NSS 75th Anniversary Convention

Nevada Northern Railway

Track for the Nevada Northern Railway was laid over a century ago, connecting one of the largest copper mines in North America to the transcontinental routes to the north. Today, several of the original steam locomotives that were ordered and delivered new to the railroad over a century ago are still in operation. Curators of the Smithsonian Institution have called the Nevada Northern Railway, "the most complete, most authentic, and best cared-for" railway museum in the country.

Best of all, when you come to the 2016 NSS Convention, you're going to ride it!


The ore line was built to transport the low grade porphyry copper ore from deposits located some 11 miles west of the railroad terminal at East Ely to the mill concentrator and smelter situated some 12 miles northeast at the town of McGill.

The ore line was completed in 1908. At almost 23 miles in length, the rails extended through Robinson Canyon to the mines at Copper Flat, Ruth and Veteran. Ore shipments commenced using the 90 Class 2-8-0's No.'s 90-93 to power the ore trains. The first ore was milled in May of that year.

Audio Tour

Audio compliments of Nevada Commission on Tourism

The mine properties were originally underground developments; however, the Eureka and Liberty shafts of Nevada Consolidated's (Nevada Con) Copper Flat properties warranted the open-cut method of mining. Steam shovel operations began at the Eureka mine and at the Liberty shaft in August 1907 and 1909, respectively. The two pits were connected in 1916 to form a single, large pit known as the Liberty Pit, also called the Ruth or Copper Flat pit. By 1912, eight steam shovels worked the day shift and three shovels were employed at night, handling 9000 tons of ore per day.

During the 1958 recession, Kennecott Copper Corporation bought Consolidated Coppermines properties at Kimberly, and all of the Robinson Mining District then belonged to Kennecott's Nevada Mines Division.

After several decades of fluctuating commodity prices, a world-wide depression in the copper market and environmental issues relating to the aging smelter combined to spell the end of Kennecott's copper mining operations in the Robinson District. In September, 1978 KCC NMD mines were closed and the ore trains ceased operation. On 20 June 1983, the McGill smelter closed and the Nevada Northern Railway ceased operations.

A Legend Preserved

Nevada Northern Railway

Check the Programs area of our website for full-length videos you may download for your grotto meetings.

In a series of donations beginning in 1986, Kennecott transferred the entire ore line, as well as the railroad's yard and shop facilities in East Ely, to the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation, a non-profit organization which operates the property as the Nevada Northern Railway Museum.

Today, the Nevada Northern Railway is the last of its kind - the sole survivor from a grand era of railroading in the Silver State. Now a National Historic Landmark, it is America's best preserved short-line railroad and most complete rail facility still in existence. You can walk back to a time when the iron horse ruled the rails.

The Nevada Northern Railway is a living, breathing, operating historic railroad. Sometimes it's gritty, sometimes it's dirty, and sometimes it smells of coal smoke, creosote and sweat. Locomotives whistle off, cars clang as they are coupled together and wheels squeal as the locomotive is turned on the wye. When it comes to American Railroad Heritage, this is as real as it gets.


When you come to Ely for the 2016 NSS Convention, the NNRY will be impossible to miss. It's only a few blocks from our campground and a short shuttle ride to our sessions location. During the days, the steam whistles may be heard all over town giving an ambiance to the valley you can't experience anywhere else. Located at 1100 Avenue A in Ely, the museum, depot and gift shop are open daily from 8am to 5pm.

Historic Train Rides

The convention staff is organizing several excursions over the week that will allow you to personally experience this living piece of history. If you'd like a greater in-depth experience, a pre or post option could get you behind the throttle on one of these classic locomotives. Check our registration schedule for more details, or visit the NNRY's website at http://nnry.com.


Elevation: 6,437 ft
State: Nevada
District: White Pine County
Coordinates (WGS84): 39.259318, -114.869091
Nearest town: Ely, NV
Distance from the convention: 1/2 mile

Links & Resources

  • Nevada Northern Railway

  • Things to do in Ely, Nevada

  • Be the Engineer!

  • Railroad Reality Week

  • Riding the Rails in Old Ely