Ely on the mind

Posted by Justin Franz
on Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Nevada Northern shops in Ely. Photo by Justin Franz.
It’s early December and I really should be getting a jump on my Christmas shopping (actually, it probably should already be done), but instead I’ve been looking at hotel rooms and pricing rental cars for northern Nevada in February.

The frigid desert of Nevada in February probably doesn’t top a lot of people’s list for ideal winter vacations. Unless of course you’re into time travel. Every February, the Nevada Northern Railway turns back the clock with a winter photography weekend. For three days, scenes that normally only exist in old black and white photos — scenes like a 2-8-0 lugging an ore train uphill or a high stepping 4-6-0 leading a two car passenger train — are brought back to life.

There are dozens of railroad photo events across the country every year, but for my money, none are quite like the one in Ely. Not only are the locomotives original to the railroad, but nearly everything in Ely remains unchanged from the steam era.

The one issue with photo charters is that they can be a expensive affair. Of course, that high price tag makes an awful lot of sense when you break down just how much it costs to run a steam locomotive (one ton of coal can cost upwards of $200 and when you have two locomotives burning the stuff that bill is sure to increase with every runby). Subtract the cost of fuel, insurance, crews and the numerous other things that go into a successful weekend and hopefully there’s still a few bucks leftover to go back to the museum.

Unfortunately, that high price tag means younger photographers are not always able to participate. But the NNRy has come up with a unique solution to that. The “Steam, Steel and Strobes Scholarship” awards free admission to three young photographers plus a travel stipend ($500 for a grand prize winner and $250 for two runners up).

The scholarship gets younger photographers to an event that they might not otherwise participate in. And, in the long run, it can pay big dividends for the railroad because once someone has visited Ely they want to go back. I should know. A few years back, I was one of the lucky recipients of the scholarship.

See you in Ely.

The deadline for the scholarship is Dec. 14. Click here for all the details.

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