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Nevada Northern & Railroads of White Pine County


East Ely Railroad Depot Museum



Nevada Northern depot at East Ely
East Ely Railroad Depot Museum
06 Sept 1998
Copyright © 2000 Jim Bryant

Many visitors fail to realize that there are really two separate museums at the Nevada Northern East Ely complex. The Nevada Northern Railway Museum, operated by the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation and owned by the City of Ely, runs the excursion trains and owns the yards, most of the buildings and structures, the rolling stock, and the rights-of-way between McGill and Keystone. The State of Nevada owns the East Ely depot and the freight house, known as the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum.

The state's involvement came about at the request of the railroad foundation, which in 1985 asked the state to evaluate the preservation needs of the site. In 1990 the depot and freight house were deeded to the State of Nevada, and the state legislature appropriated $300,000 for the first phase of restoration. These funds were used to shore up the depot's sandstone foundation, replace its electrical and plumbing systems, and restore the building to its 1906 appearance. In 1992 the depot was opened to the public as the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum, a unit of the Nevada State Railroad Museum, and staffed with a full-time curator. Restoration of the freight house, the oldest standing Nevada Northern structure, began with the 1999 roof replacement.

Freight barn at East Ely
Freight Barn
19 June 1999

Copyright © 2002 Keith Albrandt

In addition to the two buildings, the state was deeded the collection of Nevada Northern corporate records housed in the depot--which also served as the general offices of the Nevada Northern throughout its history. Virtually every record is there, starting with the original deposit book that Mark Requa used to start the railroad, and ending with the transportation sheet of the Nevada Northern's last day of operation in June 1983. It is probably the most complete paper record of any North American railway and, according to curator Sean Pitts, it "ranks among the top ten of any collection of company records in the United States."

The collection's research potential is tremendous, in a number of contexts. The East Ely depot has hosted both the United States Department of Justice, which used the records in its research of Japanese-Americans interned during World War II, and the University of Nevada, which conducted research into the demographics of company towns.

The above is based on an article by Curt Bianchi published in the Sep/Oct 1995 issue of Locomotive & Railway Preservation and used with his permission.

Mission Statements

The Nevada Division of Museums and History is dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition, study, and interpretation of material objects, documents and records representing the history, prehistory, and natural history of the vast and rich heritage of the State of Nevada and the western United States.

The East Ely Railroad Depot Museum focuses on the historical copper mining industrial development of the region, specifically interpreting mining and transportation heritage.


Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs
Division of Mueums and History
Governor's Fundamental Review


"The Museum collects, preserves, studies, and interprets the rich heritage of eastern Nevada in relation to the state as a whole. The EEDM utilizes its collection of artifacts, documents, and photographs to educate visitors and residents about the railroading, mining, and industry that shaped eastern Nevada for well over a century."

"Preservation of the facility and its collection lies at the core of all the Museum's efforts. Fortunately, the EEDM's remarkable resources represent an excellent opportunity for visitors to enjoy learning about the past. The Museum continues to collect the dwindling remnants of eastern Nevada history in order to preserve them for future generations. The document collection, recognized as one of the finest west of the Mississippi River, has been receiving regular car and cleaning."

"Since opening in 1992, area residents have brought their treasured artifacts to the Museum for public display. For example, an author of local history chose the Museum as the permanent home of his entire library when he retired. As artifacts become older and less available, the Museum's collection grows in value. Increasingly, researchers have recognized the importance of the collection and utilize it. EEDM staff answer more than 150 requests for information each year."


Depot Briefs

August 2003

The requested federal TEA-21 funding for restoration of the freight buiding is not forthcoming. The $600,000 application would have allowed resotration of the freight building to bring it into public service.

Funding for sidewalks at the depot (as a public safety enhancement) has been approved, but it's unclear when the money will become available.

The wooden freight building platform is in dire need of replacement.

The White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation (Nevada Northern Railway Museum) is leasing space in one of the depot waiting rooms for their gift shop.


April 2003

East Ely Railroad Depot Museum Starts Membership Program

The East Ely Railroad Depot Museum's new membership program presents an opportunity for the public to support the preservation and display of Nevada's mining and transportation heritage.

Located in the historic Nevada Northern Railroad Depot, the museum is a popular tourist attraction for Nevada residents, as well as visitors. Its collections focus on the area's massive copper production in 1900 and the subsequent industrial development. Thousands of documents from the history of the Nevada Northern Railroad are available for research and information.

"The museum has grown into a quality experience for visitors," Museum Director Sean Pitts said. "The new membership program will enable us to expand on that service, preserving eastern Nevada's past for the future."

Member contributions directly support the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum but members receive statewide benefits at all museums of the Nevada Division of Museums and History. This includes free admission to all state museums, 15 percent discount at all state museum stores, subscription to the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, the Division newsletter, and selected invitations to all exhibitions, openings, public programs and special events.

Individual memberships are $35 and family memberships are $50. Additional membership categories are available for those who wish to support the museum at a higher level. Membership information is available by calling the museum at (775) 299-1663. A membership application is also available on-line or by visiting the Division of Museums and History's page of the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs website at www.NevadaCulture.org.

The East Ely Railroad Museum is located at 1100 Avenue A in Ely and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

The state Division of Museums and History is an agency of the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs. The Department serves Nevada's citizens and visitors through cultural and information management, presentation and promotion of cultural resources, and education. The Department also includes the State Office of Historic Preservation, Nevada State Library and Archives, Nevada Arts Council, Comstock Historic Commission, Literacy Coalition, Advisory Committee on Participatory Democracy, and Commission for Cultural Affairs. For more information on the Department of Cultural Affairs, please call Bob Harmon at (775) 687-8323 or visit the department's website at NevadaCulture.org.

— Robert G. Harmon


September 2002

The State Public Works Board has determined that the East Ely depot needs a new roof and that replacement of the wooden walkway along the freight building is in order. Sources for the funding of these projects is under development.

The museum will also be submitting a TEA-21 application to the federal government for restoration of the freight building.

The 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) affords an opportunity to develop "livable communities" by selecting projects that preserve the historic culture of the transportation system and/or enhance the operation of the system for its users. Eligible activities include historic preservation and rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation buildings, structures or facilities (including historic railroad facilities). For additional information, visit the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse Web site.

The Museum hopes to establish permanent exhibits, as well as install a heating system and insulation in the freight building, in order to return the historical structure to community benefit and use.


May 2002

NNRy Depot Receives a Facelift

The historic Nevada Northern Railroad Depot is now gleaming after restoration and new paint job. The 1907 building was showing her age in recent months. Weather and time have taken their toll on the windows, woodwork, and fascia. Originally scheduled to be restored earlier, the painting project was put on hold for Hollywood to film "Ratrace." The delay however, was a benefit since the funds to restore the building came from revenue generated from the filming of the movie.

"This restoration will help better preserve the building," according to Sean Pitts, director of the Ely State Museum housed in the Depot. The last coat of paint dated back to the 1960's. "This is the completion of the building's outside restoration," said Pitts. "The building looks like its first day of operation some 95 years ago. Its amazingly beautiful."

The mission revival style building is also receiving some interior touch up. While the administrative offices were restored between 1995 and 1999 some minor cosmetic problems needed to be corrected. The Museum was fortunate to obtain funding for a part time contractor to restore the building's wainscoting. Mr. Don Lewis of Lewis Restoration Company has achieved remarkable results. Chips in the finish have been repaired and holes have been patched. "We had some sun damage and some of the finish that has been bumped off in the last nine decades. The repair work has made a huge difference," Said Pitts. I hope I look this good when I'm this old," he added.

Ely Hosts Public Gatherings

The Ely State Museum has opened the Freight Barn for convention business. The first group to utilize the Building was the Council on Tourism's Rural Roundup. Hundreds of people attended from throughout the state to participate in the annual conference. Some 250 people ate dinner in the restored portion of the Freight Barn.

The Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership utilized the building for their annual meeting in early May. "The ambience was perfect," according to Marcia Wolter Britton, Administrator of the Division of Museums and History for the State of Nevada. The Freight Barn makes a unique meeting place. The 1906 structure is the oldest building on the NNRy yard and continues to serve as exhibit and meeting place functions after serving as a warehouse and transportation building for 78 years.



  • An exhibit workshop was constructed within the freight barn. It is used to build exhibits that are subsequently installed in both the depot building and freight barn itself.

  • Eagle Scout candidate Quinn Ewell logged some 100-hours single-handedly scraping, priming, and painting almost half of the freight barn. The project was completed by additional volunteer efforts on Public Lands Day at the end of September.

South end of freight barn
Freight Barn
20 June 1999
Copyright © 2002 Keith Albrandt

  • Public Lands Day also saw: the establishment of a trail along the railway right-of-way from the NN depot to the Cherry Creek depot located at the White Pine Public Museum; restoration of the north walkway on the freight barn and the Cherry Creek depot walkway; survey and marking of a trail connecting the NNRy with the 3-C Ranch south of Ely; and construction of a picnic area at the NNRy depot, landscaped with flowers, shrubs and trees.

  • Power poles were removed from the depot site after relocating the phone and power lines underground.


  • Only 93 years after its construction, the depot is finally connected with a legitimate sewer line.


Big Doings in Ely — Restoration of Old Depot Completed

"The East Ely Railroad Depot Museum has finished restoring the historic Nevada Northern Railroad Depot. Constructed in 1907, the Depot served as the administrative offices of Nevada's last operating shortline railroad. Today, the building is the home of the State's newest museum.

Dedicated staff and volunteers worked for a year and a half to return the building to its appearance of 91 years ago. They repainted the interior and re-grained all the woodwork which was painted light green in the late 1960s. The original builders of the Depot had actually wanted oak woodwork, but since oak is nonexistent in eastern Nevada, they settled on pine painted to look like oak. During the late 1960s the skill of graining was all but lost to American craftsmen, so at that time the grained wood was simply painted over.

Recreating the grain was labor-intensive, requiring nine separate steps to make each door, window, cabinet, mop board and picture molding look as it did in 1907. Each room was washed and the area to be grained was etched to allow better paint adhesion. The area was next masked and painted with a base coat of paint. A glaze mixture was then applied and textured using special brushes. Once dried, a second coat of glaze was applied, then combed with rubber and steel combs and other tools. The result is a painted wood grain that closely resembles the original woodwork. A final protective coating of shellac gives the woodwork a high gloss that matches the original.

The restoration has dramatically improved the building's appearance. Staff are now preparing exhibits on the second floor depicting different decades of industrial development in eastern Nevada. Rooms are planned for 1907, 1917, 1932, 1945, and 1958, years which mark a significant development in the copper mining industry that affected the growth of modern Nevada. The exhibits are scheduled for completion next Spring."

— Nevada Department of Museums, Library and Arts Newsletter, Summer 1998, Volume 4, Number 2.


Contact Information


East Ely Railroad Depot Museum
Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs
Division of Museums and History

Sean Pitts, Director

Street address:
1100 Avenue A, Ely, NV 89301-2303

Mailing address:
P.O. Box 151100, Ely, NV 89315-1100

Phone (775) 289-1663
Fax (775) 289-1664
East Ely Railroad Depot Museum

The museum is open year around Wednesday– Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Pacific Time (GMT -8:00hr).

Adults: $2.00
Seniors: $1.50
Children 17 & under: free






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Last modified 29 July, 2009 -/-