Submitted photo
The annual Race the Rails is scheduled this weekend at the Nevada Northern Railway.

The Ely Times

Train wheels thundering down the track, steam rising in the air,  and on the highway next to it you see bicyclists racing as fast as they can to beat the train.  

Ely is home to one of the nation’s largest time capsules, the Nevada Northern Railway. Here you will find coal fired steam engines that are more than 100 years old still billowing their plumes of steam as they lumber down the track.

In 2016, local Wade Robison suggested in a joking manner about making an event out of a racing the train, and several locals said “Let’s Race.”   

The planning and coordinating began, and in 2017 the first official race was held. The race course offers unique terrain for both road and mountain bikers. This unique challenge is enjoyed by roughly 100 people a year.

Bikers will load up their bikes onto the train for a very unique start to the race.  Once off the train and in racing position, at the sound of the train whistle, mountain bikers and road bikers race onto their individual courses to see who can get back to the depot before the train. 

Bikers will test their speed and skills as the train is powering down the rails on the 10-mile challenging course. Road bikers prove their speed and endurance on a 25-mile course along roads and highways in the area. It’s not a race against fellow riders, it’s a race against one of histories most powerful inventions.  

The event was originally ran by White Pine County Tourism and Recreation, but now Great Basin Trails Alliance host the Race The Rails event and 100 percent of the proceeds are reinvested into the trail systems within White Pine County.

Race a coal fired steam engine that is over 100 years old. The event will accommodate both road and mountain bike riders of all ages.

Every participant who enters will receive a race shirt, swag bag, train ticket and ticket for the barbecue afterwards.  

Mark Bassett, executive director of the Nevada Northern Railway, explained how the bicyclists and the train are tied so far.

“We are tied,” Bassett said. “The bikes won the first year and train won the second year. So bragging rights are on the line this year and intend to win.

 “Race the Rails continues to grow in popularity. People love the uniqueness of the train ride as well as the social vibe of the after party with music and barbecue. It’s the perfect marriage of history and athletics.” 

The race will begin on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 8 a.m. at the Nevada Northern Railway located at 1100 Avenue A.