November 23, 2004 > Clang, Clang, Clang Goes the Trolley!
Clang, Clang, Clang Goes the Trolley!
by Linda Stone
What is that fanciful, colorful, lighted train making a clickety-clack sound darting though Niles Canyon pulling cars full of holiday cheer? It's the Niles Holiday Train taking delighted children and adults on a spectacular nocturnal Christmas passage. And if you listen real close, you just might hear a jolly "Ho Ho Ho!" from the man dressed in red, Santa Claus himself, who has flown in direct from the North Pole.
This wildly popular event has long been a family tradition for residents and visitors alike. Every year the Pacific Locomotive Association decorates their trains with over 20,000 vivid multicolored lights in shapes of candy canes, wreaths, snowmen and trees. Remember, Christmastime is not the only time you can take a ride on the train.
The Niles train holds special occasion rides year round. During April and May, they have the school trains for students, the Wildflower train which includes wine tasting and on Mother's Day they have the Throw Mama on the Train special and every mother receives a rose. In June and September, they have the Big and Small Model train, and on Father's Day, you can take a roaring ride and receive a free family photo. Also in September, they have senior specials, and in October it's the Sunol Bed Race and Chili Cook-off event.
Ding Ding! How about renting your own train? You can charter a caboose for you and up to 25 guests. Serve refreshments on the three tables provided, and as a special treat you can ride in the cupola atop the train for the best views on the Santa Fe caboose. This train travels the route of the First Transcontinental Railroad.
If the caboose is not big enough for your party, check out the M-200 "Skunk" diesel motorcar. This railbus, built in 1926, seats up to 36 passengers and can be rented for a couple of hours or for a full day. You can bring food and beverages onboard or use the private picnic area near the depot. This train is wheelchair accessible and a wheel-chair lift is at the depot.
For those who want to throw a really big party, charter an entire train! A vintage diesel locomotive with four cars can hold up to 250 passengers. Additional cars that hold 50 passengers each are available for an extra fee. Add several and you can reach a maximum capacity of 500 people. Bring your own food or, if you desire, have a catered old-fashioned western barbeque in the picnic area near the depot. Rent it for a couple of hours or for an entire day. For a nice option, add on the Steam Engine, a real crowd pleaser. Woo Woo!
But that's not all...young and old wannabe engineers and train enthusiasts can ride the train through the canyon for any occasion. Board the train at the 1885 depot in Sunol and take the round trip one hour tour through picturesque Niles Canyon. Check their website at www.ncry.org for the current schedule.
After your train ride, don't forget to stop by the Pacific Locomotive Association's museum where you can find award wining children's books and educational toys, videos on railroad history, audio cassettes and CD's of railroad songs and many other railroad themed gifts, including railroad china and tableware.
The Association's purpose is to retain and preserve California's Pacific Coast railroad experience from 1910 to 1960. They operate a working railroad museum and have many railcars in their collection.
All aboard! Have you ever thought of becoming a railroad conductor? Well you can by becoming a volunteer with the Pacific Locomotive Association. Learn to operate a train, help restore equipment and build a train track. You must be 18 years or older and join. There is an annual membership of $25. No experience necessary.
For more information on schedules, donations, fares, special events and charters, contact Pacific Locomotive Association, P.O. Box 2247, Fremont, CA 94536, call (925) 862-9063 or visit www.ncry.org.