Monday, July 9, 2012

A Trip to Ely Nevada

Have you ever been to Ely? 
Pronounced EE-lee. 
It's the self proclaimed
"Heart of Nevada's Scenic Wonderland"
It's also a copper mining town.
Sam and I were searching for a small weekend getaway,
and I was hoping for a ride on a historic train.
We had our sights set on the train ride
near the rim of the Grand Canyon.
But cost became the deciding factor.
After seeing ads in the Sunday paper inviting us to
Take a ride back in time on the ghost train
at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum.
We packed and headed to Ely,
located in the middle of
White Pine County, Nevada.
It's about a 4 hour drive from Las Vegas
along a lonely rural road
We did pass a few communities and
some interesting land formations

When we arrived in Ely

We had hoped to find an IHOP for breakfast.
Unfortunately our Garmin (a GPS navigation device)
determined the closest one was over 122 miles away,
as well as a Starbucks
and a Wal-Mart
This is a town set back in time!

We did find a great little place to eat,
The Big Apple Family Restaurant!

And what a spread!
Because of the delicious biscuits and gravy,
I told Sam this is my new favorite restaurant!

After breakfast
we headed to the station...
And stepped back in time.
It was built in 1907

Today we would be pulled by 
The Baldwin Steam Locomotive 4-6-0 No. 40
(4 front wheels-6 middle wheels-0 back wheels)
  bought new in 1910
and called "The Ghost Train" today.
As the story goes, back during WWII
the government was looking for steel
anywhere they could find it. 
The mine train engineers of the time
had taken such a liking to old No. 40
they didn't want to see her scrapped.
First they completely buried her under a
mountain of scrap where she sat for a long time.
When the mountain started to shrink and reveal her,
they dug her out and hid her anywhere they could.
When the government agent would show up to
collect the steel he would ask about No. 40
and was told "Nope, she ain't here"

"you just missed her".
Wherever he went he got the same
answer, "You just missed her"
He dubbed her the "Ghost Train"
in all the years he was collecting steel
he never saw her.
And she survives to this day.
Find out about our train trip
after the jump.

The large wheels provided
a smoother faster ride for passengers

No. 40 is a coal burner and this is her tender.

The engineer steps out for some fresh air.
The back of the boiler is not insulated
and the temperature can reach 350 degrees.

Here's our restored non air conditioned
passenger car.
The only thing new in it was the restroom.
There is also an open air flat car
to sun yourself on.

With the holler "All Aboard" we lined up for
the conductor to take our tickets as we boarded.
All the staff working here are volunteers
with a love of railroading in their blood.

With a few loud chuffs away we went...
I was surprised by the smell of the burning
coal and soot, not too unpleasant,
reminded me of the smell of a match being struck.

We headed out past the train yard...

past the cows, and the neighborhoods...

and downtown Ely...

then past the legal brothels...

and a building with goats in its yard.

We had a live narration on board.
 Rae Nelle O'Donnell,
the voice of the Ghost Train,
she would fill us in on the history of
the town,
copper ore mining,
the story of the official
"Loneliest Road in America"
It ran for a brief stretch alongside the tracks.
Cars would stop and snap pictures as we steamed by.

This sign is on that road.
Here's what this sign looked like when we went past.
Must have been a strong wind....

As we headed out to the mines
that the train used to service
we heard about the legend
(that inspired Stephen King)
of the Chinese miners that were buried alive
in a cave in, and their ghosts can be seen today
walking along the "Loneliest Road" on dark nights.

At the end of the line, some Ely folk called the
"The Ghost Riders"
built a very small western town named Keystone Gulch
where they (on certain dates)
put on a shoot out show for the train
and even have a train robbery.
We didn't get to see this on our trip.

At this point the train reversed
and backed onto a switch track
and kept backing up to another switch track onto a
different branch of the track we were just on,
like a "Y" shape where the top of the "Y"
was connected by a length of curved track.
and started our return trip
on the same track going... forward!....
We had turned completely around!
back at the complex a group of us disembarked
for the guided walking tour,
through the historic engine house
lead by Bob Dallons.
The train pulled pull away bound for the station
and we headed inside the engine machine shop
They were working on a couple of engines,
and steam.
Bob explained that they can no longer just open a book
and order the parts they need. 
"We have to build and machine every part
right here in the shop."
in the shed we saw some old engines
awaiting restoration
including an original wooden body snow blower.
One of only a couple known to still exist.
Bob knew an awful lot about trains....
an awful lot.

After the tour we all walked back to the station.
Bob was explaining how they didn't want people
sitting on the railings so they solved the problem
by welding on these dull spikes,
it did the trick.

Sam and I had also booked passage
on the evening excursion
that included a meal in a dining car,
but we had a few hours to kill till then
so we toured downtown Ely and
the "Famous" Hotel Nevada.
It sure was small....
 compared to a Vegas casino,

and was full of taxidermy animals,

and dusty brick-a-brack.

Upon our return to the station
we found a whole new train waiting
for us.
Well, not a NEW train....
just a different OLD train.
A diesel engine.

 Not even a whole different train.
They just connected a diesel engine on to the back
of the same train cars we were already on.

 Did you notice this device on the ground
in the picture above?
My guess is people use it to scrap mud
or muck off the bottom of their shoes...
a "Boot Scrapper"
Sam called it a "Neck Breaker"
because it could easily trip a person
not watching where they're walking.

The dining car was now at the front of the train.
We weren't aloud on it the last trip.
We boarded it directly this time.

We were served a bag lunch
much like the miners would eat,
consisting of a "Cornish pasty" 
a sort of beef and potato stuffed calzone
(a standard fare for miners, since
it could be eaten with one hand)
two fluffy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies,
an apple, and a can of soda.

This was a special excursion known as the
Rockin' & Rollin' Geology Train

There were two geology experts on board
to give us a presentation about the rocks,

copper ore, and garnets in the hills
and ancient volcanoes
around the town and track.
After the presentation,
 we enjoyed the rest of the leisurely train ride
along the same route we traveled that afternoon.
This time we watched the sun set behind the hills.
At the end of the trip we were given
a small souvenir bag of rock samples
gathered from around the area.

Sam and I spent the night at the local
La Quinta Inn, had a complimentary breakfast
the next morning, and headed home.

It was a wonderful train adventure!
An experience that shouldn't be missed
the next time you find yourself in
Ely, Nevada.

Find out more about the
Nevada Northern Railway Museum
and all the special event trains they offer.
Even a haunted ghost train in October!

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