If you think you were born one hundred years too late to witness the glory of steam railroading, then I 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. All of this equipment has been on the property for decades and in a couple of cases 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 and 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 on the high desert is 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.