What 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 I- 80/Hwy 40 both ways each time before, so this time we opted for 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 ran from Ely, north to connections with the S.P./W.P. 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 N.N. 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 box cars 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 engine house. 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, #40, this one completely intact. But for 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 don't look too bad, at least on the web.
We next drove up towards the smelter where I got a few shoots of the Baldwin switchers at work. Luckily #401 was bringing 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 over pass. 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 to become a museum. #40 had a new career and was put back in service as the Ghost Train of old Ely.
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, have personallyput 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 shoots 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 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.