News & Reviews News Wire Nevada Northern receives $10 million grant to extend route

Nevada Northern receives $10 million grant to extend route

By Kevin Gilliam | October 14, 2021

| Last updated on April 6, 2024

Funds will restore 16 miles of track to reach town of McGill, add turntable there

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Steam engine in desert landscape
Nevada Northern 2-8-0 No. 81 operates during the Trains Magazine “81 for 81” event in October 2021. A major grant will allow the railroad to add 16 miles to its operating trackage. Jim Wrinn

ELY, Nev.—The Nevada Northern Railway Museum has been awarded a $10 million grant to rebuild 16 miles of railroad from Ely to McGill and install a turntable.

The legendary preservation railroad is getting ready to expand train service in a big way. For years, the railroad has been eyeing a section of long-unused track to the town of McGill, with the hopes of serving the town with regularly scheduled tourist trains. Those dreams became reality when White Pine County was awarded a $10,168,421 grant to rebuild the track from Ely to McGill. When complete, the rebuilding will double the amount of the railroad’s serviceable track.

In addition, the grant will pay for a parking lot in McGill, a lighted walking trail, the purchase of four electric railbikes, grade 10,000 feet of a multiuse trail between Ely and McGill joining existing trails, and combine the existing trail system parallel to the railroad’s right-of-way with six designated safe crossings.

Nevada Northern Railway President Mark Bassett says “it’s been a dream of the foundation since the beginning to restore train service to McGill. It’s going to change everything we do. It gives us a destination for passengers.”

The railroad already owns the McGill depot and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars restoring it to its former glory. The grant will also install a turntable at McGill. Talking with Mark Bassett, in recent years, there has “been a renaissance in McGill” with buildings being restored, and the return of tourist passenger trains will only accelerate the rebirth of this town.

The Nevada Northern originally operated 140 miles of railroad between connections with the Western Pacific and Southern Pacific along the Interstate 80 corridor through northern Nevada south through Ely to the copper mines at Ruth. Headquartered in Ely, the line was completed in 1906 with the heaviest traffic operating between Ruth through Ely to a smelter at McGill.

When the McGill smelter closed in 1983, that spelled the end of the railroad. Kennecott Copper began a series of donations that established the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation, and the present-day Nevada Northern Railway began tourist operations out of Ely.  The railway was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

11 thoughts on “Nevada Northern receives $10 million grant to extend route

  1. In other words, the grant money came via the Bureau of Land Management, part of the US Department of the Interior. The NNRY project was one of three awarded in White Pine County during this grant cycle, totaling about $47.7 million. The population of White Pine County according to the 2020 Census is 9,080. I’m happy for the Nevada Northern folks, for sure, but given the antipathy towards the federal government that I often see here, I wonder how those folks feel about this sort of investment.

    1. Most people only have an antipathy toward the federal government giving money to people they don’t like.

  2. I just visited there in late September and participated in the their “Be The Engineer – Steam” program with Engine #93. It was a wonderful experience, and with the news of the planned expansion and upgrading the track to McGill, I will definitely have to schedule another trip to Ely. Great news, and I wish them total success.

  3. From the Nevada Northern website: “White Pine County has been awarded a $10,168,421 Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Grant (SNPLMA) grant to open the Nevada Northern Railway track to the McGill Depot!”

  4. First they’re resurrecting another steam engine. Then they found two of their diesels and are bringing them home. Now they’re rebuilding the railroad where they’ll get a chance to run.

    Next, will they get the two battery-electric railcars testing in Orbisonia (at Rockhill Trolley Museum) to start commuter service between McGill and Ely?

    1. From the Nevada Northern website: “White Pine County has been awarded a $10,168,421 Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Grant (SNPLMA) grant to open the Nevada Northern Railway track to the McGill Depot!”

  5. Congratulations to NNRY!

    If the East Broad Top were to get such a grant to restore its line from Rockhill Furnace to Robertsdale, they would be able to attract a lot more tourists in that part of the country!

  6. Whoa!!! That’s huge!!! Congrats to Mark and the whole team at NNRY! Looking forward to the full run to McGill!

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