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Ely Travel Info
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The Ghost Train of Old Ely still glides through the sagebrush, pulled through tunnels and over trestles by chuffing steam locomotives and the occasional diesel engine. Scheduled excursions are offered May through October and specials are available throughout the year.
Description and History of
by David W. Toll
From The Complete Nevada Traveler, the Affectionate and Intimately Detailed Guidebook to the Most Interesting State in America. Buy the Book Here
is the great city of eastern Nevada, closer to Salt Lake
City than to Reno or Las Vegas. It is located where the southern
end of the magnificent Steptoe Valley meets foothills of the Egan
Range, at the conjunction of Highways 6, 50 and 93. Ely offers
many excellent lodging, dining and recreation options.
greatest attraction to visitors, apart from comfortable lodgings,
good food and magnificent natural surroundings, is the Ghost Train,
the restored Nevada Northern Railway that takes passengers from
the old depot in East Ely (take 11th Street north from Highway
93/Avenue F/Aultman Street) on excursions west to Ruth and northeast
to McGill from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
in 1906, the Nevada Northern connected the enormous pit mines at
Ruth with the smelter on the old McGill Ranch, and then with the
main line at Cobre for an overall run of not quite 150 miles. After
considerable repair and restoration, the Nevada Northern began
carrying passengers again in 1986.
buffs now converge on Ely from all over the world. They light up
with pleasure as the antique locomotives squeal and hiss up to
the passenger depot. They exult at the conductor's "All Aboard!" They
thrill at the thought of an Ely-McGill-Cherry Creek excursion train,
and they faint away with joy at the prospect of going all the way
wonder: Magic happens as the antique steamers chuff solemnly away
from the station. Wheels clickety-clacking, cars swaying, the world
gliding slowly by, kids waving from their bikes, cows looking up
in dim curiosity, sky spread big and bright overhead -- it's a
unique and delightful experience for its own sake, and even more
for being the real thing this is not a reconstruction or
a restoration. Fares hover around $10 for adults, $4 for kids (call
702-289-2085 for details).
addition to the scheduled runs, trains can be rented for special
excursions, and tours are taken through the enormous shops, offices,
depot, engine house and other facilities from Memorial Day weekend
through Labor Day weekend.
White Pine Public Museum at 2000 Aultman Street is the showplace
for a mineral collection of considerable variety, and for unique
items like the home-made cannon which once guarded the Court House
in Hamilton. The museum is open seven days during June, July and
August, and Monday through Friday the rest of the year. Admission
is relatively young as Nevada cities go, established in the 1870s
as a stagecoach station and post office. Only after it was designated
the White Pine County seat in 1887 did the population climb to
200. Most of the activity in the region was at the surrounding
mining camps of Ward, Cherry Creek, Osceola and Taylor.
the turn of the century, immense copper deposits near Ely began
to attract attention away from the failing gold mines, and by 1906
a boom had developed in copper. The Nevada Northern Railway was
completed in the fall of that year to connect the mines with the
Southern Pacific Railroad at Cobre. In 1908, when the smelter at
McGill went on the line, mineral production leapt from barely more
than $2000 the year before to more than $2 million. By 1917 annual
production climbed to nearly $26.5 million. The Kennecott Copper
Company began acquiring Ely copper mining companies in 1915. By
1958 these acquisitions resulted in control of the region's copper
mines and dominated the local economy.
mines are at Ruth, six miles west via US 50. Originally underground
mines, they came to be worked from the surface: five great open
pits in a line measuring six miles east and west. Each working
day about 80,000 tons of waste dirt and 22,000 tons of copper ore
were hauled up out of the immense holes. The waste was dumped on
the hillside terraces, and the ore went by train past the depot
and shops in East Ely to the smelter at McGill, where it was processed
into "blister copper." This was poured in 60-lb. cakes and hauled
north to the main line of the S.P. When the cars returned, they
brought coal to fire the enormous power generation plant. All that
is in the past tense, however. In 1978 the copper mines closed,
the smelter closed, the railroad closed, and most of Kennecott's
1500 local employees were laid off.
departure of Kennecott was a watershed event in White Pine County
history, and for nearly 20 years nothing quite took up the economic
slack. The economic downturn precluded widespread renovation, and
the early 20th century small-town architecture that dominates its
center give Ely a familiar look. Norman Rockwell would have liked
it, and you will like it too.
a while in the early 1990s it seemed the tide had turned when the
old Kennecott property at Ruth was acquired by Magma Copper Co.
in 1991. At the time, Magma's president predicted "this could be
the last big copper project in this country."
company spent $314 million to establish a state of the art mill
capable of processing 46,000 tons of ore per day. Mineable reserves
of 252 million tons were blocked out, and in January 1995 enormous
electric shovels ($6 million each) began scooping 40 tons at a
bite from the old Liberty Pit. A fleet of 240-ton haul trucks ($1.6
million each) hauled overburden and stockpiled ore for processing.
Original estimates called for mining through 2010, and in 1996
425 employees produced 146,000 pounds of copper, 366,000 ounces
of silver and 16,000 ounces of gold, prompting talk of expanding
the operation. In 1997 it closed down.
lodgings are plentiful in Ely. The jewelbox Steptoe Valley Inn
B&B is a block from the railroad station. The Copper Queen Ramada
Inn is a block south on US 93 its rooms open directly into
a great central room containing the casino, bar and swimming pool.
A new Holiday Inn welcomes guests on US 93 at the north edge of
town, and more motels welcome travelers on Aultman Street. Downtown
the modern new Jailhouse Casino and Motel is a phenomenon in its
own right, occupying the site of the original city jail and offering
the unusual opportunity of cellblock dining without being arrested,
charged or convicted.
the street the historic 6-story Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall presides
over downtown as it has done since 1928. For three generations
it has been the city's principal hostelry, and for 20 years --
until 1948 -- it was Nevada's tallest building. Along with much
of the downtown, it had become shabby, but new owners have restored
it far beyond its original eminence. Deluxe rooms are named for
the celebrities who have stayed there over the years -- Hoot Gibson,
Ingrid Bergman and Tennessee Ernie Ford among them and the
6th floor suite, once reserved for visiting Kennecott executives,
has been made lavish and luxurious (Did Elvis sleep in that bed?).
greatest attraction for visitors may not be in town at all, but
in the magnificent surroundings. The new Great Basin National Park
provides an obvious and rewarding destination to visitors, but
there is no limit to the outdoor recreation here. Hunting, fishing,
camping, hiking, exploring, cross-country skiing and anything else
you enjoy doing outdoors is available in the countryside around
Ely. Chamber of Commerce information is available on where
else? Aultman Street.
can make a quick (perhaps two hours if you can do it without stopping
along the way‹or bring your fishing gear and take all day) tour
of the high country by taking the Success Summit Loop Road through
the Schell Creek Range to the east. Access is via U.S. 6/50/93
east out of town. The road winds north past several campgrounds
in the forested heights and takes 33 beautiful miles to find its
way back to US 93 north of McGill.
you enjoy the great outdoors, Ely and its neighbors along US 93
may become your favorite Nevada destinations.
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