Management of Subterranean Ecosystems in Extreme Environments
Nevada Northern Railway

The 2025 NCKMS conference will include a ride on an historic steam train. Join cave and karst managers from across the US as we ride up into the White Pine Mining District outside of Ely, Nevada!

Audio Tour: Nevada Northern Railway

Track for the Nevada Northern Railway was laid over a century ago, connecting one of the largest copper mines in North America to the transcontinental routes to the north. Today, several of the original steam locomotives that were ordered and delivered new to the railroad over a century ago are still in operation. Curators of the Smithsonian Institution have called the Nevada Northern Railway, "the most complete, most authentic, and best cared-for" railway museum in the country.

Best of all, when you come to the 2025 NCKMS conference, you're going to ride it!

NCKMS Geology Train!

The 2025 NCKMS team is arranging for an interpretive geology-themed ride on this historic steam train. We're still working out details, but the trip will be included in your registration options.


The ore line was built to transport the low grade porphyry copper ore from deposits located some 11 miles west of the railroad terminal at East Ely to the mill concentrator and smelter situated some 12 miles northeast at the town of McGill.

Nevada Northern Railway

Today, the Nevada Northern Railway offers scenic and interpretive rides and maintains an extensive historical collection.

Visit Online

The ore line was completed in 1908. At almost 23 miles in length, the rails extended through Robinson Canyon to the mines at Copper Flat, Ruth and Veteran. Ore shipments commenced using the 90 Class 2-8-0's No.'s 90-93 to power the ore trains. The first ore was milled in May of that year.

The mine properties were originally underground developments; however, the Eureka and Liberty shafts of Nevada Consolidated's (Nevada Con) Copper Flat properties warranted the open-cut method of mining. Steam shovel operations began at the Eureka mine and at the Liberty shaft in August 1907 and 1909, respectively. The two pits were connected in 1916 to form a single, large pit known as the Liberty Pit, also called the Ruth or Copper Flat pit. By 1912, eight steam shovels worked the day shift and three shovels were employed at night, handling 9000 tons of ore per day.

During the 1958 recession, Kennecott Copper Corporation bought Consolidated Coppermines properties at Kimberly, and all of the Robinson Mining District then belonged to Kennecott's Nevada Mines Division.

After several decades of fluctuating commodity prices, a world-wide depression in the copper market and environmental issues relating to the aging smelter combined to spell the end of Kennecott's copper mining operations in the Robinson District. In September, 1978 KCC NMD mines were closed and the ore trains ceased operation. On 20 June 1983, the McGill smelter closed and the Nevada Northern Railway ceased operations.

In a series of donations beginning in 1986, Kennecott transferred the entire ore line, as well as the railroad's yard and shop facilities in East Ely, to the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation, a non-profit organization which operates the property as the Nevada Northern Railway Museum.

Today, the Nevada Northern Railway is the last of its kind - the sole survivor from a grand era of railroading in the Silver State. Now a National Historic Landmark, it is America's best preserved short-line railroad and most complete rail facility still in existence. You can walk back to a time when the iron horse ruled the rails.

The Nevada Northern Railway is a living, breathing, operating historic railroad. Sometimes it's gritty, sometimes it's dirty, and sometimes it smells of coal smoke, creosote and sweat. Locomotives whistle off, cars clang as they are coupled together and wheels squeal as the locomotive is turned on the wye. When it comes to American Railroad Heritage, this is as real as it gets.


When you come to Ely for the 2025 NCKMS conference, the NNRY will be impossible to miss. It's only a few blocks from the convention center. During the days, the steam whistles may be heard all over town giving an ambiance to the valley you can't experience anywhere else. Located at 1100 Avenue A in Ely, the museum, depot and gift shop are open daily from 8am to 5pm.

  • Elevation: 6,437 ft

  • State: Nevada

  • District: White Pine County

  • Coordinates (WGS84): 39.25920, -114.86903

  • Nearest town: Ely, NV

  • Distance from the convention center: 20.9 miles

  • Free steam train Ringtones!

  • Topo Map

Links & Resources

Nevada Northern Railway at night

The railway, constructed in 1905-06, extended northward about 140 miles from Ely to connections with the Western Pacific Railroad at Shafter and Southern Pacific Railroad at Cobre. In 1967 NN reported 40 million net ton-miles of revenue freight on 162 miles of line. Image courtesy of Mobilus In Mobili, CC BY-SA 2.0

Rhodes Cabin - Great Basin NP

Rhodes Cabin, Greeat Basin National Park

Next to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center sits the historic Rhodes Cabin. The cabin was built in the 1920s by Clarence and Bea Rhodes, who were US Forest Service custodians of Lehman Caves at the time. It is one of several cabins built to provide accommodations for visitors to Lehman Caves. Today it contains interpretive exhibits.



Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy, with a low around 55. South wind around 5 mph.


Scattered Showers And Thunderstorms Scattered showers and thunderstorms between 11am and 5pm, then isolated showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. West southwest wind 0 to 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Monday Night

Isolated Showers And Thunderstorms then Partly Cloudy Isolated showers and thunderstorms before 11pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 55. East wind 0 to 5 mph.

Symposium Merchandise

Troglodyte Playing Cards

We have no idea what these will look like yet, but we couldn't think of hosting NCKMS in Nevada without offering some themed-out playing cards. There's a good chance the card backs will feature a cave animal of the year, but we still have some time to figure it out.


JUNE 29, 2023
NCKMS Steering Committee Chooses Ely, Nevada as Host City for 2025 Symposium
Read More


Advance registration for the 2025 symposium is expected to open in mid-2024. We will send an email to past attendees when that system comes online.

Feel free to join our mailing list if you would like to receive occasional updates on our plans.

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