The Niles Canyon Railway (NCRy) is hosting “Steam in the Canyon” on Sept. 6 to 8 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the true completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
The connection between the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad through Niles Canyon from Sacramento to Oakland was completed on Sept. 6, 1869. This last link is historically important for surrounding communities, as towns’ existence and growth were predicated on the railway passing through them.
The Niles Canyon Railway is the only railroad that runs on the original and best-preserved alignment of the Transcontinental Railroad, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On Sept. 6, a trackside ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Fremont/Niles Station, 37029 Mission Blvd., Fremont. A 90-minute inspection train ride will follow at 1:30 p.m.
On Sept. 7, a PRO Railfan event starts at 10 a.m. The NCRy PRO Railfan event is a new opportunity for serious railfans to ride behind two iconic, standard-gauge Mallet locomotives: the 2-6-6-2T Clover Valley Lumber Company #4, and the 2-4-4-2 Columbia River Belt Line Railway #7, better known as the Skookum, through Niles Canyon.
Tickets cost $200 for the ride, or $230 for the ride plus yard tour (below). This event is limited to 150 passengers, and will include onboard morning beverages and croissants, with multiple photo run-bys in scenic Niles Canyon.
Serious railfans who want even more railroad exposure may for an additional $30 take a guided tour of Brightside Yard, available after lunch to passengers on the train. The tour will be limited to 30 people, and will offer the opportunity to see many additional pieces of the yard’s historic collection, including some that haven’t been seen publicly for many years.
At 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, the NCRy will introduce Bay Area families to the excitement and joys of being a railfan. Railfanning is similar to the activity known in Great Britain as trainspotting; families worldwide make stopping at rail destinations, including the Niles Canyon Railway, an important part of their vacation activities. Tickets for the Families and Novice Railfan event are $60 to $120, and include a noon lunch prepared by the Niles Canyon Railway Commissary team in the Niles Station Garden, and special commemorative souvenirs.
On Sept. 8, visitors can take a ride as the standard schedule resumes. Trains depart from the Sunol Depot, 6 Kilkare Road in Sunol, at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Trains leave the Niles/Fremont Station at 11:20 a.m., 1:20 p.m. and 3:20 p.m. The final train is one-way, and does not return to Fremont.
Fares are $15-$20 for adults; $12-$15 for seniors; $9-$10 for children age 3 to 12; and free for kids younger than 3 and members. Tickets are valid for one round trip, and riders may ride one way on one train, get off to shop and explore, then return on a later train.
Reservations are not required for regular Sept. 8 trains. Riders go to their preferred boarding location 15 to 20 minutes before departure, purchase tickets and board the train.
Throughout the year, the NCRy hosts many vibrant events that include: Romance on the Rails, a Valentine’s Day ride in a car newly restored to its 1920s elegance; Tea on the Rails, an 80-minute excursion with tea, sandwiches and dessert in a restored 1927 Southern Pacific Dining Car; Hot August Nights and Moonlight Train Rides during the summer; Beer on the Rails, a leisurely train ride with local beer tasting, food and live music; Speeder Rides, different cars offer unique experiences to ride the rails the way track gangs used to; and the Train of Lights, an hour-long nighttime trip on cars glowing with Christmas lights.
The Pacific Locomotive Association operates the Niles Canyon Railway as a living history museum, preserving the excitement and importance of trains to California’s and the nation’s heritage. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit ncry.org.