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Journey to the Stars – on a Train?

Whether you prefer sunsets or night skies, you can enjoy both on the Star Train. The ride combines these two incredible celestial events into one unforgettable experience.

You may have traveled by rail before, but this is no ordinary adventure. It’s your chance to see the Milky Way like never before, but you’ll still be on Earth.

So grab your bags, and get ready to learn about this incredible occasion.

Let’s roll!

Death Valley National Park, California, USA, train track under the stars
Travel travel under the stars is magical

About the Nevada Northern Railway Company

The Nevada Northern Railway was established in 1905 to support the thriving copper mining industry throughout the region. However, all good things must end, and by 1941, bus service replaced passenger trains. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, officials dusted off the old cars for a special event.

This affair revitalized the railroad and brought it new life. Unfortunately, this resurgence ended in 1983. That’s when a group of concerned citizens formed the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. They then acquired the tracks to function as a tourist attraction. 

By 1987 the first cars left the station, and it’s been operating ever since. The station has grown and was designated as the East Ely Yard National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Today, the program relies on 20 paid staff and more than 130 volunteers to keep it running. Thanks to their efforts, the locomotives keep chugging along for hundreds of trips annually. The spirit of the rails and the memory of the glory days live on as passengers continue to visit and hear tales of the past. You can enjoy an up-close look at the industry that built America. 

What Is a Star Train?

The Star Train offers riders a unique opportunity to enjoy the night sky. Led by Dark Sky Rangers from Great Basin National Park, the Star Train departs from Nevada Northern Railway. It transports passengers away from light pollution to enjoy some of the clearest skies in the lower 48 states.

Park rangers bring a telescope to point out constellations, planets, and more. They’re experts in their field and can answer your questions. Even if you’re unlucky enough to have overcast weather, experiencing a vintage diesel locomotive is still exciting. The trip is remarkable whether you stare into the heavens or simply enjoy the ride.

If you spend most of your time in an urban environment, you may have yet to see truly dark skies. Many are amazed at the number of stars they miss out on because of light pollution. Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy ticket to get.

Discover the Stars: The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide

How Do You Get Tickets for the Star Train?

The Star Train events only operate on Friday nights during summer. The demand exceeds the number of available seats, and tickets quickly sell out once they become available. And the release of passes can be tricky because of the partnership with the National Park Service (NPS).

NPS typically doesn’t provide the museum with a staffing schedule until late fall for the following year. Once they receive the plan, they’re able to offer passes. Unfortunately, tickets are usually scooped up for the next season in a matter of weeks.

There are typically pre-sales for members of the museum. Depending on your membership level, you can get a discount and early access. So consider joining if this is on your to-do list.

Will you be on the East Coast this winter? Ride the Polar Express in the Great Smoky Mountains.

What Are the Best Alternatives if the Star Train Is Sold Out?

Sadly, not everyone will score a spot on the Star Train. If the event sells out, some alternatives are worth considering.

Sunset, Stars, and Champagne Train

The Sunset, Stars, and Champagne excursion is a solid option that takes you through Nevada’s high desert. You’ll travel through Steptoe Valley at the perfect time to enjoy a breathtaking sunset view. You can toast your glass to the end of the day and watch out the window as the night skies come alive with stars.

While this may sound similar to the Star Train, no park rangers or telescopes are available. The museum encourages guests to download an app on their smartphone to make navigating the constellations easier. This is an excellent plan if you can’t get a seat on the Star Train. These occur multiple times each week and tend to have plenty of availability.

Closeup shot of an unidentifiable couple toasting with glasses of wine like you might on the star train
Toast to the end of a beautiful day on the Sunset, Stars, and Champagne Train

Fire and Ice Train

The Fire and Ice adventure began in 2003 and has become an annual tradition. Unfortunately, this unique offering is another popular option. It sells out each year, so plan far in advance. 

While this excursion does book up quickly, you’ll have more leeway than your would for the Star Train. However, just because there’s more time doesn’t mean you should delay. If tickets are available, get them before they’re gone.

This trip takes place on the third weekend in January over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. You’ll leave the station at 4:30 PM for the Fire and Ice Festival. On its return, they shoot off fireworks. You read that right! There’s a fireworks show straight from the moving cars. We have yet to hear of anywhere else you can witness something like this.

Fourth of July Train

Speaking of fireworks, riding on the Fourth of July is another great option. You depart the station and head towards the Ruth Mining District. You can watch the sunset and enjoy the views. 

The final destination is one of the best spots for viewing the Ely fireworks display. Guests can watch from the cars or bring lawn chairs and set up outside. At the end of the show, you hop back on and enjoy the return trip to the station. Take time to appreciate the stars and the darkest skies around.

Do you know: What is the Grand Canyon Railway?

All Aboard the Star Train!

There’s no time to waste! Book your trip on the Star Train or one of the other Nevada Northern Railway experiences. Whether it’s the sunset, stars, or the train that interests you, it can be a fun and memorable excursion. 

While you may have to plan several months ahead, many guests find it worth the wait.

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