Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Along the Loneliest Road

US-50 west of Ely, Nevada is known as "The Loneliest Road in America" and today we drove most of its length.

Nevada Northern 105
After checking out of the Nevada Northern Railway bunkhouse, we had a look at engine 105, an Alco RS-2 diesel, ready to push that morning's excursion up to the mines. (The railroad runs diesel on Tuesday-Thursday and steam on Friday-Monday.) You'll notice that the caboose is right behind the locomotive rather than at the back of the train. That's because the only place the entire train can be turned is at the wye (triangle) at the upper end near the mines. There is a smaller wye at the East Ely yard, but it's only long enough to turn engines. Consequently, the train's consist runs in opposite directions on alternate days.

We left Ely about 9:15 AM and headed west.

Eureka County Courthouse
Just before 11 we got to Eureka, county seat of Eureka County. They've taken a great interest in restoring the city to play on its history as a mining town, and the county courthouse is a good example of the restoration.

Owl Club
At the Owl Club Cafe, we were almost too late for breakfast (we'd had but a cup of coffee/tea and a food bar/cookie at the NNRY Bunkhouse before leaving Ely), but they accommodated us.

Eureka Opera House
The Eureka Opera House is among those buildings that have been restored to their past glory.

Eureka County Museum
Just a block off the main street is the Eureka County Museum. Formerly the home of the Eureka Sentinel (which still exists but is now published in Ely), this museum preserves local history upstairs and the old newspaper office downstairs.

Eureka County Museum
The downstairs former newspaper office is covered with hundreds of handbills and posters printed by the paper over the years and old printing equipment such as this belt-driven press.

Signs of the Mines
As we left the museum and walked back to the van, we took this picture of scars of mining on the hills above Eureka. Nevada is all about mining. Whole towns have been moved to accommodate mines.

We spent nearly two hours in Eureka before continuing on to Austin. The highway traverses the Basin and Range Country, which means stretches of dead-straight high-speed highway through the basins are interspersed with twisty climbs up and down ranges. Unfortunately, the Astro is ailing and low on power, which made the drive a bit less fun, but we did make it.

Signs of the Mines
Just a few minutes west of Eureka, we stopped to photograph this mountain of mine tailings in the distance. Lisa says she would have hated to have crossed this by horse-and-wagon, taking days to traverse distances that took us only hours.

Where We Had Been
These photos really don't give a good idea of how huge and vacant this area is. At Austin Summit, we stopped and I took this photo looking back the way we'd come...
Where We Were Going
...and where we were going, as a long steep twisty descent into Austin begins here.

Lander County Courthouse
Austin is the county seat of Lander County. Their courthouse is trim and neat, but not quite as impressive as their neighbor to the east.

Austin Nevada
The Austin Museum was closed, so we stopped at the west end of town and took this photo looking back up the hill into Austin.

We continued west onto what I think is the longest single stretch without a town or even a gas station or rest area, although we missed the "Next Services 118 miles" sign that I think is along here.

New Pass Station
This section of US-50 parallels both the Pony Express and the Overland Stage routes through Nevada, and at some points I think the road is built right on top of one or the other routes. At New Pass stands the remains of one of the stations of the Overland Stage route.

Cold Springs
At Cold Springs there is a minimal roadside rest (one pit toilet) and a kiosk about the Pony Express and Overland Stage routes. For all that the Pony Express lasted less than two years and made fewer than 300 trips, it has left a lasting impression on the American psyche.

Overland Stage Trail
On the other side of the highway from the previous photo is a parking area adjoining this stretch of the Overland Stage route (the Pony Express route runs about 3 km south behind the vantage of this photo), which is a trail to the ruins of the Stage station to the west and of an early telegraph repeater station to the east, about 250 m each way.

Fairview, Nevada
Our final photo stop was at a marker for Fairview, one of many ghost towns that mining spawned and then killed as the mines played out. The site of Fairview is out there in the distance somewhere, but we were not going to get off the paved highway to go see it.

By now we were getting fairly tired and wanted to get home. We didn't stop in Fallon, as we go there regularly, but instead pressed home to Fernley, where we arrived at about 5:45 PM. With the exception of a couple of blocks in Fernley and a short stretch of streets in Salt Lake City (plus a bit of back-and-forthing in Ely), our entire trip of 1,127 miles was continuous and did not repeat any segments.

We unloaded the van, got some take-out pizza, and vowed to try and take it relatively easy tomorrow. Of course in my case that depends somewhat on how much work has accumulated at Day Jobbe. But we can't rest long, because the NASFiC trip begins this weekend and we thus have only a couple of days to do laundry and reset for the next adventure.
Tags: nevada, trains, travel

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