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March 10, 2010 > A rare railroading experience

A rare railroading experience

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By courtesy of Alan Siegwarth

Dedicated volunteers at Niles Canyon Railway (NCRY) who have kept the proud steam and rail history of the region alive, will once again create the magical sounds of steam whistles, the smell of coal smoke and the sight of steel wheels rolling along the rails. Buzzing with railroad excitement, the Pacific Locomotive Association will display and operate their historical collection for everyone to see and enjoy, starting this weekend. Visitors of all ages may experience railroading at its best at the Steamfest II. Events on Sunday, March 14 and Saturday, March 20 have limited seating and provide a special opportunity for rail fan photographers. Sunday, March 21 will be wide open to the public - no registration is required. At least four steam locomotives will be present for railroad enthusiasts to ride, photograph and enjoy.

Steamfest was first celebrated at Niles Canyon Railway in 2007 to commemorate its twentieth birthday. This year's event continues the tradition with four operating steam locomotives including two visiting from other museums. "Steamfest is a reminder that railroad excitement is for people of all ages keeping the past alive for future generations. For this to happen, a special thanks goes to all the volunteers for countless hours of planning, preparation, train crews, station agents and track repairs that are required to run a railroad operation," said Alan Siegwarth, a Niles Canyon Railway Steam Department volunteer.

Four heritage locomotives will be featured on March 21 hauling hourly trains: Niles Canyon Railway's Quincy Railroad #2, Niles Canyon Railway's Robert Dollar #3, California State Railroad Museum's Granite Rock #10 and Roots of Motive Power/Chris Baldo's Mason County Logging #7.

Niles Canyon Railway's Quincy Railroad #2, is a small tank style steam locomotive that has spent most of its time pulling passenger excursion trains since returning to service from a major overhaul on the NCRY in June 2002.

Niles Canyon Railway's recently restored Robert Dollar #3 was built in November 1927 as a wood burner, and is said to be the last wood burning steam locomotive built for service in the country.

Two locomotives will be trucked to the Niles Canyon Railway especially for this event: the first is owned and operated by the California State Railroad Museum (CSRM) in Sacramento. CSRM's Granite Rock #10 built in 1942 for the US Army was purchased and used to switch rock cars at a Granite Rock quarry and was restored to operation in 1997 by CSRM and Granite Rock.

Mason County Logging #7 was restored in 2001 and is currently operated by the Roots of Motive Power Museum in Willits, California, is another small tank engine originally built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1910 for logging railroad service near Olympia, Washington. These locomotives will power steam passenger operations between Sunol and Niles and will be open to the general public. No advance reservations will be required.

The event promises to be fun for the entire family and children of all ages may enjoy the rides. Canyon limited trains will depart Sunol and Niles stations throughout the day. Each round trip will be approximately 1hour and 40 minutes. Canyon Limited will begin hourly departures in Sunol starting 10:30 a.m. till 3:30 p.m. Niles Canyon Limited will start at 10:20 a.m. every hour till 3:30 p.m. Hearst Flyer will depart Sunol hourly beginning at 10:50 a.m. till 2:50 p.m.

Canyon Limited Fares are $15 for adults, $8 for children, $12 for seniors. Hearst Flyer Fares will be $10 per adult, $5 for children and seniors. For more information go to or write to It will be one of the biggest gatherings of steam locomotives in California since Railfair 1999 in Sacramento, so get your tickets soon for a chance you don't want to miss and a memory you won't ever forget.

Niles Canyon Railway's Steam Fest II

Railfan Specials on March 14 and March 20th. For more information and purchase of very limited tickets, please email to

Sunday, March 21
Three trains operating every hour starting:
10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. from Sunol Depot
10:20 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. from Niles Depot
10:50 a.m. - 2:50 p.m. from Sunol Depot

Sunol Depot
6 Kilkare Road, Sunol

Niles Depot
37001 Mission Blvd, Fremont

Hearst Flyer: $10 per adult, $ 5 for children and seniors
Canyon Limited: $15 for adults, $8 for children, $12 for seniors
Public day, no reservations required.

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