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August 2, 2005 > New book on Niles Canyon Railway is a smashing success

New book on Niles Canyon Railway is a smashing success

by Linda Stone

Train enthusiasts, rail fans and lovers of local history are in for a special treat with the newly published book "Images of Rail, Niles Canyon Railways" by Henry Luna, a founding member of the Pacific Locomotive Association. Chock full of rare photographs of Niles Canyon in Fremont from the mid 1800s, this book transports you back in time to the transcontinental linking of eastern and western coasts by rail.

Starting with the history of the completion of America's first transcontinental railroad, the 128-page book is filled with over 200 remarkable images of trains, depots, bridges, maps and people from the mid 1800s to the present. Each photograph is encapsulated with a story taking the reader to a time long ago, yet the background scenes are still familiar today. Many of the photos have not been published previously.

Last April, Luna was approached by Arcadia Publishing to write a book about the railroading history of Niles Canyon. What Luna thought would be a one month project turned into eight months of writing "a chapter a month," gathering photos from his own collection, various local historical museums, community members and famous railroad photographers.

Many people had been asking about the history of the railroad looking for something in print, so when Luna was approached by Arcadia he decided that he would take on the task. "I wrote so that it would appeal to the average rail fan and the general public who didn't know about trains," said Luna.

What started out as a manuscript with 435 photographs was painfully pared down to 200. "The more I wrote and the more pictures I put in, the more people called to offer additional pictures," Luna said. The photographs chosen were "the cream of the crop."

Luna, who has worked in the railroad industry for nearly 50 years, said that it took a lot of effort and time to "make it come out right." He certainly achieves this with "Images of Rail, Niles Canyon Railways," a masterful photographic essay.

Published this month, the book is already selling quickly. "It's going beyond our wildest dreams," said Luna. The Sunol depot book store is already ordering more. Proceeds from the book will benefit the Pacific Locomotive Association by helping to pay for restoration of trains, extending track and facility improvements.

What's Luna's favorite picture? "My favorite picture is on the last page," he said. "Because it meant that the book was finished!"

But stay tuned, "Hopefully we will be able to add another chapter when we finish the railroad toward Pleasanton," Luna said.

The Pacific Locomotive Association, an all-volunteer association of 490 members, currently operates the Niles Canyon Railway offering steam and diesel train rides on weekends from the 1880s depot in Sunol.

For a copy of the book, contact the Sunol depot at (925) 551-7772 or e-mail The depot is located at 6 Kilkare Road, Sunol, and is open from 10 to 3 p.m. on Sundays.

"Niles Canyon Railways," $19.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, on-line bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at or (888) 313-2665.

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