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.    

Closing Through April 30th

Due to the Corona virus we will be closed to the public through April 30th.

We will continue working in our shops, including returning Locomotive 81 to service. Many of the restoration expenses will continue, so your memberships and donations are all the more important during these times.

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$637 $749
Steam Locomotive Only - mainline 14 mile round trip$873 $1,027
Ultimate Package - Steam & Diesel - Locomotives Only - 2 trips$1,455 $1,712
Diesel Locomotive freight train - mainline 14 mile round trip$1,455 $1,712
Steam Locomotive freight train - mainline 14 mile round trip$2,092 $2,461
Ultimate Package - Steam & Diesel - Locomotives with trains - 2 trips$3,201 $3,766

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.

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Comments (32)

Becky Hughes (Westminster, California, US) says...

My Dad was a 'Fireman' on the Canadian Pacific railroad & worked out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. How I wish he was still with us to see this opportunity. As it is, I am saving my quarters so I can be the Engineer. Praying that it is soon.

Doug Peters (Alexis, North Carolina, US) says...

What a unique and wonderful experience to Be The Engineer. I have been a rail enthusiast all my life and operating a steam locomotive was a childhood dream. If you like steam power, or diesel locomotives, you will not regret doing this. All the folks at the NN were super nice, without exception, and made you welcomed and at ease, even Dirt the Cat. I will be back.


Doug, Thank you for coming all the way from Carolina to Ely for the Be the Engineer experience.  So glad that you came and enjoyed it.  We will pass your comments on to the entire staff, including Dirt the Cat :)  

Berry L Scruggs (Welches, Oregon, US) says...

We drove two days to get there but the experience was worth every minute. The hospitality in Ely is terrific and everyone at the NNRR extremely helpful. Drove 93 with a four car train and gained a whole new level of respect for the people who drive mile long trains over the mountains. This fulfilled a 70+ year dream of mine and we hope to return next year to drive the SD9. So Henry, Con and Chris, thanks again for your patience as you explained all the preparations for the ride and a most wonderful experience.


Thank you for coming up to Ely and being part of the Be the Engineer experience.  We are glad that you had a great time, and will pass your comments on to the crew.

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.
Admin: 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.
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 to life the moment I sat in the engineer’s seat. Everyone at the NNRY was wonderful, friendly and inviting. Thank you for making such an experience possible.
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 recommended.
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 literally an experience of a lifetime. My advice is not put it off, do it while you can.
Admin: 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!
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!
Charley Stark (Republic) says...
Charley engineered the train Aug 3 and had a wonderful time. He recommends it! We enjoyed walking the grounds, taking in everything.
Raymond Thompson (Oliver Springs TN) says...
I did the engineer experience in September of 2017. It was amazing being able to operate the steam locomotive. Doing so was one of my bucket list items that I got to fulfill. The staff were friendly, helpful, answered all my questions about the locomotive. I was able to take my GoPro camera with me and fastened it to the rear window in the cab to document my experience.

I flew into Las Vegas as it is a cheaper destination, rented a car, and drove to Ely. Spent one night in a local motel, engineer experience the next day, spent another night, and returned to Las Vegas.

Highly recommended experience.
John (Sultan) says...
This review is very late, so please excuse the 8 year tardiness!

My son and I had this experience in 2010. Both of us are die-hard steam fans so we flew to Nevada and took the VERY long drive from Carson City to Ely.  There are not enough superlatives in my vocabulary to describe the experience! If I lived closer I would probably do this weekly! it was truly the "experience of a lifetime!"
Matthew Liverani (Ely NV) says...
I was the student engineer in 1998 as a graduation present from my dad and it's an experience I haven't forgotten. It still feels like yesterday that I did this, and I look forward to the day I get to do it again! I highly recommend this experience to any and all who are considering a one of a kind experience!
Walt says...
I thoroughly enjoyed my steam engineer experience on April 20.  My compliemnts to Angie, Mike and Chris, all of whom were friendly and informative.  Also, I appreciate the opportunity to hang around in the morning while 93 was steamed up and to chat with Mike and Chris then.  It added a lot to the actual throttle time.  And kudos to NN for your open access to the grounds and facilities.  I visited the NN facilites many years ago while doing some consulting work for the WPHRF and LADWP and I am pleased to see how well NN has kept up the equipment and grounds.  I will be recommending NN to my railfan friends and hope to return some day.
John S Craparo (Georgetown Texas) says...
We made the trip to Ely from central Texas specifically to visit the museum. The visit was worth every penny and then some. If scheduling allowed, would have stayed longer to explore and even do one of the passenger trips.

I was amazed by the hands-on access visitors have to everything in the yards and buildings. Everyone was friendly and helpful. I got a kick out of the contrasts here... for instance, the railyard was dynamic and filled with activity and sounds. Then you walk up the stairs in the depot to find offices and ephemera that are frozen in time. One room is in the exact state it was left in when commercial railroad operations ceased thirty years ago. Museums spend years trying to recreate what their buildings looked like, but here there is no guessing or artful recreations by a curator. What Is Was!

Driving the Baldwin 4-6-0 locomotive #40 cannot be easily described. All personnel were splendid and this railroad is already calling me back. Thanks!
Gerald says...
I just completed my steam engineer experience last Saturday afternoon on engine #40. I can't say enough on how I enjoyed it. Dave, Mike , Eric and Lennox were all great. What a fantastic place you have there. Thanks so much for making the experience available.
Armin (San Francisco) says...
This was a wonderful birthday present from my family.
I had a great time. The crew was super friendly and helpful.
These trips also keep NNRY funded and operating. Go for it!
Dennis Albright (Las Vegas NV) says...
Be The Engineer Steam (#40) was given to me as a Retirement gift from my family. This was one of the best experience's of my life and something that I will never forget!! My wife was able to ride along in the cab and I know she had a lot of fun also. I had a fantastic crew with Engineer David and Fireman Mike. Everyone at Nevada Northern Railway were Great! Had a great conversation with Mark and J. Joan Bassett. Would love to go back and drive Steam Engine #93 and the diesel. Will visit Ely and NNRY often!
Admin: Dennis, it was great to have you and your wife visit. We are so glad that you enjoyed the experience!
Dennis Albright (Las Vegas NV) says...
Be The Engineer Steam (#40) was given to me as a Retirement gift from my family. This was one of the best experience's of my life and something that I will never forget!! My wife was able to ride along in the cab and I know she had a lot of fun also. I had a fantastic crew with Engineer David and Fireman Mike. Everyone at Nevada Northern Railway were Great! Had a great conversation with Mark and J. Joan Bassett. Would love to go back and drive Steam Engine #93 and the diesel. Will visit Ely and NNRY often!
Nicki B. (Las Vegas) says...
My husband gave me the steam engine Be the Engineer experience as a Christmas gift. He thought I might enjoy being the engineer on a steam engine, after retiring from the fire service where I spent 15 years as an apparatus engineer. I didn't just have fun -- it was one of the best experiences of my life! We lucked out with a perfect day weather-wise. We had top-notch training staff in our Fireman, Mike, and Angie, Engineer and NNRy Trainmaster. They both love what they do and love to share what they know about railroading. If you love history, love trains (and/or would just like to learn more about them), and doing something new, then Be the Engineer is for you! The Museum staff are terrific! We were also lucky enough to have a couple chats with the director of the Museum. THANK YOU to everyone at NNRy for the experience of a lifetime!
Lenora (Oceanside CA) says...
This truly was the experience of a lifetime. We were able to see the steam locomotives in action, actually ride on them and be the engineer on one of them. If you really like trains and their history, this is for you. The entire staff was friendly and helpful. We learned a lot about what it took to run the steam train in 1906. We also learned a lot about the copper mine and its geology. We are definitely coming back again next year!
Norman Tait (Hermanus Cape town R S A) says...
What a ride a dream come true. Thanks to my son Steven who planned the trip for 16 April. 

Thaks for the great joy of driving a steam train!!!!!!!!!
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!
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!
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.
Admin: Glad that you enjoyed the experience!  It was great to work with you on these trips.
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.
Admin: 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.
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 for 14 miles is an experience that I’ll never forget. Same thing with the diesel engine – our Trainer was so good that he even talked my wife into taking the controls for most of the return trip. Then, they invited us to help them put the diesel “up” for the night.

Yes, the engineer outing is a bit pricey, but part of it is tax deductible and the experience is priceless. Well worth the time and money.
Robert fee (San Antonio) says...
I've been a locomotive engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad for 25 years and always thought it would be fun to run a train with a steam engine but it doesn't look like the carrier has a way for me to make that dream happen...but it looks like ya'll do. I'll be headed your way in the next few years before I retire.
Admin: Great, we look forward to it.  Yes, real standard gauge mountain railroading.
Steve (Grass Valley Ca) says...
A must for a true "foamer", Train crew David & John were great. One more thing off the bucket list.
Admin: Steve, it was great to have you aboard on the run up the mountain, with you at the controls.  You did great.  Thanks for having us on your bucket list.  The good thing is that we have pleanty of buckets left around here.
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!
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.
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, Mark Bassett, for the outstanding presentation on shop tour, gift shop ladies for their help. wonderful to see this very important piece of history kept alive.
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.