This unusual culinary competition takes home cooks to steam locomotives instead of standard kitchens to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner using three unique heat sources

ELY, Nev. – Ladies and gentlemen, grab your cooking shovels. Nevada Northern Railway is gearing-up for a culinary competition unlike anything ever seen on the Food Network or Cooking Channel. The national historic landmark will host the inaugural Iron Horse Cookery Cook-Off on Sunday, Sept. 1. The railway invites cooks to step back in history for this culinary event, preparing hearty meals the same way the earliest engineers did.

Teams of up to four cooks wearing authentic clothes from 100 years ago will prepare three meals in 45-minute rounds preparing one of the day’s three meals. Breakfast will be made trackside on an open camp fire, lunch will be cooked on a potbelly stove inside Caboose No. 3, and dinner will be prepared on a cooking shovel inside the firebox of Locomotive No. 40.

 Historic Inspiration

The Iron Horse Cookery Cook-Off was inspired by railway workers from long ago. The first steam locomotive’s hungry engineers and train crews worked long hours without meal breaks. They had to draw on their own ingenuity to satisfy their hunger and realized having fire, steam and hot water on the locomotive was all they needed to cook meals while on the clock.

Even during the early days at Nevada Northern Railway, crews would work 16 hours. Workers in the locomotive would use the train’s firebox and boiler as heat sources, while the conductor and rear brakemen in the caboose would prepare meals on the potbelly stove. In the summertime, it was too hot to cook in either the locomotive or the caboose, so crews would make an open fire along the tracks for their meal preparations.


Calling all Home Cooks

The railway is currently accepting challengers to the Iron Horse Cookery Cook-Off. Each team participant will receive a voucher to redeem four excursion train rides at the railway. The museum will provide clean and seasoned cooking shovels to each team to be used in the firebox. A panel of judges will receive each dish in the designated, identical containers for blind deliberation each round. The panel will also judge teams on the authenticity of their clothing choice during the competition.

The second-place team will receive a $75 cash prize and the team in first-place will be awarded a $150 cash prize. One cook will be the event’s grand champion named the Iron Horse Cookery Master Chef and will be awarded a $250 cash prize.

 Bring History to Your Kitchen

As the most authentic and best-preserved historic railroad facility in America, Nevada Northern Railway Museum’s mission is all about preservation. In addition to restoring the century-old steam locomotives and all railway equipment, the crew is also passionate about sharing stories of the many first-generation immigrants who worked there.

In honor of the hard-as-steel railroad workers who helped build America, the railway has also created a cookbook of the hearty recipes that got workers through long workdays. The Iron Horse Cookery Cookbook includes stories from early railroad days along with recipes. Each of the recipes have been tested in the cab of Locomotive 40 and can be adapted to your own oven or cast-iron skillet. For more information on the first annual Iron Horse Cookery Cook-Off, to participate on a team or attend the event as a spectator visit

About the Nevada Northern Railway:  The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is a designated National Historic Landmark.  Voted the state’s Best Rural Museum and the Best Place to Take the Kids by readers of Nevada Magazine, the Nevada Northern Railway Museum also has been featured on Modern Marvels, American Restorations and on PBS. For more information, call 775-289-2085, log onto or to get the latest news “Like” the Railway’s Facebook page.