The Nevada Southern Railway excursion at the Nevada State Railroad Museum is a walk through history; and it’s a darned good one, too.
Everyone enjoys a good railroad and this one starts at the yard of the museum at 601 Yucca St. in Boulder City before heading toward Railroad Pass Casino.
It’s a ride reminiscent of the 1930s when the tracks were used for the construction of Hoover Dam. The ride which takes about 45 minutes, heads for Railroad Pass Casino and returns to its station.
There is the choice of open air car or air conditioned or heated Pullman coaches. The cars are wheelchair accessible and also available on select weekends are model railroad displays and 7.5” gauge live steam model trains with rides.
Railroad cars are available in an open air car or air conditioned/heated Pullman coaches.
A creative and enthusiastic staff of volunteers keeps visitors informed about the history of the train; while also offering special incentives for those who want to return again and again.
Special events include a Sooul Train keeps the adults dancing the first week of October with music from the 60s, 70s and the 80s. Other highlights during year include a Halloween train along with Santa train each Christmas.
As one enthusiast said with an on-line review, “It was great to just relax and look at the scenery from something besides a car window. Great for those who like old train cars and history. Didn’t hear much of the narrative because I was too busy enjoying the scenery.”
Almost like the Richard Petty Driving School at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, there is something very fun about watching visitors at Nevada State Railroad Museum.
In both cases, whether it’s getting out of a racecar at 175 miles an hour or riding a train to Railroad Pass and back, both experiences result in countless smiles.
Director Randy Hees, a native of the Bay Area in California who joined the staff eight months ago, is ecstatic about his new home and his new gig. As he explained, both Carson City and Southern Nevada offer rides on trains and in each case, the experiences are very positive simply because there is a huge fascination about old trains nowadays.
“The museum opened for tourist trains in 2002,” Hees said. “We’re now the fastest-growing of the Nevada state museums as evidenced by the fact that 34,000 visitors rode the train in 2015. In addition, we have about another 10,000 visitors each year just to see the museum.”
The history of the museum definitely plays a big part in the success for the attraction which is an agency of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs.
As Hees explained, the railroad was started in 1931 to build Boulder Dam. It was last used in 1961 when the last generator was installed at the dam. The system was finally abandoned in 1985 before being donated to the museum.
“I have the best job in the world,” Hees said. “People love railroads and we try to preserve the history that is a part of this. I mean, think about what remains the favorite gift around a Christmas tree each year – a train.”
In fact, a very fitting gift to the museum arrived when Las Vegas Motor Speedway mastermind Richie Clyne donated an 1888 private railroad car that goes by the name Ellsmear.
Clyne, the ultimate professor of classic cars and most anything else that is classic, could not have found a better home for Ellsmear.
The teamwork effort of the creation of the museum along with the dedication provided by the volunteers is the perfect combination.
“If I didn’t show up for work one day, the volunteers would get the people on the train and bring them back without missing a step,” Hees said. “They are that capable and that dedicated. In fact, they also oftentimes work on the equipment.
“They are all here because they want to be here.”
Among the volunteers is Leon Ganter, who spearheaded the Sooul Train dance Oct. 1 which featured soul music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
A retired 70-year-old firefighter from Flagstaff, Ariz., he’s having the time of his life working at the museum.
“One day my wife and me were coming back from Flagstaff,” he said. “I called to tell them I wanted to see what it was about. They told me it was a volunteer type thing. I told them I wanted to give it a shot, and that was the beginning.
“It’s a lot of fun.”
Don and LaDene David, 55 year residents of Las Vegas, have been volunteering since 2008.
“We love working with the kids when we do the school runs during the week,” LaDene said “When we have field trips, the kids get to ride the train. It’s really a neat experience, something they will never forget. The younger kids and the older people really like the experience. We meet people from all over the country. They take pictures and love the chance to get out in the open air. It’s an awesome trip.
“Don and I really enjoy the kids and says it’s a great experience. On an average, we spend about 25 hours a week.
Tickets for the ride are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 4-11. Children under the age of four are free.
Four rides are given beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is open from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; and from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday.
Once the ride has been completed, visitors are invited to tour the rail yard and all of the trains. Kids love the experience and so do adults.
Further information can be found by calling 702-486-5952; or by emailing webmaster@NevadaSouthern.com. +