|North Thru Nevada
by Everett Chase
The Ely Surprise Engine #40
"Driving through Ely is like driving through the history of old Nevada. Unlike the population centers of Reno in the north and Las Vegas in the south, Ely's history is laid bare before the visitor."
Our specific interest in driving to Ely was to experience the "Ghost Train" ride which is helping to revitalize the tourist economy of the Ely area.
Ely, like many small towns in Nevada, still experience the rise and fall of the mining tide. Whether it be gold, silver, or tungsten the economies of many of the small outlying towns of Nevada, with their tenacious individualistic populations, feel the loss of their original, and still in some cases, their main industry.
Having missed a stay in Cliental and Pioche during our trip to Rachel, north of Area 51 on the Nevada Test Site, we decided to spend a little more time looking over the two towns. One of Caliente's attractions is the train station which provides the background for many trains passing through the town.
Caliente's future may be tied to the transportation of spent radioactive fuel cells passing through by train to Yucca Mountain.
Moving north, we approached Pioche via the scenic route entering from the southwestern direction. Pioche is truly a mining town built on the side of a mountain and worth investigation if your traveling in the area.
Although we ended up with engine #93, it was The Legend of The Ghost Train (#40) that brought us to Ely. A mysterious legend always attracts the curiosity of humans driving them to seek the unknown. As the story goes with this legend, in the 1950's in more prosperous times for Ely and its neighbors Ruth and McGill, trains were constantly rolling between the three towns. A plan called for the scrapping of the steam locomotives which were being replaced by diesels. Although many of them were scrapped, a favorite, Locomotive #40 continued to be "hidden" in the shops of McGill, Ruth, and Ely. Upon discovery in one yard it would be quietly moved to another. By the time the company officials discovered its existence, they "relented and cancelled the scrapping order."
When we arrived for our tour through the mountain canyons, the Ghost Train had disappeared into the shop for repairs and we ended up with engine #93.
Another don't miss for Ely is the Jailhouse restaurant which is decorated just like it sounds - and you eat in a cell behind bars. It didn't taste one bit like jail food and the price was right.
It was the Historic Hotel Nevada which interested us most. Owned by couple of Las Vegas guys, Paul Kellog and Bert Woywood, the hotel rooms are decorated "as Celebrity Rooms" after different actors and entertainers. We didn't get Wayne Newton who was supposed to have performed there when he first began his career. But what the heck, we watch TV and recognized the name Ann Rutherford, the celebrity name on our door.