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Cover Story

Nevada State Railroad Museum
Santa Train

by Peg Franchetti

The Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City got its start in 1985 when the Union Pacific Railroad transferred ownership of eleven miles of the historic Boulder Branch line to the State of Nevada. Two years later, seven miles of this track was conveyed to the City of Henderson, leaving the State with the four miles of track on which the Nevada Southern Railway operates today.

Much of our railroad rolling stock was obtained in 1993 from the now defunct Heber Creeper Railroad in Heber City, Utah. In 1996, the railroad maintenance facility at 600 Yucca Street was completed and, in 1999, funding was provided for refurbishment of the first pieces of railroad cars and locomotives and for construction of the railroad passenger facilities and platform. The Nevada Legislature approved funding in 2001 for a major refurbishment project of many of the Pullman coaches we use as well as our GP-30 locomotive #844.

The new railroad passenger facilities were completed in 2001, and that December, we ran the first train run for the general public – “Santa Train.” Although the operational rolling stock we had at the time was limited and despite some first time glitches (including a Santa Claus that unexpectedly left early), the event was a big hit! Now, ten years later, we are selling tickets for our 11th Annual Santa Train and are planning on being sold out with close to 11,000 riders over three weekends. Santa Train will run six times a day from 10am to 3pm on December 8-9, 15-16 and 22-23. Tickets are $5 per person for one year of age and older.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will ride on every Santa Train run and say hello to all of the children. Our volunteers put up festive decorations and lights throughout the train and on the platform. Santa’s sleigh will be available for photos and a North Pole mailbox for sending letters to Santa. In addition, our 7-1/2” gauge “live steamers” will be giving rides to the general public and our model railroaders will have a large display set up in our Maintenance Building.  Food and beverages will be available for purchase and we often have live entertainment. Tickets should be purchased in advance in order to guarantee a ride with Santa. Visit for more information on how to purchase tickets.

After the success of our first Santa Train in 2001, we started limited weekend and holiday train service for the general public and now operate the Nevada Southern Railway four times a day every Saturday and Sunday except for January. Over the years, we have expanded our special events.

In April 2010, we held our first Great Train Robbery weekend with a Wild West reenactment group who held up the train and had a shoot-out by Railroad Pass. We will have a Great Train Robbery weekend again on March 23-24, 2013.

In October 2010, we added our Halloween Express weekend when children in costume ride the train for free. The train is decorated with children-appropriate scary and not-so-scary ghosts, ghouls and goblins. Our Halloween Express weekend is very popular and I think those of us at the museum enjoy it even more than the children. We love the creative costumes the kids come up with! Even many of the adults come dressed in costume. 

Our most recent addition to our events was a “Day Out With Thomas” event which we held in April 2012.  Almost 10,000 people came to the Museum to ride the train with Thomas and we are planning another “Day Out With Thomas” in April 2013. More details will be available at after the New Year.

The Museum has three part-time State employees:  the Director, Greg Corbin; the Maintenance Repair Specialist, Mike Travaglia; and the Administrative Assistant, yours truly, Peg Franchetti. Our trains would not operate, however, without all of the hard work and time put in by our seventy plus active volunteers. The trains are operated, repaired and refurbished by them and we appreciate every bit of their invaluable help. They are our engineers, conductors, brakemen, car attendants, mechanics, painters, odd job specialists and even Santa and Mrs. Claus. Thank you to all of our volunteers!

For more information about the Nevada State Railroad Museum, please visit our websites at  and or call me at 702-486-5006.

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