ELY – Ladies and gentlemen, grab your cooking shovels.
Nevada Northern Railway is gearing-up for a culinary competition unlike anything ever seen on the Food Network or Cooking Channel. The national historic landmark will host the inaugural Iron Horse Cookery Cook-Off on Sept. 1. The railway invites cooks to step back in history for this culinary event, preparing hearty meals the same way the earliest engineers did.
Teams of up to four cooks wearing authentic clothes from 100 years ago will prepare three meals in 45-minute rounds. During each of the rounds they will prepare one of the day’s meals. Breakfast will be made trackside on an open camp fire, lunch will be cooked on a potbelly stove inside Caboose No. 3, and dinner will be prepared on a cooking shovel inside the firebox of Locomotive No. 40.
The Iron Horse Cookery Cook-Off was inspired by railway workers from long ago. The first steam locomotive’s hungry engineers and train crews worked long hours without meal breaks. They had to draw on their own ingenuity to satisfy their hunger and realized having fire, steam and hot water on the locomotive was all they needed to cook meals while on the clock.
Even during the early days at Nevada Northern Railway, crews would work 16 hours. Workers in the locomotive would use the train’s firebox and boiler as heat sources, while the conductor and rear brakemen in the caboose would prepare meals on the potbelly stove. In the summertime, it was too hot to cook in either the locomotive or the caboose, so crews would make an open fire along the tracks for their meal preparations.
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Calling all home cooks
The railway is currently accepting challengers to the Iron Horse Cookery Cook-Off. Each team participant will receive a voucher to redeem four excursion train rides at the railway. The museum will provide clean and seasoned cooking shovels to each team to be used in the firebox.
A panel of judges will receive each dish in the designated, identical containers for blind deliberation each round. The panel will also judge teams on the authenticity of their clothing choice during the competition.
The second-place team will receive a $75 cash prize and the team in first-place will be awarded a $150 cash prize. One cook will be the event’s grand champion named the Iron Horse Cookery Master Chef and will be awarded a $250 cash prize.
Bring history to your kitchen
As the most authentic and best-preserved historic railroad facility in America, Nevada Northern Railway Museum’s mission is all about preservation. In addition to restoring the century-old steam locomotives and all railway equipment, the crew is also passionate about sharing stories of the many first-generation immigrants who worked there.
In honor of the hard-as-steel railroad workers who helped build America, the railway has also created a cookbook of the hearty recipes that got workers through long workdays. The Iron Horse Cookery Cookbook includes stories from early railroad days along with recipes. Each of the recipes have been tested in the cab of Locomotive 40 and can be adapted to your own oven or cast-iron skillet.