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November 25, 2011 > Lighting up Niles Canyon

Lighting up Niles Canyon

By Julie Grabowski

Thousands of lights will sparkle in Niles Canyon once more as the Train of Lights spreads its unique Christmas cheer. The Niles Canyon Railway invites all aboard its special holiday train running now through December 29.

What started off in 1990 as a "thank you" for members and volunteers of the railway caused a clamor among the public, who after spying this magical train lighting up the canyon wanted to know how they could get a ride. The following year 1,200 people turned out for the first trip open to the public. And the magical tour has continued, drawing thousands of people from all over the Bay Area, eager to enjoy an enchanting and memorable train ride like no other.

The railway travels the original line of the Transcontinental Railroad, the last leg of which was completed in Niles in 1869. Festooned in over 150,000 lights, the Train of Lights offers both open air and enclosed cars rolling along a 13-mile round trip on historic rails. Each car boasts its own unique and carefully planned dˇcor... no two alike.

This year there will be one train departing from each station, leaving Niles at 4:15 p.m. and Sunol at 7:15 p.m. Trains run Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with more trips available the last two weeks of the month.

Make sure to bring those scarves and mittens as it is frequently cold, and the train braves through all weather. Purchase snacks and hot chocolate to warm up your ride, or bring along your own treats.

The event serves as a fundraiser for the Pacific Locomotive Association, which strives to preserve the history of steam engine locomotives. Funds benefit the projects of the Niles Canyon Railway and keep those trains running for the public to enjoy.

Whether you sing a carol with a strolling minstrel, have a laugh with Santa, savor a hot beverage in the cold night air, or just soak up the cheerful lights, this is one train ride not to be missed.

Tickets are $25 for general seating, and on November 30, December 7 and 14 general seating tickets are $15. A limited quantity of reserved seating tickets are available for $40, ensuring a plush seat in the vintage 1940s Art Deco parlor lounge car. For $600, make your own party for 24 people in a private caboose, which includes a docent to answer all railway questions. Boarding begins 45 minutes before departure time; arrive no later than 30 minutes prior. And have your entire party with you, as saving seats is not permitted, and there is no guarantee you will all sit together.

To purchase tickets or for more information call (925) 862-9063 or visit online at

Train of Lights
November 25 through December 29
4:15 p.m. Niles departure
Niles Station
37001 Mission Blvd., Fremont
7:15 p.m. Sunol departure
Sunol Depot
6 Kilkare Rd., Sunol
(925) 862-9063

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