Clover Valley Lumber Co. #4 – Test run prior to July 2022 rides

On June 4, 2022, the Niles Canyon Railway Steam Department took Clover Valley Lumber Co. #4 out on a test run with some of the museum’s historic freight cars from Brightside yard to Sunol and then on to Niles back to Sunol and then back to Brightside.

On June 4, 2022, the Niles Canyon Railway Steam Department took Clover Valley Lumber Co. #4 out on a test run with some of the museum’s historic freight cars from Brightside yard to Sunol and then on to Niles back to Sunol and then back to Brightside. It has been nearly two years since #4 had plied the rails of Niles Canyon since Columbia River Belt Line Railway #7 was holding down primary run duties.

The test was successful with only some minor items to address in the shop which have since been completed. This is a steam engine after all! With #4 back on the road, the Steam Department along with the Operations Department have decided to use the #4 on two of our upcoming ride dates in July. The engine is planned to power the Sunday, July 10th and the Sunday, July 17th rides out of Sunol. Diesel power will hold down the Saturday dates for July and for the rest of the summer.

If you have been wanting to ride behind steam, here is your first chance in 2022. All of the ride information is on our website here on our 2022 Rides page. Jump over there for all of the details and links to buy your tickets for these special dates or any of our diesel dates as well. And don’t forget about our July and August M200 rides as well.

Here is a gallery of photos thanks to Steam Department volunteer and photographer, Christopher Hauf, of the test run on June 4, 2022.

M200 to the end of the line…

On Saturday, May 15, the Niles Canyon Railway had its California Western Motor Car #M200 out doing some training on the railroad east of Sunol. We hope to soon be able to offer additional weekend rides on the M200 on the eastern part of the railroad. During this training session, it was decided to take the M200 to the current absolute end of track at Happy Valley Bridge for some photos. Here is the M200 on that voyage! We hope you enjoy this special operation.

On Saturday, May 15, the Niles Canyon Railway had its California Western Motor Car #M200 out doing some training on the railroad east of Sunol. We hope to soon be able to offer additional weekend rides on the M200 on the eastern part of the railroad.

During this training session, it was decided to take the M200 to the current absolute end of track at Happy Valley Bridge for some photos. Here is the M200 on that voyage! We hope you enjoy this special operation.

We also welcome new volunteers to join us or join our efforts to build our railroad east to further into Pleasanton. Please visit our Volunteer page to learn more.

SP #1744 Project Keeps on Rolling One Wheel at a Time

The Steam Department has had a really busy past few weeks and has accomplished a lot on the SP #1744 Project. The big news is that the 1744 drivers have been moved to Sacramento and by the time you read this blog post, the machine work required on them has been completed.

The Steam Department has had a really busy past few weeks and has accomplished a lot on the SP #1744 Project. The big news is that the 1744 drivers have been moved to Sacramento and by the time you read this blog post, the machine work required on them has been completed.

Two of the 1744’s driver sets with their tires removed sitting in Brightside yard before they headed to Sacramento and the California State Railroad Museum.

With the wheels out of the frame and the tires removed (read our blog post on the removal), the wheel centers needed to be turned to true up the circumference so the new tires fit properly, the thrust bearings on the back of the wheels replaced and the axle bearings trued up. In addition, cracks found in the wheels needed to be repaired before the wheels were turned.

The PLA does not have the machine tools to do this work thus a Request For Quote(RFQ) was sent out to four reputable steam locomotive restoration contractors to seek their help in performing the work. After discussing the project with each firm and reviewing their quotes, PLA decided to contract with Stockton Locomotive Works (SLW) to do the driving wheel work.

Stathi Pappas, Owner of Stockton Locomotive Works, works on machining the first set of drivers for #1744 on the California State Railroad Museum’s Monarch Missile Master lathe, a piece of equipment originally owned by the U.S. Government for, yes, turning missile nose cones.

As SLW doesn’t have a lathe large enough to turn 63” drivers, PLA made arrangements with the California State Railroad Museum (CSRM) for Stathi Pappas to do the machine work in their wheel lathe at the Sacramento CSRM Shop. Stockton Locomotive Works was chosen to perform the work as their quote was the most reasonable given all the factors of cost, shipping, and local quality control. In addition, PLA has always tried to maintain good working relationships with other heritage railroads and the cooperation with CSRM furthers that goal. Performing the work in the old SP Boiler Shop will provide good public outreach for both organizations and allow CSRM shop staff an opportunity to show the potential of their facility to support heritage railroading.

The CSRM’s Monarch Missile Master lathe; originally used by the U.S. Government to machine missile nose cones.

Finally, doing the work in Sacramento is just a great story as the locomotive is returning home, where she was shopped many times by Southern Pacific. In fact, we recently obtained from Shirley Burman several Richard Steinheimer photographs of the 1744 undergoing running gear work in November of 1956 at the Sacramento Erecting Shop. The late repairs performed in Sacramento by Southern Pacific are most likely why SP #1744 was chosen as the Walnut Grove excursion locomotive for the “End of Steam” fantrip in 1958 and ultimately led to her being preserved.

Please take a look at this series of photos taken during one of the work days on the drivers as the first set was up on the lathe while the other two were receiving crack repairs.

The SP #1744 Project needs YOUR DONATION to help pay for the wheel work in Sacramento so we can continue to do the other work on the boiler and running gear planned this year! Donations can be mailed, made online at: www.ncry.org, directly at the button below or on our Steam Website which you can also visit to keep up with more details on the progress of the restoration.

Thank you for your support for this important restoration project!

Stathi Pappas, Owner of Stockton Locomotive Works, mans the CSRM lathe as a cutting pass is being made on the first set of #1744’s drivers.

Photos and video by Christopher R. Hauf – Used with permission

Ride the Rails for Relay for Life

The Pacific Locomotive Association, Inc. the operators of the Niles Canyon Railway in conjunction with the American Cancer Society are hosting the 11th Annual Niles Canyon Railway Team Event Fundraiser on Sunday, April 24th, 2022. Come ride our rails in support of the Relay for Life for this one day special set of diesel powered excursions.

The Pacific Locomotive Association, Inc. the operators of the Niles Canyon Railway in conjunction with the American Cancer Society are hosting the 11th Annual Niles Canyon Railway Team Event Fundraiser on Sunday, April 24th, 2022. The train and crew are being donated by the Niles Canyon Railway once again for this event where all proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the American Cancer Society. Come ride our rails in support of the Relay for Life for this one day special set of diesel powered excursions.

NOTE: Highway 84 (Niles Canyon Road) through Niles Canyon will be closed to vehicle traffic the weekend of these rides. Ticketed passengers should enter Sunol from the east/I-680 side of the canyon. Once on Highway 84, please turn right on Main Street in Sunol to access our depot and parking lot. Our Sunol depot location can be found here. Please make sure to leave yourself enough extra time to reach our depot in time depending on where you are coming from. Thanks!

Free wine and beer tasting on the train! Snacks and beverages are also available for purchase on the train. Bring a picnic lunch to eat on the train or in the Sunol Depot Gardens.

A wheel chair lift is available for those needing it or for those where the steps entering and existing our historic cars are challenging.

The train will run in any weather and includes open cars, covered open cars, and enclosed coaches. Our train is equipped with two full bathrooms onboard including one with a baby changing table. Porta-potties are available at our Sunol depot.

Trains depart only from Sunol at 10:30am, 12:30pm, and 2:30pm for this one day event.

It is a 1 hr. & 20 minute round-trip excursion.

No one will be able to to get on or off the train in Niles/Fremont.

Ticket prices Adult: $25 (13+ years old) Child: $15 (Ages 3-12)
Children 2 years of age and under do not need a ticket, but must sit in a lap.

Our Sunol gift shop will be open. We also welcome people to shop our online store before or after your trip.

We love pets, but only trained service animals are permitted to accompany their handler while riding our trains. We appreciate your understanding.

Please read over our COVID-19 Health and Safety policy before booking your tickets and before you arrive on our property.

Driver Tire Removal – SP#1744

One of the many items we have to restore, rehabilitate or replace are the driver tires for our Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive #1744. After removing the driving wheel sets from the locomotive’s frame over the past few months, we have now started the process of removing the steel tires to allow for work on the driver centers and the eventual replacement of the tires.

One of the many items we have to restore, rehabilitate or replace are the driver tires for our Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive #1744. After removing the driving wheel sets from the locomotive’s frame over the past few months, we have now started and completed the process of removing the steel tires to allow for work on the driver centers and the eventual replacement of the tires.

Driver tires are designed to be replaced given they wear over time. Tires are interference fit on the driving centers which means the steel tire rings are actually smaller in diameter than the wheel centers. When heated, the expand enough to fit over the driver center and then when they cool, they shrink causing the interference fit. Occasionally shims are used to get a proper fit.

In our case, we need to first take off the old tires to allow for the driving centers and axles to be reworked before we install new tires. To do this, a propane gas “ring of fire” was constructed by our Steam Department volunteers to allow for even heating on just the outside of the tire during the process.

‘Ring of Fire’ constructed from proper steel tubing being fed by a propane tank.

Our second challenge is that #1744 uses Stephenson valve gear. This type of steam locomotive valve control uses inner eccentrics attached to the center of one of the drivers. This makes it harder to deal with such a driver set since usually the plain axle center itself can be set on a stand to allow free access to the driving wheels themselves. With the eccentrics attached to the center of the axle, the alternative here was to stand the axle on end and allow gravity to aid in the removal of the tire.

Driving set with the Stephenson valve car cams sitting vertically to allow for the driving tire removal.

Once in place, the ring of fire was lit and the removal process started; first allowing the tire to expand and be ‘helped’ off the driving center from some volunteer driven sledge hammers.

Here is a gallery of images that steps through the removal.

After what amounted to about 20 minutes of heating and persuasion from the sledge hammers, the tire dropped off. Mission accomplished! The other 5 have now been removed as well across the #1744’s three sets of drivers.

Mission accomplished!

We want to take a moment to thank the Candelaria Fund for providing a $30,000 grant to us to purchase the new tires for the #1744. We still needs funds for the driving center and axle work. Would you please consider a donation today to help fund this critical work to ensure #1744 has solid running gear for many years to come?

Thanks and please look for more updates soon!

Heating the driving tire with the ring of fire.
Dropping that tire like it is hot! Well, it was hot!
Time lapse of removal of the last driver tire.

Historic Locomotive and Railroad Roundhouse to Move from Santa Clara County to our Niles Canyon Railway

The California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (CTRC), based in San Jose, will be relocating the former Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive, number 2479, and the Lenzen Roundhouse structure and turntable to the Niles Canyon Railway, operated by the Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA).

The California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (CTRC), based in San Jose, will be relocating the former Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive, number 2479, and the Lenzen Roundhouse structure and turntable to the Niles Canyon Railway, operated by the Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA).

Built in 1923, Locomotive 2479 finished its active career pulling commuter trains between San Jose and San Francisco for the Southern Pacific Railroad. 2479 retired from service in 1956 and was donated Santa Clara County in 1958.

Since 1989, the volunteers of the Santa Clara Valley Railroad Association (Now named CTRC) have averaged over 5,000 hours per year on the restoration of SP 2479. This amounts to approximately twenty-five person years expended. To date it is estimated that 80% of the restoration effort has been completed to the locomotive.

The San Jose roundhouse, constructed in 1899 at Lenzen Avenue in San Jose, was used to house and maintain steam locomotives. Included with the roundhouse structure is a large water tower and an 80’ turntable used to rotate locomotives. The roundhouse and adjoining structures were used to maintain Southern Pacific locomotives and trains up until the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake when the roundhouse structure was deemed structurally unsound. The Lenzen Roundhouse was donated by Southern Pacific in 1994 for a proposed museum.

“Moving these important historical artifacts to the Niles Canyon Railway enables our organizations to better preserve the rail history of the Bay Area and to honor the thousands of hours donated by our volunteers. This partnership is an ideal opportunity to preserve these irreplaceable resources for future generations,” said Ken Middlebrook, CTRC president. “We greatly appreciate the vision of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors for helping CTRC and PLA to realize a regional approach to the preservation of our shared history.”


“Our master plan has always included a roundhouse facility in Niles,” said Henry Baum, president of the Pacific Locomotive Association. “Both the roundhouse and locomotive are natural additions to our historic railroad collection. We will immediately begin to develop our Niles site focused around these incredible assets. A topological survey of our Niles site will be undertaken to allow design work to commence. PLA volunteer and Architect Randall Ruiz will be leading this design effort, assisted by Architect Marvin Bamburg who oversaw the deconstruction of the roundhouse when it was originally donated to Santa Clara County. The PLA will begin to aggressively search for the necessary grants and corporate sponsorships necessary to get this development project completed. We are also grateful to the CTRC Volunteers (most of whom are also PLA members) who will continue to work on returning this locomotive to being fully operational.”


To aid in these efforts, Steam Services of America, a national recognized steam locomotive contractor will manage the complexities of dismantling, moving, and reassembly of the 150-ton locomotive. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has funded the moving costs to occur over a three-year period. Once received, all of these Santa Clara County owned historical assets will be transferred to the Pacific Locomotive Association. Also included in this historic transfer of assets from CTRC are a 65-ton diesel locomotive acquired from Kaiser Permanente Cement, and necessary tools and equipment to complete the restoration and maintain the SP2479.

About the organizations

Pacific Locomotive Association
The Pacific Locomotive Association, an IRS 501(C )(3) community-benefit non-profit organization, is celebrating its 60th Anniversary in 2021. From a group of 6 friends who formed together to preserve the last aspects of steam railroading back in 1961, the PLA has grown to an organization that boasts almost 1000 members and many historic railroad artifacts that have been rescued and restored over the years. The PLA is an all-volunteer organization and has no paid staff. The PLA owns and operates the Niles Canyon Railway.


www.ncry.org


California Trolley and Railroad Corporation
Founded in 1982, the 501(C)3 non-profit California Trolley and Railroad Corporation is dedicated to preserving the historical railroad legacy of the Santa Clara Valley for the educational and recreational benefit of current and future generations. The CTRC currently operates vintage trolleys and a historic display of railroad equipment at History Park in San Jose.

www.ctrc.org

Take a look inside – #M200

We have a lot of really unique preserved railroad equipment, and we also realize that we do not use some of this equipment very often. Thus it is hard for people to see all of the hard work our volunteers put into this equipment. So we are trying some new methods to share some of these great pieces virtually as ways to augment on online roster.

We have a lot of really unique preserved railroad equipment, and we also realize that we do not use some of this equipment very often. Thus it is hard for people to see all of the hard work our volunteers put into this equipment. So we are trying some new methods to share some of these great pieces virtually as ways to augment on online roster.

Recently we moved our restored California Western #200 motor car / doodlebug in Brightside yard; putting it in a great position to try this new 360 degree technology out.

So please hop aboard our M200 and take a look around by dragging the image with your mouse.

Inside the #M200

We hope you like what you see. We will be adding more to our online roster. We are also sharing some of our Niles Canyon Railway Facebook page which has great 360 image support.

You can also learn more about the M200 here.

GN Ranch Car – Matching Grant Challenge

Generous donors, the Farwell Family, have provided a matching gift opportunity to raise money to restore our GN ‘Hidden Lake’ Ranch Car #1242 to full service on our Niles Canyon Railway. All donations through May 31, 2021 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $30,000.

The ‘Hidden Lake’ in our car shop on 4/30/2021 with roof steel replacement actively underway.

Generous donors, the Farwell Family, have provided a matching gift opportunity to raise money to restore our GN ‘Hidden Lake’ Ranch Car #1242 to full service on our Niles Canyon Railway.

All donations through May 31, 2021 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $30,000.

 DONATE and DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT

Your donation will help fund the following work

Roof line steel replacementInterior cement subflooring replacementElectrical generator and trainline head-end power installation
New leather/cowhide seatsNew historically correct patterned linoleum floor.Exterior painting into the historic 1951 GN paint scheme
New rubber window sealsNew interior paintRunning gear repairs

MAKE YOUR DONATION TODAY

To make your contribution online, please click here to donate.

We gladly accept donations by mail.                    

Please make checks payable to:
Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA)
P.O. Box 515
Sunol, CA 94586-0515

Add a note on the check where it says “Memo” in the bottom left corner “GN Ranch Car 1442”.

If you have questions or need any additional information, please contact us.

The Pacific Locomotive Association owns and operates the Niles Canyon Railway.


We are incredibly grateful for your consideration-and for our wonderful benefactors, the Farwell Family, for this opportunity.
Thank you for being a part of our heritage railroad community.


Progress to date of funds donated to be matched.
Update 5/23/2021

The first PLA ‘Club Car’ members newsletter?

Recently there was a question by one of our members as to what was the first issue of our Pacific Locomotive Association member newsletter, ‘The Club Car”. Since we will be celebrating the PLA’s 60th anniversary (founded in 1961) this year, this seemed like a great question to research, and some of our crack members …

Recently there was a question by one of our members as to what was the first issue of our Pacific Locomotive Association member newsletter, ‘The Club Car”. Since we will be celebrating the PLA’s 60th anniversary (founded in 1961) this year, this seemed like a great question to research, and some of our crack members were on the answer quickly.

It appears the first issue to be called “Club Car” was actually the 10th Members’ Bulletin of the then fledgling Pacific Locomotive Association. It was a simple two page typed document published in December 1962. Of interest, it did highlight the PLA taking ownership of steam locomotive Howard Terminal #6 (Built as Sierra Railway #30). The issue is shown below as images for your interest.

We have an online archive of recent issues of the Club Car available at this link if you would like to see what is going on recently with the PLA and our Niles Canyon Railway. We do plan to add more of our historic archive soon so please stay tuned.

Steam in Maintenance-of-Way Service…

On Saturday, February 27, 2021, our Niles Canyon Steam Department teamed up with our Maintenance-of-Way Department to use Robert Dollar Co. #3 in concert with our Burro Crane to help move some track panels that were stored just east of Verona Road to the end of track where they will be used to further extend our railroad into Pleasanton.

On Saturday, February 27, 2021, our Niles Canyon Steam Department teamed up with our Maintenance-of-Way Department to use a train powered by Robert Dollar Co. #3 in concert with our Burro Crane to help move some track panels that were stored just east of Verona Road to the end of track where they will be used to further extend our railroad into Pleasanton. With public steam rides upcoming starting in mid-March, this was a way for the Steam Department to check out the #3 while helping the MOW Department move their panels.

In the end, it was a great day out on the railroad for our volunteers and the #3 with lots of great teamwork. Here is a set of images from the operations across the day.

All photos by: Christopher R. Hauf – Used with permission.