Less than a half-hour drive from Las Vegas, you can step back in time and experience a historic and interesting ride on the unique Nevada Southern Railway in Boulder City. This train can be an exceptional experience for everyone, as it facilitates accessibility for people with limited mobility, whether they are using wheelchairs, walkers, scooters or canes.
A branch of the Nevada State Railroad Museum, the Nevada Southern operates restored and preserved rolling stock on tracks originally installed in 1931 for the construction of Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam.) The train has four operational diesel locomotives that take passengers on a seven-mile round-trip journey to Railroad Pass and back in less than an hour. The train is accessible for all, and the railway provides a wheelchair lift on one Pullman coach. If you plan to use this lift, arrive 15 minutes early so you can ensure on-time boarding.
This specifically designed coach was the first car renovated by the railway. It has ample space to allow numerous occupants with assistance devices, accompanied by their families and friends. It also has an accessible bathroom.
The railway offers open-air cars, which some prefer in fair weather, but also has air-conditioned and heated coaches, including the newly refurbished Pullmans, which date to 1911. All cars afford unobstructed views of the vast Eldorado Valley as well as the River Mountains, home to desert bighorn sheep. Regular train departure times are 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
There are two special events taking place over the next two months. The first is the “5th Great Train Robbery” event, which runs March 23 and 24. Designed to be fun for all ages, this event features authentically dressed cowboys and outlaws mingling with passengers throughout the excursion. Once you reach Railroad Pass, the “Great Train Robbery” takes place. From your seat you can view a Western shootout between the proverbial bad guys and the good ’uns. Simulated gunfire and other loud noises will take place during this ride.
The second special event, one especially popular with the younger set, is the “Day Out With Thomas.” Thomas is the tank engine of storybook and television fame. The day begins at the depot with face painting, arts and crafts, games and storytelling. Thomas then leads his young passengers on their 45-minute journey. This train ride takes place April 6, 7, 13 and 14. Reservations are strongly recommended for both events. For tickets for any of the train rides or special events, call 866-468-7630 or go to www.ticketweb.com.
Regular prices are $10 for adults, $5 for children 4-11 and free for children 3 or younger. The same prices will get you a seat on the day of the “Great Train Robbery.” A $1 online coupon is good for the regular rides and the “Great Train Robbery.” “Day Out With Thomas” fare is $16 for everyone 3 or older. Group rates are available. The online coupon is not good for this event.
Handicapped parking is available on site, and all parking is free. Food and beverages are sold at the depot, but only water is allowed on the train. Cameras are encouraged, and service animals are welcome.
After the train adventure, those who want to experience more of Boulder City history can find it at the historic Boulder Dam Hotel in Old Town. The hotel contains the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, which has exhibits, interactive displays and artifacts from the Boulder Dam Project. It is open daily except Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hotel and museum are accessible to all.
Deborah Wall is the author of “Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States” and “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide,” published by Stephens Press. Dennis Boulton is a retired Nevada schoolteacher and geologist. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.