Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark        Ely, NV

Air brake training
Learning about managing joins and yardwork - the life of a brakeman
At the Contols
Changing positions
Campers experience all phases of railroading.<br>Here the participants are learning about the cutting torch.
Trackwork, firsthand
Yard gets 300 feet of new track, Campers learn trackwork
Throwing a switch
Using a cutting torch
Bill Withuhn demonstrating proper firing of a steam locomotive
Warming Lunch
Getting ready for the Graduation Ceremony

Railroad Reality Week

Immerse yourself in a Week-long Railcamp

Fast Facts

WHAT:  Spend a week and find out what Workin' on the Railroad really means.

WHEN:  Week-long railcamp during summer months. See schedule below

WHO:  Dedicated railfans who want to roll up their sleeves and immerse themselves in all aspects of railroad operations.

BRING:  Work gloves, work clothes, boots or sturdy shoes, long sleeve shirt for locomotive operations.

HOW:  Reserve your week here
OR:     Buy a Gift Certificate

Spend a week this Summer workin' on a National Historic Landmark railroad, and the best preserved standard gauge railroad in America.  Experience what it was like during the golden age of railroading.  Become an integral part of the preservation in-progress.

You begin the camp by attending our rules and safety training. And yes, you will be tested on the training materials. After training and testing you will rotate through train operations, working in the shop and out on track.

As part of the crew you will help get a train over up the hill and back again safely.  In the shop, you will get hands on experience maintaining the locomotives and cars.  It is dirty, oily, greasy work.  Without it, trains don't run.  As part of the track crew, you will see up close what it takes to keep the railroad running.

Everything comes together at the end of the week.  You are part of the switch crew that make up a train in the yard.   You'll rotate through the positions of engineer, brakeman and switchman.  The training from the week will now make sense as you couple up and move the cars.

At Railroad Reality Week you will have the greatest adventure of your life!  It's hands on, intense, and takes you behind the scenes on what it takes to keep a railroad running, but feel free to take it a pace that is comfortable for you.  Come and be part if it this Summer.  

Participant Requirements

Any person over 18 who has the physical capability to get into a locomotive cab by themselves, has a valid drivers license, and a sense of adventure can join the program.  Note that the Adult/Teen week is for teens 14-18 and their parent or guardian participating together.   The teen does not need a drivers license, but must be an enrolled student in good standing at their school during the previous year and must be physically eligible for a drivers license when they are of age.

Local Conditions

Ely, Nevada is at 6500 feet above sea level.  At that elevation it has a climate more like Denver or Salt Lake than Las Vegas or Phoenix.  It is a dry climate, but expect it to rain several times each week.  It can get cool in the evening and may get up to the low 90s during the day. Be prepared for these conditions.   We provide water at all locations.

How to get here and where to stay

We have compiled quite a bit of information about the area, how to get here, and where to stay.  At the main menu (above), select VISIT, then look for Tourist Info + Maps.  You can start planning your trip here.

What to Bring

The Nevada Northern Railway is an operating 19th century railroad with all the dirt and grime, you'd expect.  We ask that you bring clothes that you can get really, really dirty.  You will need work boots and work clothes that can hold up to dirt, sweat, and grime.  You will also need at least one long sleeve cotton shirt to be worn in the cab of the locomotives.  Bring sunscreen, sunglasses (or clip-ons), and a hat for when you are out in the sun.  If you wear glasses, please bring a pair of safety glasses or goggles that will fit over your glasses.

Equipment provided

The Nevada Northern will provide hard hats, safety glasses, and work gloves, although you are welcome to bring your own.    You will also receive the Nevada Northern Handbook of Operating Rules and a binder with information on the surrounding area as well as history of the railroad, mining, and track repair information.

Experiences of Previous Attendees

  • Railroad Reality Week 2010 Trip Notes
  • "Teen RailCamp 2007" by Mark Blackwell
  • "Teen RailCamp 2006" by Anton J. Lazzaro
    2023 Railroad Reality Week Prices and Options
    Member Non-Member
    Single Participant $1,275 $1,500
    Two Participants (couples or parent/teen) $1,955 $2,300

    Members receive discounts:   Memberships start at $30.

    Second Registrant Discount: We have had friends, couples, and parent/teen Duos enjoy this week-long experience to be together.

  • $450 Discount if you also register a family member or friend and enjoy the experience together.
  • Add a Be the Engineer Experience: What better way to end your weekend by taking one of our locomotives out on the main-line yourself.  Add one Be the EngineerExperience for you, or you and your co-registrant .

  • $200 discount for the Be the Engineer - STEAM Experience.
  • $100 discount for the Be the Engineer - DIESEL Experience.
  • This will be your best opportunity ever to get behind the throttle of one of our steam locomotives out on the main line.  There is limited availability, so book early.  We expect that all available timeslots for the Be the Engineer experience that weekend will sell out early.   

    NOTE: Membership discounts also apply to the two options above for even more savings!

    No other discounts apply to this experience.

    Each Railroad Reality Week starts on a Friday, so pick your date and book your railcamp.

    Dates and Tickets for Railroad Reality Week

    Fri, Jun 9th 3:00pm
    Fri, Aug 18th 3:00pm

    Railroad Reality Week Schedule
    4:30 p.m. Welcome train ride and introductions
    7:45 AMRailroad safety and rules training with NN Ry crews
    8:00 a.m.Railroad safety and rules training with NN Ry crews
    1:00 p.m.Railroad safety and rules test
    8:00 a.m.Work Day - Track, Shop or Operations (in rotation)
    8:00 a.m.Orientation - Video Ore to Copper; History of the Nevada Northern Railway.
    MorningDirector's tour of the National Historic Landmark.
    1:00 p.m.Tour of Robinson Copper Mine
    8:00 a.m.Work Day - Track, Shop and Operations (in rotation)
    8:00 a.m.Work Day - Track, Shop and Operations (in rotation)
    8:00 a.m.Operate a diesel locomotive; switchman; brakeman
    Operate Speeder and Velocipede
    1:00 p.m.Tour of depots
    4:30 p.m.Caboose Ride and Pizza
    6:00 p.m.Graduation and Group Photos
    11:00 a.m.Ride on train for all attendees and their families
    Please be advised that the schedule may change due to operational considerations.

    Parent or Spouse Suggested Activities
    (for those not participating in Railroad Reality Week)
    Day 1Tour Great Basin National Park and Lehman Caves
    Day 2Ward Charcoal Ovens, Tonopah Canyon and Garnet Hill
    Day 3Success Loop and Cave Lake State Park
    Day 4Mural Tour, Renaissance Village and Downtown Walking Tour
    Day 5Pioche Tour and Lunch
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    Comments (4)

    Peter Schierloh (DeForest) says...
    Attended in 2017 and hope very much to return. It is a great week to immerse yourself in history, enjoy the company of fellow enthusiasts, and spend plenty of time around trains. I hope to return to the NNRy in the near future, it is truly a gem.
    Wilfred J LaCasse (Wisconsin Rapids) says...
    Looking forward to coming to Railcamp in 2018 with my son.
    Michael Lewis (Nipomo) says...
    This June(2015) I attended the Nevada Northern Railway Reality Week. (along with four other guys), What a fantastic experience.
    Mark Bassett the NNRR Executive Director is amazing, he gave historical context to every activity that we participated in. Mark, Joan (Mark's Wife) and the entire staff of the NNRR made us part of the NNRR family for the week that we were there.
    The Nevada Northern RR is frozen in time 1900's to the 1950's. The purpose of the RR reality week is for people to experience railroading as it was and is. (Adult Rail Camp)
    The RR Campers learn the rules book and are tested on their knowledge of the rules before being sent to work with the various RR crafts. You get a hands on learning experience in the following crafts: Breakman , Coupling and Uncoupling Trains, Track Maintainer - Track Inspector - Track Repair Laborer. You get experience switching cars, inspecting trains, steam engine maintenance, and Operating Diesel Loco
    Admin: Michael,  we are glad that you came up to Ely for the Railway Reality Week, and that you had a gerat time.  Thanks for your note!
    Kenny Lombino (Los Angeles Ca) says...
    I just found out about this. I am an avid rail fan, both full size and HO scale. I can't make this year, but please let me know the dates for next year so I can book a trip.
    Kenny Lombino
    Admin: Kenny,

    Thanks for your note.  Yes, this event should be on your to-do list.  

    The best way to keep informed is to sign up for our email newsletter.  Look at the top of almost any of the webpages, and you will see the Newsletter Signup button.