the end of summer 1970, just before I was about to start my senior
year at Berkeley. My friend Chris Vels and I heard that there had
been a series of washouts in Animus Canyon on the narrow gauge Denver
&Rio Grande Western Railroad. They were supposed to be running
steam powered work trains to help deal with the problem. We decided
to take a trip to Colorado to see and take some pictures.
would happen in Colorado is another story that I will perhaps relate
some other time. This was our fourth such trip together and the third
time we would cross Nevada. We had taken Interstate 80/US Hwy 40 both
ways each time before, so this time we opted for US Hwy 50. We got
as far as Bob Scott Summit east of Austin late at night on the first
day and camped at the Bob Scott campground.
We both of had copies of David Myrick's Railroads of Nevada &
Eastern California so we were aware that there was a short line
railroad in Ely. We had both read the book once, but didn't remember
too much in detail. But at least we both knew that the Nevada Northern
Railway ran from Ely north to connections with the Southern Pacific
Railroad and the Western Pacific Railroad. So, on day two, when we
got to Ely, we stopped to check it out. At this time the mines and
smelter were both still in full operation.
After driving through downtown Ely we came upon two steam locomotives
and some other equipment on display beside the main street at the
White Pine County Museum. I always made it a practice to shoot a few
slides whenever I saw a steam locomotive on display, so I did that
here. The first images in this Gallery are those slides; note the
green boiler on #93.
From here we went on to check out the Nevada Northern Railway yards.
The yards were well kept, but there seemed to be no one around. No
doubt there was someone keeping an eye on us from the railroad offices
on the second floor of the depot, but no one bothered us. As a model
railroader some of the cars in the yard were of interest; the wooden
boxcars with arch bar trucks were worth a few shots as were a couple
of ore cars that were sitting around. The depot and coal tipples were
worth a few shots too. Note what nice shape the boxcars seem to be
in. Compare this with the more recent black & white images in
the other N. N. Gallery.
We next went over to the enginehouse. Again, there was no one around,
but the doors were open and feeling a little bold we walked in. What
a surprise to find another steam locomotive, it was locomotive 40,
and this one was completely intact. Other than a thick coat of dust,
it looked like it had been run yesterday. I took a few shoots in the
engine house, long hand held exposures at f1.4 with my trusty Canon
FTql. These aren't razor sharp, but they don't look too bad, at least
on the web.
We next drove up towards the smelter where I got a few shots of the
Baldwin switchers at work. Luckily locomotive 401 was arriving with
the twice a week train down from Cobre and I got a shot of that. Finally,
we saw an empty ore train coming down along the Hiline. It was a long
ways off and moving slowly, but we watched it and finally figured
that it would eventually turn west and pass under the Hwy 93 overpass.
We waited there to get a few shots of it coming into town. From there
we headed east, Colorado beckoned.
When I got home, I had my Kodachrome developed and the slides were
fine. I projected them and the others from that trip, showed them
to a few friends and then put them away in a cabinet where they have
sat for years. In fact. I kind of forgot about them. Fast Forward.
The mine closed. The smelter closed. The railroad shut down, but it
wasn't scraped. Kennecott Copper, the owner of the railroad gave it
to a non-profit organization to become a museum. Locomotive 40 had
a new career and was put back in service as the Ghost Train of Old
In 1987, I read about it in "Pacific Rail News" and next
year, 1988, I returned to Ely, this time with my large format view
camera. Today the Nevada Northern is the most complete steam-era railroad
facility in the United States. Over the years, I've done more photography
at Ely that anywhere else. Now I've become involved with the museum
I have personally put some of those old wooden boxcars back into service
and have started a book about the railroad which I hope to have out
in time for the railroad's centennial in 2005/2006.
By this time I had forgotten what was in those slides taken 34 years
ago. But I became curious and pulled them out. I thought that I
had few shots of #40, but to my surprise I had a pretty good little
photo essay that covered the railroad pretty well. Not many rail
photographers stopped in Ely when the railroad was a going concern.
Now those images seem a lot more significant than they did when
I took them. When I took these slides, the railroad was not a museum,
personal computers did not exist, there were no digital images,
and the internet did not exist. We have all of that today, so it
strikes me that I should share those images made 34 years ago and
put them on the web, here they are.