The Lincoln Highway in Basin and Range – Ely, Nevada


Ely was a much anticipated destination in the Great Basin because it was the largest town between Salt Lake City and Reno. It boasted of many services.

Pop. 3,500 Alt. 6,000 feet. Six Hotels, 1  garage. Local speed limit 12 miles per hour, not enforced. Route marked through town and county, signs at town limits. Extensive road improvement. Three banks, one railroad, 100 general business places, 1 express company, 1 telegraph company, 3 newspapers,3 public schools, electric lights, water works. Automobile Club. Copper mining. Camp site. Picnic grounds . . .” – The Complete Official Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway, 1916

The main drag in Ely is Aultman Street, which is the route of the 1913 LHW.

I have stayed in Ely numerous times. The imposing Hotel Nevada on the main drag is a fun place to stay, and not that expensive (ask for special rates), but postdates my historical interests since it was built in 1928. That said, it does have a great interior and good food, a nice staff and comfortable rooms.

Hotel Nevada Interior

There is a wonderful, tree-shaded city park.

Ely City Park

And across from the park, a Lincoln Highway Marker!

Ely LHW Marker

East Ely and the Nevada Northern Railway

A short distance east of Ely is a tourist destination with great history – the Nevada Northern Railway. Follow the signs for “The Ghost Train” which will direct you to the main station.

Nevada Northern Depot - East Ely

This side trip is highly recommended (by me) and worthy of your time to stay over for a chance to ride behind a great steam engine.

Nevada Northern Steam Engine #93 Ready to Depart for Ruth

Nevada Northern Excursion Train North of Ely

This is a working museum where one of two preserved steam engines can be seen. The excursion takes you either up the canyon to Ruth, the site of the copper mines, or up the Steptoe Valley to McGill, the site of the old copper smelter. Choose the Ruth excursion since it is more likely to be powered by steam.

The LHW and the Nevada Northern Railway

Referring to Franzwa’s book, he notes problems of the railway and the highway sharing the narrow Robinson canyon, with the highway crossing the railway a dozen times. This section was not improved until 1924.

Robinson Canyon

I can’t say with certainty that I have identified the old LHW route correctly in the Google Earth picture but I believe that it is close. The problem is that the construction of the modern section of U.S. 50 has created great disturbances. Google Earth is a very good tool however for archaeological inference since it allows such clear views that one can’t get from the ground.

Ely, The Lincoln Highway, and the Railway

In the early days, the railway ran right through the town of Ely, about a block south of Aultman Street. The old and small Ely station still stands at the east end of the park. Eventually the railway located its track to the north of town to avoid all of the complaints from the residents who were tired of all the trains passing through at all hours of the day and night.

Next Up: S.L.C. to Ely – An Overview of a Difficult Section

Remember, do your research, be equipped, go with a friend if you are going off road. Travel safely and responsibly.

This entry was posted in Desert, Lincoln Highway, Loneliest, Loneliest Highway in America. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Lincoln Highway in Basin and Range – Ely, Nevada

  1. Back in October, I trekked to Ely! I loved the place. And yes, I stayed at Hotel Nevada. In the Jimmy Stewart Museum. It was super fun and inexpensive. Quirky, too! They even put lollypops on your pillows. And the café was pretty fabulous. Did you happen to spot the ghost in the corner booth?! Wink. Cheers! Theadora

  2. Sasha says:


    I enjoyed reading about your experience in Ely, I traveled there 5 years ago with my family and had a great time.

    I am also wanting to ask if I could ask you some questions about your trip for an article that I am writing for my college magazine writing class. (the article will also try to be submitted and used by a national magazine named Travel & Beyond)

    Thank you.
    – – Sasha

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