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Digging into the Nevada Northern Archives

Nevada Northern 4-6-0 40 is seen at Cherry Creek, Nev. in 1957. Photo Courtesy of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. 

Digging into the Nevada Northern Archives

Nevada NorthernBy Justin Franz/photo from the Nevada Northern Railway Museum

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum’s yard in East Ely, Nev. is home to two restored steam locomotives — soon to be three — and the internet’s most famous shop cat, along with a plethora of artifacts bound to excite any history buff or railroad enthusiast. But fewer people know about the railroad’s vast archive that includes photos, documents and more covering the NNRy’s fascinating history. Recently, the railroad’s new archivist, Con Trumbull, has started digging into the files to digitize much of the collection and make it available online. The collection includes everything from old Railway Express Agency forms to photographs of the railroad covering more than a century of operation. Enjoy this sneak peek from the museum archives. 

Locomotive 93 at East Ely

Long before she was one of the stars at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, 2-8-0 locomotive 93 was just another workhorse for the copper-hauling route. Here the Alco product is seen pulling an ore train into the East Ely Yard sometime in the 1930s or 1940s.

A Difference in Decades

The ore cars are the same but the Alcos moving them have changed in this scene a few decades later in the 1960s. Two RS-2 locomotives are seen switching cars at the north end of the East Ely yard. On the left, raw copper ore is on its way to the smelter at McGill and the empties to the right are heading back to the mine.


Mining requires explosives to loosen the earth to get at its bounty and sometimes the Nevada Northern moved those explosives. When it did, it would use a hazardous materials placard like this one.

Heavy Repairs

One of the railroad’s RS-2 locomotives undergoes heavy repairs at the Copper Flats shop near Ruth, Nev. The Copper Flats shop was where the company maintained all of the locomotives used in the pit.

Working the Pit

Two “dinky” locomotives move ore cars in the mining pit near Ruth, Nev. during the early 20th century.

Baggage from McGill

The Nevada Northern archives include thousands of paper artifacts including this baggage tag stamped “From McGill, Nevada.” The final destination for the baggage is unclear.

Final Run

The last NNRy freight train heads south toward East Ely on June 21, 1983, behind SD7 401. The locomotive was later moved to a power plant in Utah although the museum hopes to bring it back home at some point in the future. Three years later, Kennecott Copper transferred the railroad’s assets to a local non-profit to open up a museum.

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is currently closed to the public due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, they hope to resume normal operations in late May. The museum is normally open seven days a week — except on select holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas — and it operates excursions most days through the summer and fall. 

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This article was posted on: April 28, 2020