Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

April 27, 2004 > Train Rides For All Occaisions

Train Rides For All Occaisions

by Arathi Satish

Are you looking for a novel idea for a student field trip, a unique birthday party or a celebration of spring weather and the flowers it brings? Your search can end at the Niles Canyon Railway. Historic trains depart every Sunday from downtown Sunol for a scenic hour-long roundtrip ride between Sunol and Niles. All trains have open cars, covered cars and enclosed coaches. Buy your ticket at the station, come aboard and visit with the conductor who will tell you about the history of the train and the railway while you listen to the rumble and roar of mighty engines and the "clickety-clack" of steel wheels on hand-laid tracks. Riders can experience the "living history" of the Transcontinental Railroad and railroading of bygone days.

Spring is the right time of year for schoolteachers in the Greater Tri-City area to plan a trip to visit Niles Canyon for a train ride. Students hear about railroad safety before they board the train, then experience the thrill of riding in antique rail cars over six miles of the First Transcontinental Railroad, following Alameda Creek through Niles Canyon. Train personnel, in period dress and character, will point out interesting sites and relate stories of how railroads played a pivotal role in settling the West.

Miss Buendia, a 4th grade teacher at Gomes Elementary School in Fremont, recently took her students to ride with the Pacific Locomotive Association, operators of the Niles Canyon Railway, said, "The Niles Canyon Railway field trip is a fabulous way to bring our curriculum to life. Students have been studying the Transcontinental Railroad in Social Studies and learned how it enabled California to be connected to the rest of the United States. Since this stretch of rail tracks is historically known as the First Transcontinental route through Alameda Creek Canyon, the students can actually experience traveling the way people did in history."

Students represent a small fraction of those who enjoy riding the rails of Niles Canyon. For those who simply want to ride the train without waiting for a special occasion, the Niles Railway is at your service. With the arrival of spring, the trains run every Sunday and are open to the general public. Any day can be a party day for railroad enthusiasts, whether they hop aboard the rail cars or go all out and rent the caboose, a rail bus or the entire train. The Santa Fe caboose can accommodate a cozy group of 20 to 25 people with windows on the mail floor and a bird's-eye view of the train from the cupola. A unique M-200 "Skunk" diesel motorcar, built in 1926, can be chartered as well. It seats up to 36 passengers and is wheelchair accessible. For the BIG occasions, a vintage train can be rented for up to 500 people to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, alumni or family gatherings or just for fun.

Pacific Locomotive Association, Inc. events are held year round and include:

April & May: School Trains
April & May: Wildflower Trains with wine tasting
May: Mother's Day: "Throw Mama on the Train" (every mom receives a rose!)
June & September: "Big & Small" Model Trains
June: Father's Day includes free family photo
September: Senior Specials
October: Sunol Bed Race & Chili Cookoff
December: Train of Lights

For directions, current 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

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