Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark     Ely, NV 

Be the Engineer - Your hand on the Throttle

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 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, then pull out the throttle and head on the mainline up 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.


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.    

$30,000 Challenge

Matching Grant Doubles Your Donation

Now through December 31st your Donation or Membership gets Doubled!  Your $100 turns into $200 net to the Railway. Your $500 becomes $1000 net to the Railway. Full Details Here.

Made possible by a Matching Grant from the First National Bank of Ely.

Make Your Matching Donation Now

Renew/Start Matching Membership Now

(Yes, Matching still counts if you are renewing your membership early)

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

Members receive discounts.   Memberships start at only $30.
No other discounts apply to this experience.

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.

December 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
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14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31

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

Comments from others who have done this (5)

Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star 5/5 (5)
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Karen (Newtown PA) says...
I\'ve been a rr junkie since I was born. My dad was an engineer. First steam,then Diesel. I went out in August with a diesel. A wonderful experience. What huge power! I too never knew this was a bucket list thing, until I did it. Cute town, great drive up from las vegas. Very cool to tell about. Thanks everyone!
25th September 2014 4:51pm
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
hoot (las vegas) says...
never really thought about a bucket list, but since my be the engineer experience it would be number one on my list.I had no idea it would be so great. thanks!
4th September 2014 12:25pm
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Engineer Bill (CERES CA) says...
I had the Be The Engineer experience on May 17 of this year, with Bear as my mentor. Worth every penny spent getting there and sharing the experience. The first pull on the Whistle cord was worth the entire Fee for the experience.
25th June 2014 4:41pm
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
hatzicmac (langley bc) says...
outstanding, once in a lifetime experience. be the engineer highly recomended for any railfan. i was one of those little boys, many years ago, who waved at the engineer of many of these fire breathing, smoke billowing, whistle blowing track pounding, almost alive, machines. how absolutely amazing to have folks chasing us on the parallel highway.thrill to relive the experience from the inside the cab, blow the whistle for number 40 admirers. special thanks for engineer Henry, fireman Anthony, Read More
6th May 2014 12:38pm
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David (Laguna Beach CA) says...
My wife and I did this a few years ago. It was a great experience. She was not into steam locomotives much, and was not sure she wanted to run it with me. Now she talks about it all the time to her friends.

We were in Locomotive 93, and headed up toward the Ruth mine on a clear, bright Summer day. It is a day I will never forget.
3rd February 2014 9:46am
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