Nevada Northern 10 “Ely”
1889 Business Car

The Nevada Northern operated a mining railroad near Ely, Nevada, carrying rich copper ore 160 miles north to connections with the  Western Pacific.

This open-platform wooden car (which later received steel side  sheathing and an enclosed platform on one end) is one of the finest  examples of early business cars. Used by railroad officials as a traveling office, it provided two elegant staterooms, a lounge, dining room, galley, and crew quarters.

Originally built as Savannah, Florida & Western 100, it served on the NN from 1906 until 1947, then ran as Gulf, Mobile & Ohio business car 10 for the next ten years. In 1959, North American Car Company refurbished it, and donated the car to IRM in 1962. The ornate interior remains almost entirely original.

The Ely is the oldest “steam road” passenger car in IRM’s collection.

Builder: Pullman Palace Car
Empty Weight: 143,200 lbs
Capacity: 10 passengers
Nominal Length: 75 ft

From a Special Edition of the Illinois Railway Museum Newsletter dated May, 1962, Warren Cobb, acting editor, posted the following information which has been edited to make sense here:

The Illinois Railway Museum Receives a Business Car, The “Ely”

Your museum has been given a car whose beauty defies description. It is a business car, formerly Nevada Northern #101, “Ely”, a gift of Mr. A. B. Maley of Chicago. For the first time we have a car in first class condition as it arrives at the Museum, all restoration work having been done on the car.

The early history of the Ely is a bit obscure. As Mr. Lucius Bebee said in a letter to Mr. Maley: “The car you have acquired is one of the damnedest cars to get any dope on anywhere. It may well be haunted.”

The Nevada Northern Railroad’s records show that they bought the car “second hand” in 1907, but they have no records before that. It was used for business trips by the Vice President and General Manager of the NN from 1907 to 1940. In 1927 the car was reconstructed, refinished and refurnished by the NN, who used the car less than 2000 miles afterward. In 1947 the car was sold to the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio RR, who designated it No. 10. By 1959 the CM&O had taken it out of service and stored it in Mobile, AL. It was purchased by Mr. Maley, who has the car moved to the North American Car Company at Argo, IL.  There the car underwent a complete restoration. The paneling was removed and refinished, the rest of the woodwork was refinished in place. The exterior of the car was sandblasted and repainted; even the carpets were removed and cleaned. The car is lettered NOA (North American), “Nevada Northern” and painted Tuscan.

The hallmark of a private car is its observation platform. The Ely’s platform is complete with a very ornate railing. There is a single track light under the platform. The observation room is 11 feet, 9 inches long, fully carpeted. The rear of this room is shown in the top view, page 4. Here, as throughout the car, lavish use has been made of the ornate woodwork that was in vogue at the turn of the century. Scrolls, buttresses, scallops and spindles decorate the car everywhere. Central feature of the observation room is the painting, mounted on the forward wall. It was purchased by Mr. Maley while he was in Venice, Italy. Beneath the painting is a full length settee, complemented by the more contemporary chairs of the room. There are two narrow mirrors mounted vertically outside the car which can be adjusted to provide a forward view from inside the observation room. The telephone is the only modern touch in the car.

An aisle leads forward from the observation room past the two staterooms. Stateroom A, toward the rear, is smaller with a single bed.  Stateroom B is the larger, with a double bed. Both beds are complete with brass bedsteads. Large mirrors are mounted in each stateroom, making them appear much larger. Between the staterooms is the bath with brass fixtures and one of the two showers in the car. The staterooms and bathroom have linoleum floors. There are individual doors on the bath, for privacy.

Forward of the staterooms is a Conference Room, probably the most beautiful part of the car. Here the woodwork seems to fill the room with its intrinsic beauty. The dining table and its six chairs are cherry, natural finish. The rest of the woodwork is rich mahogany, perfectly complimented by the off-white headliners. The front of the Conference Room has two secretaries, one with a typewriter stand, the other with a kneehole. Between the secretaries is the opening to the pullman section and the forward part of the car. Triple weight, beveled edge, leaded glass doors close on the two small bookcases over the secretaries. This is the view show in the bottom view, page 4. Notice in particular the “fan” divider. This is made of individual spindles, mahogany turnings set in the carved mahogany arch. We regret being able to publish only two pictures of the interior of this car, we couldn’t do it justice with a dozen!

There is a complete pullman section forward of the Conference Room. Behind the ornate wooden panels are folding upper berths; the seats make up to form the two lower berths. The car will sleep nine persons without the settees nor counting the porter’s section. the seat coverings in the pullman section are believed to be original. They were good enough to leave when Mr. Maley rebuilt the car. The door that closes on the forward part of the car has a half-length mirror and brass fittings. All light fixtures, electrical outlets, switch plates and door hardware in the car are brass.

The forward third of the car is the “working section”. Here are located the galley, the pantry, the heating boiler, the electrical cabinet, the forward shower and the porter’s quarters. These quarters are half a pullman section. The single seats face each other and make up into the lower berth. There is an upper folding berth. The front vestibule has a stairwell and door on the left side, a refrigerator on the right.

As donated by Mr. Maley, this car is wired for 32 V DC and has the mounting for a propane generator. Mr. Larry Goerges, IRM member, was able to locate a used generator on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway.  Mr. F. J. Sherwin donated the money used to purchase the generator, which was installed on March 3, 1962. The car received a coat of roof mastic before it left Argo, IL. On April 15, 1962 the Ely was moved over the North Shore from Skokie to the Chicago Hardware Foundry Co. in North Chicago, IL with a party of about 30 regular IRM members and guest aboard.

Specifications of the Illinois Railway Museum’s Ely, from a letter prepared by the Nevada Northern in 1944:

Class of car: Business car
Weight: 143,420 pounds
Length Over End Sills: 67 feet 4 inches
Length Over All: 75 feet 4 inches
Width (Outside): 9 feet 10½ inches
Wheels: Sohone Rolled Steel
Journals: 5″ x 9″
Trucks: 6-wheel Steel Truck Frame
Draft Gear: Westinghouse Friction
Underframe: Steel
Siding: Steel Plate
Windows: Double, Weather-stripped
Heating: Train-line Steam and Baker Heater
Lighting: 60-volt Electric, from 51 steel cells Edison Storage Battery, belt driven
axle generator
Interior Woodwork: One stateroom in maple, one in oak. Observation room in weathered
oak. Dining room in mahogany. Completely refinished and richly
furnished throughout, including new carpets.
Furnishings: Silk plush seat covers and window drapes, silk lined, all new. [In 1944]

The Ely was given to the Museum on an “as-is, where-is” basis. Transportation costs were incurred by the Museum. An April 15, 1962 fan trip was operated to cover part of this expense, however, seating was limited to 25. The fantrip did not cover the entire expense of moving the car from Argo to North Chicago so a fund was established for this car; the”Ely Fund”. Please help keep this car in its present elegant condition.

Ely in North Chicago, September 1963, photo by John D. Horachek

Ely in North Chicago, September 1963, photo by John D. Horachek

In 1964 the Illinois Railway Museum moved to its current location near Union, IL. A special train was made up to move the Ely and several other special cars from North Chicago to Union via Chicago & Northwestern hospital train. John Horachek was very involved in the movement of the cars and captured an image of the Ely in the C&NW Proviso yard during transit.

Ely at Proviso yard 1964, John D. Horachek photo

Ely at Proviso yard 1964, John D. Horachek photo

Floorplan of Ely

Plan of 2nd No.101 Ely as GM&O Officer Car No. 10. Drawing courtesy of Mike Baksic, Superintendent of Passenger Cars, Illinois Railway Museum

Plan of 2nd No.101 Ely as GM&O Officer Car No. 10.
Drawing courtesy of Mike Baksic, Superintendent of Passenger Cars,
Illinois Railway Museum

Additional information was found about the Ely through the Nevada Northern Railway Passenger Equipment Roster. There were two cars owned by the Nevada Northern called “Ely”.

Steve Swanson’s research about this car is under the label Business Car 1st No. 100, 2nd No. 101 Ely:

Built by Pullman 19 February 1889 (plan 630A, lot 1541) for the Savannah, Florida & Western Ry (Plant System) as their #100.

Purchased by the NNRy New York office for $6,000.00 30 June 1906. Wood body, metal underframe, 66′ 11 1/2″ long, 6 wheel trucks, and wide vestibules Note that the Nevada Northern records measure the car body and don’t include the platforms or vestibules.

Renumbered to #101 Ely April 1916 with the purchase of 2nd #100. Steel side sheathing and steel underframe added 1928.

Sold to the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio May 1947 and became their #10. Sold to North American Car Corp. in 1957 as their NOA. Refurbished and used by the president of NOA for a year long tour of the U.S. Donated to the Illinois Electric Railway Museum (now the Illinois Railway Museum, Union IL) in 1961. The car suffered some water damage to the observation and dining room ceilings from being stored outside for years, but is now stored inside under cover.

The entire collection of Mike Baksic’s images taken in 2001 inside the Ely are available in the IRM Photo Gallery, uploaded by Phil Stepek in 2006. These images show evidence of the damage suffered in the ceiling of the observation room which has recently been returned to a much more aesthetically pleasing state by the combined efforts of IRM Passenger Car Department personnel and Buzz Morrisette, one of the master craftsmen at IRM. Progress updates can currently be found on the IRM blog and will be added here soon.


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