Niles Canyon Railway is in San Francisco’s Bay Area (between Sunol and Fremont) operating as a living history exhibit and has existed for more than 150 years. It’s a great experience to combine with California’s other historic train attractions such as the Cable Car Barn & Museum, the Railway Museum in San Francisco, and the adjacent Niles Canyon Museum. A Niles Canyon train ride is an essential experience for train-lovers or anyone looking for a unique thing to do visiting San Francisco and the Bay Area. The heritage rail line is chronicled by the original, restored equipment, and by both diesel and steam engines that relay the past along the rails a century and half ago.
An important component of the very first transcontinental railroad in the United States, Niles Canyon Railroad was initially and lovingly refurbished by a group pf train enthusiasts that emancipated the entire operation in the 1980s. The oldest of California’s top three scenic railroads—which include Yosemite Railroad and the Skunk Train—a Niles Canyon train ride takes riders back in history in a way that few attractions can compare. Aligned with California Route 84, the antique trestles and old bridges you will see from the train are as old, or nearly as old, as the Niles Canyon Railway itself.
At the opposite end of the Niles Canyon Railroad Depot is Sunol, California. A Niles Canyon train ride always stops in Sunol for a lunch break and some extra time to have a look around. The train depot in Sunol stems back to original construction in 1884. The yellow clapboard siding and dark brown wood trim, flanked by a couple of original signs, does much to kick-start the imaginations of tourists curious about 1800s train travel. The team of train operators, including engineers and conductors, are clad in blackened coveralls that paint a clear picture of how sullied a steam locomotive actually gets. As authentic as that may seem, the true authenticity of the Niles Canyon Railway comes in form of some incredible machinery, both restored and preserved, from more than a century ago.
A vast collection of unusual and rare pieces have been amassed by the Pacific Locomotive Association, the group who originally saved the railway in the 1960s. Their aim is to protect and share the history of the Pacific Coast Railroad and to maintain as many elementary details as possible. Much of the group’s efforts can be seen and explored in more depth by a visit to the Niles Canyon Railroad Museum. It is one of the top California destinations for avid train fans and the perfect accompaniment to a railroad ride. Both in the museum and working on the line are diesel engines, steam engines, and motor train cars, as well as freight cars, cabooses, and passenger cars.
Unforgettable California vacations can easily happen via a private tour aboard a caboose, a private railbus, or rent a whole train pulled by an antique diesel locomotive. If you’re simply keen on a vintage Niles Canyon train ride, a great way to reach the station is to park in downtown Niles and take an antique bus directly to the depot. The Northen Coast affords a getaway filled with many things to do that awaken the spirit and inspire the soul. The beauty throughout California, whether seen from a train, a car, a bus, or by foot, is exactly the element that keeps tourists going back time after time.