NevadaGram #30 – Ely’s Ghost Train, Art Flap in Elko and a Love Letter to Hawthorne


The Northern Nevada Railway in East Ely offers one of life’s greatest rushes.

For $550 you can rent a steam locomotive and “chug-chug poof-poof off we go!” You can actually throw the lever and move the great locomotive down the rail in a slow glide that gradually quickens to a solid click-clack, click-clack, clickety-clack. You can pull the cord for the long, soulful whistle that has stirred human hearts for generations, and you’re chugging faster and faster toward the main line. Wow!

Ely’s Ghost Train is frozen in time. The sandstone depot stands at the end of a broad boulevard, 11th Street, and the coaling tower and water tank loom over it. The yard consists of about 50 buildings and structures, most of them dating from the early years of the railroad.

On June 11, 12 and 13 the complex will host the fifth Long Steel Rails Festival. The Nevada Northern, in conjunction with the East Ely Depot Museum, the White Pine Public Museum and the White Pine Chamber of Commerce have created this colorful celebration of railroads and their influence on everyday American life.

But just riding along on one of the scheduled May through October departures is a dreamy experience. More about the railroad here.

As if to confirm its new cosmopolitan character, Elko has lately been wracked by controversies over art.

Too hot for Elko?

Two paintings from a Wild Women Artists show mounted at The North Eastern Nevada Museum for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering were deemed too racy for Elko eyes and ordered removed. Suppose one of those sensitive cowboy poets had caught a glimpse of it? Maybe it was a public safety decision.

So, as one local man fretted that Elko would be seen as “the result of 130 years of ignorance and inbreeding,” the paintings were taken downtown to the DLC Gallery a few doors east of Capriola’s on Commercial Street, where they were put on exhibit in an impromptu Salon des Refusees.

Rest easy, Elko is not yet completely nouveau. Anacabe’s Elko General Merchandise on Idaho Street is one of many traditional enterprises that still thrive here. Outdoor workers in four states buy their gear at Anacabe’s, and tourists come in just for the atmosphere, which harks back to 1937, when Elko was purely a cowtown.

Any uproar that prompts a comparison with Paris, especially 19th Century Paris, underscores the astonishing changes overtaking this old cowtown on the Humboldt River.

The other controversy was national in scope. Sarah Sweetwater, an exceptional sculptor on the faculty at the local Great Basin College, was a finalist to create a sculpture of Sarah Winnemucca for placement in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall along with Pat McCarran. But her design was not selected and all of Elko was cast down.

E-Mail of the Month

I had the pleasure of visiting Hawthorne in mid-August. Now, coming from Louisiana, this was a major change for me. Not only did I enjoy the weather, but the way that I was treated like family by everyone in the town. I once told my friend Eric that he was a city boy because of the fact that he was from Nevada, but boy was I mistaken. Hawthorne is as down home as the town I am from in Louisiana. I enjoyed my stay in Hawthorne immensely. I have made plans to vist Hawthorne at least once a year, or more!

Alexandria, Louisiana

The Amazing Johnathanhas vanished from the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas just weeks into a two-year run. “They didn’t advertise the first two weeks, they raised the ticket price too high, there was no press opening, they left people on hold too long at the box office and used various other tactics,” Jonathan said as he disappeared.

Given the Lt. Governor’s recent visit to China, and the announcement of a Nevada office in Beijing, I asked our China correspondent, Tonopah John Lundemo, what his neigbors know about us. He replies from Zhengzhou, “I’ve asked dozens, people who should really know, but no one here knows anything of Nevada. Some have heard of it. Some knowLas Vegas ‘where they gamble like in Macao‘. The big western states are not known, though they study geography. They seem to know only LA, SF, and NY, some Washington DC.” Or a little more than the average Nevadan knows about China.

Overheard at the Deux Gros Nez in Reno: “I don’t know if she didn’t tell me, or if I didn’t listen.”

Happy Highways,

David W. Toll



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