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Winter Photo Weekend

February 16 @ 1:00 pm

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.

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.

  • We’ll have steam pulling our original wooden passenger consist made up of a RPO/baggage car and passenger car.  This consist has been serving passengers and departing from this depot for over a century now.
  • Should there be a mishap on the tracks here, we’ll send for the big hook; our original century old operating steam powered wrecking crane. This wrecking crane is pulled by a century old 2-8-0 steam locomotive that looks like it just rolled out of the American Locomotive Company shops. The wreck train consists of the crane, flat car, tool car, outfit car and, of course, a caboose.  (Don’t worry – even if there is no mishap we will stage one to demonstrate the big hook in action, under steam)
  • Once the tracks are cleared, it’s time to get on with the business of railroading. Freight trains can once again roll and so will ore trains.  We will roll our fleet of original ore cars with our original locomotives.
  • Most of the freight in the last century moved in boxcars. No self respecting railroad would be without boxcars – and the N. N. Ry is no different. A fleet of our original wooden boxcars with arch-bar trucks, built in 1912 are in top condition and are ready for their next load.  Most model railroaders would give anything to have a vintage freight fleet like this.  You will see the real-life, full scale 1912 freight roll by time-after-time this weekend out on our original main-line.


February 16
1:00 pm
Event Category:


Nevada Northern Railway
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Nevada Northern Railway
1100 Avenue A
Ely, NV 89301 United States
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