The Nevada Northern was built specifically to serve the great copper mines near the town of Ely, Nevada, and to connect them with the outside world. The line was built almost due south through the Steptoe Valley from a connection with the Southern Pacific at Cobre (95 miles east of Elko) and with the Western Pacific at Shafter a few miles south. The line was completed in 1906, and for the next 35 years it proudly operated this passenger service connecting Ely with the through trains of the transcontinental lines.

From the pages of the Official Guide, June 1941

Nevada Northern Railway herald

The Steptoe Valley Flyer

Nevada Northern Railway Co.
March, 1941

87 Connecting Train Number (Southern Pacific/U.P./C. & N.W.) 88
10 30P Dp 0 Chicago, IL (North Western Sta.) (CT) C R Ar 8 20A
10 40A 488 Omaha, NE C R 8 15P
8 30A Ar 1478 Ogden, UT (MT) T C Dp 7 55P
8 45A Dp Ogden, UT (PT) Ar 6 05P
12 34P 1616 Cobre, NV (PT) T 2 32P
10 10P 2018 Reno, NV T C 5 00A
7 33A 2258 Oakland, CA (16th St.) T C 8 43P
8 25A Ar 2264 San Francisco, CA (via ferry) (PT) T C Dp 8 00P
4 Train Number 3
Daily Miles Services Daily
3 00P Dp 0.0 Cobre, NV (PT) T Ar 11 40A
3 31P 18.5 Shafter, NV T 11 13A
F 3 52P 31.0 Decoy, NV F10 53A
F 4 07P 40.5 Dolly Varden, NV F10 38A
F 4 27P 52.9 Mizpah, NV F10 19A
4 45P 63.0 Currie, NV T 10 02A
F 5 00P 71.0 Goshute, NV F 9 42A
F 5 15P 80.4 Greens, NV F 9 26A
5 38P 91.3 Cherry Creek, NV T 9 05A
F 6 07P 108.0 Warm Springs, NV F 8 31A
6 38P Ar 128.4 McGill Junction, NV Dp 7 56A
6 51P 131.0 McGill, NV T 7 49A
6 58P Dp 133.6 McGill Junction, NV Ar 7 42A
7 25P 144.3 East Ely, NV T 7 20A
7 30P Ar 145.5 Ely, NV (PT) T Dp 7 15A

Train 4: 13 stops, 4:30, 32.3 MPHTrain 3: 13 stops, 4:25, 32.9 MPH

Connections—At Cobre, Nev.—With Southern Pacific Lines. At Shafter—With Western Pacific R.R.
With Stage Lines: At McGill—Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for Aurum and Cleveland. At Ely—Daily, except Sunday, for Lund and Preston; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for Baker and Tonopah.

NORTHBOUND—Wednesdays and Saturdays.
SOUTHBOUND—Thursdays and Sundays.

By 1941 improvements were rapidly being made to highways and to motor buses, and the old-fashioned (and non-air-conditioned) steam trains could not compete. In late 1941 the Nevada Northern abandoned its passenger service in favor of the new streamlined buses and the passenger equipment was retired.

But not disposed of. The copper company which owned the railroad, it seems, never threw anything away. The passenger cars remained, in storage, as did the ten-wheeler steam locomotive which once had pulled them. (Rumor has it that railroad employees conspired to hide this obsolete equipment whenever corporate big shots arrived for a visit, which is one explanation for how it became known as "The Ghost Train of Old Ely.") Eventually the copper mines closed and the copper company donated the property, equipment, and a good deal of the right-of-way to the town as a museum. It is said to be probably the best-preserved example of standard-gauge steam-era railroading in the United States. And the steam engines still operate in excursion service throughout the spring, summer, and fall; they can even be rented out by "student engineers" under instruction for a suitable fee. If you're ever in eastern Nevada, the complex is definitely worth a visit. And if you're not, then visit them online.