The Nevada Northern Railway’s Polar Express trains offers children a chance to meet Santa. (File photo)

The Nevada Northern Railway’s Polar Express trains offers children a chance to meet Santa. (File photo)

By Lukas Eggen
Ely Times Staff Writer

As the holidays draw closer, the Nevada Northern Railway is offering residents and visitors alike a chance to give and to make new holiday memories.
On Nov. 16, the Nevada Northern Railway and the Boy Scouts are teaming up for a food drive. The Boy Scouts, who will be going door-to-door to collect food and will receive a free train ride from the Nevada Northern Railway as a thank you for their efforts.

“It’s definitely one of our most rewarding trains because we’re collecting food for the community’s food banks,” Executive Director Mark Bassett said. “The Boy Scouts is where it started. They go out and get donations of non-perishable items. This is a way to reward them for their efforts.”

The public is also invited to bring a can of food to the Nevada Northern Railway and receive a free ticket for Food Train on Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. The combined efforts of the community, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, helps make sure that those in need have food.

Bassett said the Community Food Drive train is one of highlights of the year.
“It’s a fantastic effort,” Bassett said. “I think in any community, no one should go hungry, whether they’re adults or children. We’ve got a great community here for people who pitch in and help. This is one way that we work to help the community…Anything we can do to prevent anyone from going hungry, we want to do it.”

Polar Express

Beginning November 23, the Nevada Northern Railway offers riders a chance to take a trip to the North Pole and see Santa Claus on the railroad’s Polar Express trains.

“It’s very popular,” Bassett said. “This year, the readers of Nevada Magazine voted our Polar Express the best special event in rural Nevada that is quite the compliment.”

And it takes a lot to make the Polar Express trains special, Bassett said.

“It’s the combined efforts of all staff and volunteers who make this work,” Bassett said. “We have a lot of involvement from many different people. That produces lots of smiling faces.”

Bassett said the Nevada Northern Railway will see approximately 3,000 visitors during the Polar Express trains. This brings people from Las Vegas, parts of California and Utah, Bassett said. In fact one year we had a family from North Pole, Alaska. So people come to Ely for the Polar Express from all over.

The trains feature the story The Polar Express. It is read during the ride while the movie’s soundtrack, which features the voice of Tom Hanks, plays in the background. Passengers on the train receive hot chocolate and cookies on their trip to the North Pole, as well as a special gift from Santa.

From meeting Santa to singing Christmas carols, the Nevada Northern Railway aims to give everyone who rides the Polar Express, lasting memories and a new Christmas tradition, Bassett said.

“It’s great when you see everyone come in their pajamas and blankets. You see families who dress up the same,” Bassett said. “I think that’s awesome. The ride is fun with the kids’ anticipation and excitement. But my second favorite part is when we get to the North Pole. Santa waiting on the platform with his helper, you see the kids’ faces pressed against the window and they get all excited and are in awe seeing the jolly old elf. The whole experience comes to life then.”
For more information about the Polar Express trains, please call 775-289-2085.

Whether people are looking to ride the Polar Express trains for the first time or making a return trip and starting a new holiday tradition, Bassett said everyone will have lasting memories and a positive experience.  “To describe it in one word, it’d be magical,” Bassett said. “It’s an enchanting experience. It’s great not just for families with kids, but we see couples and friends. It’s just a fun, charming time.”