {back in the day in the hood}.

Possibly above the electrical outlet ?

Which Neil?


The problem is even more complicated than you suggest Rooster, this being the women’s waiting room.

This afternoon we toured the (operating) Kennecott Copper mine in Ely. Very good 1-hr intro and safety lecture, super informative. Then we were driven to their main operating pit, 7,000’ elevation at its rim. Fascinating, high tech, efficient, but controversial for some. So I’d rather stick with the railroad topics.

After getting back, the main event today was a train ride from Ely to up past Kennecott and back, with hors d’oeuvres & drinks. This was pulled by the 2-8-0 #81:



1 Like

The conference was mainly lectures today, and really amazing ones on the creation of the present NNRY railroad, from the guys who did it, covering all the details of obtaining the RR from, and ongoing partnership with, Kennecott. Also the ongoing scanning, archiving and uploading of all the original RR docs, which the present RR inherited from Kennecott. And other subjects. All amazing.

The main experiential thing was a 2.5 hour evening train ride to the site of the smelter in McGill, in the opposite direction we took yesterday. Their plan is to restore the tracks to McGill, and continue restoration of facilities there. They did a Q&A on the ride back, with the main staff on a mic, taking q’s from we passengers, on pretty much all aspects of the RR. Again, all amazing.

Anyway, this train was pulled by their Alco RS-2 and RS-3, in their first doubleheded event of this tourist operation. I’m not a diesel guy, but wow, these are beautiful locos! And MU’d!

Here’s their runaround at the far end.

The sunset on the ride back was spectacular.

A wonderful day of storytelling by the men and women who saved this railroad and are steadily rebuilding it.

Tomorrow’s the last day, and their big steamup.


I gotta say this is one astounding organization. Here’s a few bullet points from my experience here.

  • Ely is on the country’s “loneliest highway,” in the middle of nowhere, and 200 miles from the nearest Walmart. Think about that. Yet their attendance is growing, both nationally and globally.
  • People all over are planning vacations around their bookings of their NNRY bookings – especially the “sky train” “astro-tourism” rides, which are sold out a year in advance. This is because the area is official “dark sky,” and the rides involve numerous telescopes and Great Basin Natl Park rangers to explain the stars.
  • Those star trains are huge for the finances, as are the “geology trains” and others.
  • Staff here seem to be like a family. Yet they welcome every volunteer in, to be part of that family.
  • Over 120 volunteers, worldwide, of all skill sets, age levels, scheduling opportunity, on site or on line.
  • Operating staff is surprisingly young, having begun in their teens.
  • RR is 100% FRA regulated. FRA inspectors like this RR because these folks are so on board with safety and other regulations.
  • The shop cat, “Dirt,” has become huge. Just look up Dirt the cat.

By far, this has been the biggest example of real-time big dreaming and goal acquisition that I’ve ever come in personal contact with, so it’s been massively inspirational for me.

I won’t be going to the symposium next year, but I’d encourage anyone here to consider it. Or just to go there at any other time. And have fun getting there. :wink:



Thanks for all the details. Like I said, it’s been on my list for a long time, just need to make the time to get there.

As far as “real-time big dreaming and goal acquisition”, they have been at it a lot longer, however, the progress made and future plans of the East Broad Top Foundation, and the Friends of the East Broad Top are pretty impressive too. Fortunately, they are close enough for me to get there more often. In fact, I’ll be traveling that way on Thursday for the weekend long Fall Reunion of the FEBT. Six hours pulling the travel trailer will be our longest trip since our 2009ish trip to Cass.

And if I must ride behind a diesel, there’s nothing like an Alco with original Alco prime movers. We have several operating RS-3’s near me, but they are remotored with EMD. It’s just not the same :frowning_face:

Thanks Jon, and yeah, I need to get to EBT!!

Today was a blast. After a final talk about the NNRY’s future plans, we went to the yard where several mini-events were set up for us to photograph / video.

Things began with #93 pulling alongside #81.

Then #81 and its coaches took off for the 11:00 train up to Kennecott…

Followed by #93 pulling away with its ore cars.

Then the #93 ore train did a few drive-by’s.

Then a tripleheader of RS units came by.

Their #801 also got into the dance.

Here they are again. My favorite piece is their steam wrecker, which shows up at the end.

The wrecker was carefully rigged for hoisting a massive diesel loco motor block from one flat, and setting it onto another. The little 310 handles the flat car shifts.

The wrecker tool car is cool.

And their rotary is gorgeous!

At about 1:30 things wrapped up, and I did the 2.5 hour drive to Tonopah. More beautiful scenery, wow. I’m here at the historic Mizpah Hotel, claimed to be the #1 most haunted hotel in the US. Here’s my room, complete with chandeliers, red velvet, dark wood, and creepy photos of long-gone persons.

I don’t believe in ghosts at all. But if you don’t hear from me tomorrow, now you’ll know what happened.



How’m I doing, Rooster? :crazy_face: