Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark     Ely, NV 

Be the Engineer - Your hand on the Throttle

Run a Locomotive - 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. 

Purchase the STEAM experience
Purchase the DIESEL experience

Purchase STEAM Gift Certificate Purchase DIESEL Gift Certificate

Sign on as a Nevada Northern Railway engineer for a day.  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 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, pull out 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 and 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 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.

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 rare, but possible, that circumstances may require delays, substitutions, or rescheduling. Please contact us for details.

Prices and Discounts

Be the Engineer OptionsMemberNon-Member
Diesel Locomotive Only (mainline-McGill Jct. route;14 miles)$545$645
Steam Locomotive Only (mainline-Keystone route; 14 miles)$745$845
Ultimate Package - Steam & Diesel (Locomotives Only - 2 trips)$945$1,095
Diesel Locomotive freight train (mainline-McGill Jct. route;14 miles)$1,245$1,395
Steam Locomotive freight train (mainline-Keystone route; 14 miles)$1,845$2,095
Ultimate Package - Steam & Diesel (Locomotives with trains - 2 trips)$2,845$3,195

The calendar below only shows STEAM Be The Engineer experiences.   Click here for Diesel experiences.
Hover over any available date to book your STEAM Be the Engineer experience now.

October 2015
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
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11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
November 2015
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15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30
December 2015
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
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Be the Engineer / Locomotive Rental / Train Rental / Run a Locomotive

Comments (11)

Topic: engineer
5/5 (12)
1 2 3 > Last
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
John Z says...
My brother and I were 'Engineers' last week.. A GREAT experience! Steam locomotives were an integral part of American growth and this was a unique opportunity! A REAL railroad experience!
24th September 2015 9:42pm
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Gary Nielson (Nashville TN) says...
Experience that we will never forget. Was the engineer on the diesel (#204), steam (#40)and spent the night in the bunkhouse. Kudos to the team at Nevada Northern for providing such an experience. Had a blast! Thanks to Don and "Big" John!
22nd September 2015 2:28pm
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Jeff T. (Burbank) says...
Both the steam and diesel trips were experiences I'll never forget. I had terrific on-board training by talented engineers and learned what it's really like to pull the throttle on those big machines. (You'll learn that it's really more about brakes than throttles.) I apologize to the crew for the excessive whistle blowing, but I was having too much fun! The entire Nevada Northern staff was so friendly and helpful that I'm hoping to go back again next year.
Glad that you enjoyed the experience!  It was great to work with you on these trips.
3rd September 2015 9:58am
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Louis J Lacina Jr (Brenham Texas) says...
Operating No. 40 was fantastic, and something I dreamed of since I was about 5 years old. Everyone with the Nevada Northern was pleasant and helpful. I am really glad I was told that I could be there extra early for lighting the engine. Ely, NV was great to visit, as well. I highly recommend Be The Engineer.
Louis, it was great to have you here.  Glad that you came up for the Engineer experience.  

For those who are part of one of the programs, please feel free to come to the engine house early and watch us bring a steam locomotive to life each day.   We are following the tradition of getting Nevada Northern locomotives ready for the day that has been going on for over 100 years in that engine house, and with those same steam engines.  

Thanks, again, Louis, for taking part in the experience.
10th August 2015 6:50pm
Chip (Roanoke VA) says...
A fantastic place to spend a day!! Truly the experience of a lifetime. I want to point out that this isn’t just driving the train around the rail yard. This is driving it out on the open tracks – through tunnels, beside the main highway, and through road crossings. You have protocol for when it’s required to blow the whistle, but the engineer also said that I also had the ability to blow it whenever I felt it was appropriate. Very cool!!! Being able to actually drive a steam train ... Read More
25th July 2015 3:05pm
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