Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark      Ely, NV

That can be you, climging up into the cab to take control of Locomotive 40
Have you ever wondered about that view from the engineer's seat?<br>Come, experience it this year.
Locomotive 40 and you - together today as you head up the mountain
The time has come! The student engineer is ready to head up the hill<br>toward Keystone under the supervision of our instructor engineer.
Heading up the mountain with you at the throttle.<br>It's nice up here, isn't it?
Two can share the Engineer experience
Make no mistake about it - Girls can operate steam locomotives too! <br><a href='' target='_blank' <em>Click here to see the interview with Engineer April</em>
This couple drove from California to share the engineer experience together
		<br><a href='' target='_blank' <em>Click here to view the complete interview</em>
Just returning from their run, a big thumbs up on this experience!
		<br><a href='' target='_blank' <em>Click here to view the complete interview</em>
Another couple returning from their run.
		<br><a href='' target='_blank' <em>Click here to view the complete interview</em>
Back from the trip. A renter from Germany (center)<br>surounded by the fireman(left) and instructor(right)
You are here, at the throttle of a real freight train
Whistle for that grade crossing           —  —  º  —
<br>From now on, it will always be more than just a will have done it!
Pulling ore cars up and out of East Ely toward the Ruth Mine

Be the Engineer - Your hand on the Throttle

Run a Locomotive - Hands-On History
This is something you are going to remember forever

Fast Facts

WHAT: You will be in control of one of the original Nevada Northern Railway locomotives, running it on the original mainline.

WHEN: By reservation, so make plans in advance. Generally weekends from May thru October

WHO: You can share the experience with another person. Both of you will be in the cab and take turns controlling the locomotive.

BRING: Work gloves, boots or sturdy shoes, long sleeve shirt. and pants made from 100% cotton or wool. 

Book the STEAM experience
Book the DIESEL experience

Buy STEAM Gift Certificate
Buy DIESEL Gift Certificate

Sign on as a Nevada Northern Railway engineer for your own trip "Up the hill" through Robinson Canyon, up toward the old Ruth Mining District.  You (and a friend, if you like) will climb on board and experience what railroading was like in the last century - at the throttle of one of the original Nevada Northern STEAM locomotives.  Diesel experiences are also available.  Click here for details.

What to Expect

Begin your engineer experience by studying the safety training materials that our regular and volunteer crews learn from (download here).  There will be a test on the basics, but we are there to help you all the way through.  It is then time to head down to the century-old Enginehouse and help prepare your locomotive for the day. Climb into the cab, and learn how to operate the iron horse. Your mentor engineer will show you the ropes as we move the locomotive out of the engine house, through the yard, and onto the original NNRY mainline.

It's then your turn!  Climb up into the engineer's seat and receive personal instructions from your mentor engineer on controlling the throttle and brake.  Once the basics are under your belt, the moment comes for you to sound the whistle, have your hand on the throttle, and head up the mainline toward the mines.  You will be going through two tunnels and climb over 2.5% grades.  Up toward the end of the line there is a wye.  We will turn the locomotive then head back down to Ely, gaining hands-on experience with controlling a locomotive on a mountain grade.  This is real standard-gauge main-line mountain railroading on America's best-preserved railroad.  You are at the throttle.  You are the engineer.  You are running a steam locomotive.


There are several options available.  You can take control of one of the vintage steam locomotives, or one of the vintage diesel locomotives, or operate both.  Most people come and take the locomotive out without a train attached.   It is an easier way to start, and requires less training.   Taking the locomotive out with a complete train adds the additional skill of controlling a train on our mountain grades.  You may find that it is easier to get the train up a grade than to bring it safely back down.  Early in your trip you will begin to appreciate the genius of the Westinghouse Air Brake system, its complexities and limitations for mountain grades - especially on steam locomotives since they do not have dynamic brakes.   You will also learn the "technical" term for using up all of your braking capacity by applying and releasing your train brakes too often coming down the mountain grade.    

So what are you waiting for?  You can have a hands-on experience with railroading in the last century.  Make your appointment with history. Use the calendar below to pick your date, or call and book your locomotive rental or train rental today at 1-866-40STEAM (1-866-407-8326).   You can operate a steam engine! You can drive a steam locomotive!

P.S. What would be a greater holiday, birthday, or special gift than being at the throttle of one of our engines for a real engineer experience?   You can buy an "open ticket" as a gift and select the exact date later.

Locomotive Rental Frequently Asked Questions.

NOTE: Participants must be able to climb up to the cab unassisted. Due to the harsh environment in locomotive cabs, no medical devices or assistance, such as oxygen, is possible.  Requires sturdy closed-toed shoes, gloves, a long sleeve shirt and pants, all made from all-natural material (cotton, wool, leather - no synthetics, vinyl, or rubber except boot soles).  You must be over 18 years old and have a valid driver's  license to operate the locomotive.  One rider, 12 years or older, may ride along in the cab at no additional cost. (standing room only for rider). 

Engine availability is subject to a variety of both controlled and uncontrolled circumstances. Both steam locomotives are over a century old and even the "new" diesels are a half-century old. It is very rare, but possible, that circumstances may require delays, substitutions, or rescheduling.

Prices and Discounts

Be the Engineer OptionsMemberNon-Member
Diesel Locomotive Only - mainline 14 mile round trip$595 $700
Steam Locomotive Only - mainline 14 mile round trip$820 $960
Ultimate Package - Steam & Diesel - Locomotives Only - 2 trips$1360 $1,610
Diesel Locomotive freight train - mainline 14 mile round trip$1,368 $1,600
Steam Locomotive freight train - mainline 14 mile round trip$1,955 $2,300
Ultimate Package - Steam & Diesel - Locomotives with trains - 2 trips$2,996 $3,520

If you're ready to book your Be The Engineer - STEAM  experience then hover any available date below to book!

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Click here if you still have a question about this program.

Be the Engineer / Locomotive Rental / Train Rental / Run a Locomotive

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Comments from those who have done this (29)

Topic: engineer
4/5 (54)
1 2 3 > Last
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Peter Whitford (Adelaide Australia) says...
Absolutely fabulous experience. Came to Ely specifically for my 60th birthday on August 15, 2014,and drove Locomotive 40, coupled to three mining hopper cars and a Kennecott caboose. Great experience and I urge others to visit this marvelous facility. Makes you appreciate how the drivers of the large freight trains battled with their locomotive to cross mountain ranges etc.
I thank all at Ely for preserving these fine pieces of machinery for the youth of today to see, feel and smell.
Peter, thank you for the note, and for coming half-way around the world to be at the throttle of Locomotive 40 for your trip "Up the Hill" and back.  We remember your trip, and are glad that you enjoyed your stay.
29th January 2019 1:52am
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Steve Annis (Bakersfield CA) says...
I have been a dedicated train enthusiast since I was old enough to walk. Operating a steam locomotive has been a lifelong dream that was fulfilled at the NNRY in October 2018, thanks to a gift certificate purchased for my 70th birthday by the incredible people I work with. All of the hours I have spent over the years reading about locomotives, studying pictures of cab interiors, and dreaming about what it would be like to actually control such a marvelous piece of mechanical engineering, came ... Read More
27th October 2018 2:07pm
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Ray Thompson (Oliver Springs TN) says...
I did the adventure after hearing about it on TV. What an experience. I went in September 2017. I was able to cross an item off my bucket list. Staff was friendly and accommodating. Last part of the trip I was basically on my own as the engineer sat down on chest behind me and just watched. I was surprised how rough the engine actually rides on the track. Met a train buff with a camera and he offered to take pictures on the route while I was operating the engine. Money well spent. Highly ... Read More
21st October 2018 2:04pm
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Glenn Griffin (San Jose) says...
What an absolutely terrific experience! Being the engineer of a complete train, pulled by a 100+ year old steam locomotive is something I never dreamed was possible. The run out to Ruth has its ups and downs, you need to be able to correctly apply the throttle and brakes, not nearly as easy as it seems. I have a completely new appreciation for the skill of the engineer. Everyone involved in the Be The Engineer Program was warm and friendly, eager to make your engineering debut a success and ... Read More
Glenn, we were so glad that you could come up to Ely for the real railroad experience of operating the steam locomotive.  it was great to have you here!  Thank you from all of us for your help in keeping the fireboxs hot around here.  By taking this experience, you did your part to help with the preservation and restoration, and for that we are grateful!
26th September 2018 10:02pm
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Ralph Berg (Mill Spring NC) says...
I was the engineer on #93(steam)in September of 2016. Mark makes you feel right at home. It's the most fun you'll have for 2 hours anywhere. I hope to return and do it again one day as once is not enough!
21st August 2018 1:41pm
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