By Mark Bassett

We did it again! The Nevada Northern Railway was recognized by Nevada Magazine as having the BEST Event in rural Nevada: The Polar Express! This is the fourth year in a row that we scored that award! And the competition is open to any event in rural Nevada.

How do you become award-winning, do the unexpected. Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT), recently hosted travel writers from India who came to Ely. NCOT has a travel office in India and is working to develop that market. There was no train scheduled for when the travel writers would be here. Working with Renaissance Village and NCOT, we put together a short trip to the Village where the writers were greeted by Lorraine Clark. It was a win-win-win.

How do you become award-winning, do the unexpected. Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT), recently hosted travel writers from India who came to Ely. NCOT has a travel office in India and is working to develop that market. There was no train scheduled for when the travel writers would be here. Working with Renaissance Village and NCOT, we put together a short trip to the Village where the writers were greeted by Lorraine Clark. It was a win-win-win.

We were also recognized as being the BEST Museum in rural Nevada! We have been recognized as the Best Museum in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014. In 2010, we were acknowledged as the Best Museum – Special Recognition. In 2008, we were declared the Favorite Nevada Attraction in rural Nevada.

These awards are the just the most recent awards that have been given to the Nevada Northern Railway from Nevada Magazine. We have been recognized us as the Best Place to Kids in rural Nevada for nine consecutive years from 2007-2015. This year we lost out to Lake Tahoe, pretty tough competition you must admit.

In addition to Nevada Magazine, Nevada Commission on Tourism acknowledged us as a Nevada State Treasure in both 2013 and 2012. And in 2012 we also achieved the award for the Best Preservation Effort in the West and my favorite the inaugural award for Must See – Must Do Attraction of the Year in 2012 from the Nevada

Here’s Kevin inside the boiler of Locomotive 40 trying to solve the throttle issue. Success meant that customers from around the country and around the world who expected to see Locomotive 40 in operation were not disappointed.

Here’s Kevin inside the boiler of Locomotive 40 trying to solve the throttle issue. Success meant that customers from around the country and around the world who expected to see Locomotive 40 in operation were not disappointed.

Travel Network.

And that’s not all, I was also notified from TripAdvisor, “We’re thrilled to announce that Nevada Northern Railway Museum has been selected for the 2016 Certificate of Excellence, reflecting the consistently great reviews you’ve earned on TripAdvisor.” That is the third year in a row the railroad has been so recognized.

To me, what makes these awards so very special, is that we were selected for these awards by our visitors and friends. To quote Nevada Magazine, “Voting for the “best” of anything isn’t easy, but when you have a state like Nevada, it becomes downright daunting. There are so many wonderful places to eat, shows to see, events to attend, tours to take, places to golf, etc., it’s hard to play favorites.”

Locomotive 40 on the Steptoe Valley Flyer this past February. During the first weekend of the annual photo shoots, Locomotive 40 developed a throttle issue. Days off were cancelled. The fix required taking the throttle apart, not once, not twice but three times! A maximum effort by the shop crew result in Locomotive 40 being ready for the next weekend.

Locomotive 40 on the Steptoe Valley Flyer this past February. During the first weekend of the annual photo shoots, Locomotive 40 developed a throttle issue. Days off were cancelled. The fix required taking the throttle apart, not once, not twice but three times! A maximum effort by the shop crew result in Locomotive 40 being ready for the next weekend.

Nevada Magazine goes on to say, “Thanks as ever to our incredible readers who voted…”

So yes, the Nevada Northern Railway, National Historic Landmark is award-winning! But winning awards, just doesn’t happen. To become award-winning, to quote a man who knew a few things about winning, Vince Lombardi, “Winning Means You’re Willing To Go Longer, Work Harder And Give More Than Anyone Else.” I am very proud to say that Coach Lombardi’s quote fits the staff and volunteers of the Nevada Northern to a ‘T’!

I may be the Executive Director, but I’m only the leader of the band. It is only because we have committed individuals who are the staff and volunteers that take it upon themselves to ensure our guests have an award-winning experience that we receive awards.

The Nevada Northern Railway has two original century old steam locomotives in operation. Here’s Locomotive 93 in front of the East Ely Depot with passengers boarding.

The Nevada Northern Railway has two original century old steam locomotives in operation. Here’s Locomotive 93 in front of the East Ely Depot with passengers boarding.

Our staff and volunteers, act as our ambassadors; they will answer the same question tens, if not hundreds of times per day. And their answers will be as fresh and as encompassing as the first time they answered the question and even more importantly, they will answer the question with a smile.

As the Executive Director of a railroad museum in remote Ely Nevada, I can attest to the fact that there are a thousand and one tasks that need to be done on daily basis. Even as the “leader of the band”, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief, finding it hard to believe that we accomplish as much as we do and I am so grateful to the staff and volunteers who make the Nevada Northern Railway award-winning destination.

Of course we’re known for our steam-powered excursion trains. Steam crews show up at 5:00 am to begin a twelve-hour day in the cab of a steam locomotive. In the cab it’s hot. Every trip up the hill, means someone will shovel 2,000 pounds of coal into a blazing firebox that can hit 2000 degrees.

Once the locomotive couples up to the passenger cars, the conductor (the boss of the train) will conduct the crew meeting with the brakeman, narrator and concessionaire. In addition to the train crew; behind the scenes there are board members, fundraisers, receptionists, docents, tour guides, ghosts, aliens and even garbage men.

Organizations cannot exist with structure. The board members provide that structure, they ensure things happen. For things to happen, you need money. Ticket sales do not provide anywhere near all of the money that is needed to keep the doors open. Board members need to ask for money, time and time again. They ask even if they know the answer will be no, but they ask, on the off chance the answer is yes.

Then there are the greeters, receptionists, docents and tour guides. You might think it is an easy job. But after you answer the same questions, hundreds of times, with a smile, to a sometimes – how should I say – unappreciative public, you realize it is not an easy job. Yet these staff members and volunteers come back, day after day, to meet and greet – they are the difference that makes a visitors experience at the Nevada Northern Railway award-winning.

This team effort leads to comments like this, “We had a great time riding the train as well as the amazing museum. You will see things in this train museum that we have never have seen before. Next trip will be to drive a train.”

Or “The Nevada Northern Railway Museum and Railroad is a great fun and historic place for everybody – a must do! The entire family enjoyed the trip and it’s a great piece of US history. The staff is super friendly!” “If you don’t visit this incredibly unique museum, you will wish you had!!”

And one of my favorites, “We have been here numerous times and find it very family friendly. There is so much to see and experience. They have wonderful train rides all through the year and they are so much fun. It is a wonderful place to bring the kids and be a kid at heart. We have become members as well.”

Here’s a few reviews on our Polar Express, “This experience was amazing! My boys enjoyed every bit of it. The staff was friendly, the gift shop was neat, and the room to wait in had a Thomas the Train table for the kids to play while waiting. Very kid friendly and wonderful place to come. Would recommend to anyone and want to come back.”

And another, “Staff was super friendly and did a great job making it special for the kids.” “What a magical evening we had. Thank you to the staff and volunteers for creating such a unique experience!”

Award-winning just doesn’t happen. It happens because a special group of people band together and work very hard, day in and day out. Finally one last review, “Those who work as staff and volunteers are true professionals. They expect more from themselves and each other and they deliver!”

Railroad Ties

The railroad will be changing out 4,495 railroad ties. Currently these ties are scattered along the railroad tracks. Once the project is done, the ties will be picked up and taken to the Ely Landfill. At the landfill, ties that are useable will be set aside and offered to the public. Please do not go down to the tracks and pick up any of the ties, it is dangerous to do so and illegal. When the ties are at the landfill, a public announcement will be made with instructions on how to get ties.

Down the Tracks at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is a designated National Historic Landmark.  Voted the state’s Best Rural Museum and the Best Place to Take the Kids by readers of Nevada Magazine, the Nevada Northern Railway Museum also has been featured on Modern Marvels, American Restorations and on PBS. For more information, call 775-289-2085, log onto www.NNRY.com or to get the latest news “Like” the Railway’s Facebook page.

Museum, gift shop and ticket office hours are: Mondays through Thursday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, on Fridays and Saturdays 8:00 am to 6:30 pm, Sundays 8 am to 4 pm. We are now open on Tuesdays.

Currently, our steam-powered excursion trains operate on Fridays at 4:30 pm, Saturdays at 1:00 pm and 4:30 pm, Sundays and Mondays at 9:30 am. Diesel excursion trains operate Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 9:30 am. Tickets can be purchased on line at www.nnry.com or call the ticket office at (775) 289-2085. Remember kids up to 12 years old Ride Free Monday through Thursday.

Volunteers are always needed at the museum. We need tour guides, narrators, concessionaires, gift shop helpers and train crew members. If you have some spare time and would be interested in helping out, give the railroad a call at (775) 289-2085. You don’t need to live in Ely to volunteer.

If you are interested in joining us in preserving the Nevada Northern Railway, memberships in the museum are available at these levels: Active $30; Contributing $50; Centennial $100; Sustaining $250; Patron $500; Friend $1000; Supporter $2,500; Benefactor $5,000 and Leader $10,000. Please contact the museum for more information.

Mark Bassett is the Executive Director of the museum. He can be reached by e-mail: director@nnry.com; or by first class mail at: 1100 Avenue A, PO Box 150040, East Ely, NV 89315.

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