HW 50 – Steamy Ely

Why Steamy? Well, old trains and legal hookers are to be found here….

The first sight in town gives you a good idea of the kind of town Ely is….  a fun one, lively and vibrant with its painted murals on most exterior walls. In this post, I will concentrate on photos of the railway station – it’s worthy of lots of photos.

When the Nevada Hotel and Gambling Hall opened in 1929, it was the tallest building in the state and its first fire-proof building.

Prohibition was in still in effect when the hotel opened, and from the beginning, bootlegged refreshment and gambling were available 24 hours a day. “Bathtub Gin” made from raw alcohol, water, and flavourings and “White Lightening” was conveniently supplied by local individuals.

On October 24 the Stock Market crashed and Depression struck and the Hotel Nevada leased commercial space to a bank and drug store as well as providing illegal gambling and booze. When Gambling was again legalised in 1931, the owners immediately installed blackjack tables and slot machines.

Many famous stars have stayed in this hotel – there are stars naming some on the footpath in front of the hotel – but nowadays it is a favourite of the Harley crowd and rooms can be had for $40.10.

We decided to stay at The Jailhouse though – much easier to have the bike right outside the door.

 We were allotted cell number

This motel had an excellent restaurant where the customer is seated in actual jail cells

But the highlight of this town for both J and me is the Northern Nevada Railway Museum.

Built in 1906, the Nevada Northern connected the enormous pit mines at Ruth with the smelter on the old McGill Ranch, and then with the main line at Cobre for an overall run of not quite 150 miles. After considerable repair and restoration, the Nevada Northern began carrying passengers again in 1986.

Railroad buffs now converge on Ely from all over the world. They light up with pleasure as the antique locomotives squeal and hiss up to the passenger depot. They thrill at the conductor’s “All Aboard!” 

No wonder: Magic happens as the antique steamers chuff solemnly away from the station. Wheels clickety-clacking, cars swaying, the world gliding slowly by, kids waving from their bikes, cows looking up in dim curiosity, sky spread big and bright overhead — it’s a unique and delightful experience for its own sake, and even more for being the real thing — this is not a reconstruction or a restoration.

Jan and I had a great time exploring the railroad sheds – such fascinating stuff from another era and a time when everything had to be fixed by hand, not by computers.

 The Snow Shifter

Absorbed in doing that, I was a bit chuffed when he came to find me and had bought a ticket so I could ride the Ghost later that afternoon.

So we rode back to the motel for a sarnie and a cuppa and to empty my camera cards and recharge batteries and we were back at the station by 4pm.

The adventure begins with the haunting whistle of the majestic steam train over the historic town. Ely’s Nevada Northern Railway first steamed up its Engine #40 in 1986 after she sat silently for 22 years. Today, this ghost of a grander era in America’s incredible railway past, as well as several others, carry passengers along original copper-ore routes in a journey rich with history.

 Ghost – Engine #40
 All aboard whose coming aboard!

Theories abound as to why Locomotive 40 was dubbed the Ghost Train. Some speculate it’s because the mighty engine was hidden by railroad workers so it wouldn’t be sold for scrap, while others say the engine is simply a ghostly symbol of another era. The roughly two-hour narrated ride carries its  guests past eerie abandoned miner’s camps, old mine shafts and through a small tunnel. The clanging bells, lingering whistle and chugging engine of the Ghost Train mingle with steam and burning coal, making the perfect recipe for a hauntingly memorable journey.

Photography on board was not as simple as I anticipated – the movement is decidedly shaky! The other problem was the flying cinders and the soot that was blown backwards. But this made the journey all the more authentic. The engineers boilersuits suddenly made more sense!

The engineers and the conductor
Off we go – Bye Jan
Leaving town
 Hi there girls – see you later; Brothels are legal in Nevada – state-run actually. The girls come out to wave as we chug by
You can see the Nevada Hotel on the right o this photo
the crew enjoying the evening sun on one of the carriages
This coach was off limits…
But this one wasn’t

Meanwhile, Jan had the workshop to explore – very much in his element, greasy, oily stuff…

And here’s a video of the train getting up STEAM

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