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2014 Winter Steam Spectacular

February 7-9, 2014 and February 14-16, 2014

For photos from 2013 click here

For photos from 2012 click here.

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 ore trains still move from the mine to the mill—steam powered, of course.

Outfit Car 06. Built in 1872, we have done a mild rehab and put this car back in service. It's a beauty—rides like a dream.

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? Bottom Line? Steam locomotive 93 looks good on an 85-degree day in August but wait till you see it on a zero degree-day in February. 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.

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 & 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 shed, 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."

You can experience the grandeur that is steam railroading by participating in the annual Winter Steam Spectacular. We offer incredible opportunities to experience steam railroading up close and invite you to photograph it.

You'll freeze your butt off (hopefully), but we'll keep the fires burning in the cabooses. True, you may have to have your frostbitten fingers, toes, and nose amputated... but when you see your photos, you will be glad that you gave up a body part or two for images that will last a lifetime.

Our steam locomotive pulls a wreck train including an operating steam crane

We'll have steam pulling a wooden passenger train made up of a RPO/baggage car and passenger car. Should there be a mishap on the tracks here, we'll send for the big hook; a 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. Of course, 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. 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. Four wooden boxcars, built in 1912 are in top condition and are ready for their next load.

What happens when you have a derailment? You call out the wreck train.


All the boxcars painted and lettered.

Classic mixed train.

Make your reservations early; there are a limited number of participant slots in each photo session. The 2014 schedule is February 7-9, 2014 and February 14-16, 2014.

This is the best of both worlds. You can photograph scenes from decades ago with all of the conveniences of modern civilization. For more information and to make reservations contact the museum, toll-free, at (866) 407-8326.

Steam locomotives 40 and 93 with steam-powered Wrecking Crane A will be in operation for the photo shoot. Locomotive 93 is lettered N. C. C. Co. (Nevada Consolidated Copper Company). On the track front, the mainline is open to Hiline Junction. From Hiline Junction we have five miles of track on the mainline that has never been in a photo shoot! This section of mainline track is uphill on a southeast bearing.

The cost of the winter photo shoot for non-members is $450 for one weekend or $835 both weekends, for 2.5 days of world-class photography. For members the cost is $395 or $745 for both weekends. Membership starts at $30. The price includes a continental breakfast and hot lunch on both Saturday and Sunday.

(See additional photos from our Feb. 2007 photo shoot here.)


The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is offering a special Steam, Steel, and Strobes Scholarship to attend the railroad’s annual photo event to a participants age 18-30. The photographer selected will receive a free admitance to the event, a $500 stipend and will work with professional photographer Steve Crise during the February 2014 events. To apply, e-mail a proposal of no more than 250 words and three low-resolution images to Mark S. Bassett, Executive Director, Entries must be received by Nov 30, 2013.

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is making this opportunity available to encourage young adults to participate in an outstanding heritage railroading activity. The scholarship includes attendance at our annual photo shoot and $500 that can be used for travel to Ely.

Steve Crise, a professional photographer, will mentor the winners. This is an outstanding opportunity to participate and learn about heritage railroading. There are two opportunities available – February 7-9 and February 14-16. An individual will be selected for both events. 


Call Us 1-866-40STEAM or 1-866-407-8326

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All Rights Reserved - Page Last Updated March 6, 2021