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May 13, 2011 > A summer hot spot

A summer hot spot

Over 150 years ago, at the mouth of a canyon where railroad lines merged, the small town of Niles was established. A pleasant climate and plentiful water encouraged orchards and farms throughout the area and a landmark flour mill was constructed nearby.

A plant nursery, largest in the State of California, could be found in Niles and in the early 1900s, the scenic countryside and location near rail transportation was found to be ideal for the production of early motion pictures. Movie cowboys roamed the streets and movie stars including Charlie Chaplin, Broncho Billy and Ben Turpin rubbed shoulders with local residents.

Incorporated as an historic district when the City of Fremont was formed in 1956, Niles has retained much of its independent spirit and ambiance. A walk along the main streets of Niles provides constant reminders of its heritage and antique shops are filled with nostalgic paraphernalia.

Niles has always known how to put on a party in grand style throughout the year. Festivals and events are plentiful, but especially during warm summer days and with construction of the newly completed Town Plaza, picnics on the lawn near the historic train depot can be added to the list of downtown Niles possibilities.

This summer hot spot is beginning to sizzle. As air temperature rises and days grow longer, Niles is calling. This weekend, the historic Niles Canyon Railroad is operating, the Spring Fever Car Show will provide a glimpse of past and present road rockets on Saturday and a Wildflower, art and quilt festival is scheduled for Sunday.

June marks a month highlighting the silent film era of Niles with Charlie Chaplin Days and the Broncho Billy Film festival. One of the most quirky dog shows anywhere dominates the July scene and the heat of August will be tempered by the Hot August Niles car show and a venerated antique swap, the Niles Antique Faire.

Plenty of parking, shops for all interests and eateries can be found in Niles so don't forget to bring the whole family. The Essanay Film Museum gives a fascinating look at days when sound came from a piano player next to the screen; movie dialogue was limited and imagination was the main ingredient of a trip to the cinema. At the nearby train depot museum, artifacts and models of past and present rail service - freight and passenger - are on display including photographs, signals, lanterns and telegraph equipment. An authentic Western Pacific Railroad caboose is also available for inspection.

Following a peek at implements of past railroad glory, some might be in the mood for the real thing; a trip through Niles Canyon on a section of the Transcontinental Railroad in vintage passenger cars pulled by workhorse engines of the past. This is a fully functional railroad operated year round by Pacific Locomotive Association. Local wineries are celebrating spring and wildflowers blooming in the canyon by hosting wine sampling on selected trains, May 15 and May 22; check the schedule for availability.

It may take several trips to completely experience Niles and its roots but this lively and friendly hot spot will always be ready for visitors. This weekend is the perfect opportunity to come by and prepare for one of the area's best summer hot spots!

For a calendar of Niles events, visit Information of Niles events and many other summer activities throughout the area will also be listed every Tuesday and Friday in Tri-City Voice in "It's A Date" available in hard copy and online at

Spring Fever Car Show
Saturday, May 14
9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Niles Boulevard, Niles
(510) 792-8023

Wildflower, Art, Garden and Quilt Show
Sunday, May 15
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Niles District
Niles Boulevard, Fremont
(510) 792-6567

Niles Canyon Railway
(925) 862-9063

Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
(510) 494-1411

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