Chinese on The Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad

The Chinese helped build the railroad, and the railroad helped build America

Pacific Locomotive Assoc new museum-Chinese Railroad Workers impact on the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad 2
circa 1869 Chinese immigarants buliding the transcontinental railroad in California
Chinese railroad workers

Niles Canyon Railway is celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad by hosting a bilingual exhibit honoring the achievements of Chinese workers in building the Central Pacific Railroad using historic photographs of the railroad’s construction contrasted with contemporary photos.  

Sunol Depot exhibit designed by Randolph R. Ruiz

Our Sunol Depot is presenting a series of over 60 panels from the historic collection on loan from Stanford University. Chinese artifacts will also be displayed. The Depot will be open on Sundays 10-4 or by appointment. We will also be open to the school groups who ride our popular field trip trains in spring and summer.

The exhibit runs from May 10 through September 30, 2019.

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad

2019 will be a big year for Niles Canyon Railway

The Pacific Locomotive Association is celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad all summer long. We started with a commemoration of the May 10th, 1869 “Golden Spike” connection at Promontory, Utah between the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific. Now every weekend will have a celebration theme, with at least one major weekend event each month, culminating with the celebration of the true final completion on September 6th, 1869 when the Last Link of the Transcontinental Railroad was opened from Sacramento to Oakland.

The Federal Commissioner’s inspection train in Niles Canyon at end of track. The Federal commissioner’s inspection qualified Western Pacific Railroad (of 1862) to receive the government bond for the construction of the first twenty miles of the railroad. The buttressed retaining wall is still in place, and portions are visible today though heavily obscured by vegetation. A portion of the wall was buried when the berm to the left of the train was plowed into the creek circa 1911.

The Niles Canyon Railway is the only railroad that runs on the original and best preserved alignment of the Transcontinental Railroad, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Whether it is the original stone retaining walls built in 1865, the original square Western Union telegraph poles (installed circa 1861) to the later ‘semaphore’ signaling improvements installed in the early 1900s and revamped to modern ‘searchlight’ signals in the 1950s, as well as the connections with Industry and Agriculture that grew up along the Right-Of-Way, the entire history of the corridor will be celebrated (Little Known Fact: The Southern Pacific Railroad which operated on our ROW, upgraded their Communications Network in 1978, replacing microwave towers with fiber optic cables along their ROW, and formed a new division known as “SPRINT”, an acronym for Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunication – yes, that Sprint).

This last link is historically important for the surrounding communities we serve, as their very existence and sustained growth was predicated on the railroad passing through them. It is also historically important for the Railroad Preservation Community locally and nationwide.

Planned events

banner for bilingual Chinese on the Iron Road


May 10th – September 30th 2019

circa 1869 Chinese immigarants buliding the transcontinental railroad in California
Chinese Railroad Workers
The Chinese Helped Build the Railroad – Railroad Helped Build America

Niles Canyon Railway is celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad by hosting a bilingual exhibit honoring the achievements of Chinese workers in building the Central Pacific Railroad using historic photographs of the railroad’s construction contrasted with contemporary photos.  

Our Sunol Depot is presenting a series of over 60 panels from the historic collection on loan from Stanford University. Chinese artifacts will also be displayed. The Depot will be open on Sundays 10-4 or by appointment. We will also be open to the school groups who ride our popular education trains in spring and summer. Contact us for more information.

Introducing Deep River Logging Co. #7

We can now announce that the recently restored locomotive Deep River Logging Co. #7 (better known as ‘Skookum’) will be operating on the Niles Canyon Railway, arrived from Oregon in April 2019. The Skookum is a 2-4-4-2 Mallet style Compound Locomotive, originally built in 1909. This will be its first real service after a 15 year restoration effort.

On select operating days, Skookum will be double-headed with our own recently overhauled Clover Valley #4, another 2-6-6-2T Mallet style Compound locomotive. These double-header weekends will be the only place in the world where 2 standard gauge Mallet locomotives can be operated together. These weekends will be in May and September.

S.T.EA.M. Punk Festival
Niles Canyon Railway Steam Festival logo
Niles Canyon Railway Steam Festival logo

Steampunk is a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology. Niles Canyon Railway is the perfect host to showcase a historic steam train ride through the last segment of the original Transcontinental Railroad.

The S.T.E.A.M. Festival is a 2 day event featuring activities for the entire family

Food • Costume Contest • Fun Prizes • Junk Build Challenges • Live Action Role Playing • Live Music • Magic Show • Riddle Rail Car • Scavenger Hunt • Steam Machines • Steampunk Radio/Podcast • Steam Train Rides • Think Stations • Tintype Photography • Workshops

What is S.T.E.A.M.?

It is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math as access points for guiding students inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking. S.T.E.A.M. is a movement that has been brought to the forefront of schools curriculum in recent years.

2019 Silicon Valley Steam Festival Map
2019 Silicon Valley Steam Festival Map
For Tickets
Southern Pacific Krauss-Maffei Diesel to Debut in July
SP 9010-Restoration

The last survivor of 37 German-built
Krauss-Maffei ML 4000 C’C’ diesel-hydraulic locomotives in the United States and Brazil.

As part of our summer long historic celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad here is an amazing event. A never-before opportunity for the serious railfan to ride behind the SP9010. Two special excursions, a Morning Pro Ralfan and Afternoon Family Railfan event will let everyone see what has been accomplished during the amazing 11 yr restoration work on No. 9010! The KM was never used in passenger service but on this historic day it will be controlling the train and the motive power will be from a second locomotive.

Special Early Bird pricing available now through June 30

50th Anniversary of the Lunar Landing
Summer Twilight Train Ride

Join us for our most popular summer twilight train rides on July 13th and July 20th. These will be evening train rides through Niles Canyon departing from our Niles/Fremont Station located at 37029 Mission Blvd. This will be an early evening train powered by one of our historic diesel locomotives, returning after dark. There will be a snack bar on the train for your convenience. Bring your opticals (binoculars and telescopes). We are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Lunar Landing on July 20th, 1969.    One Giant Leap for Mankind resonates with so many. Sign up for tickets early as children 3-12 traveling with an adult receive a complimentary Apollo 11 backpack while supplies last.

Niles Silent Film Museum

August 8-10th, we will be doing a weekend celebrating the silent movie era, in partnership with the Niles Silent Film Museum. This will begin with a Niles Canyon history lecture at the museum on Friday night, followed by a number of silent film showings and a series of special train rides over Saturday and Sunday. (Little Known Fact – Niles, CA was the home of Essanay Studios, the largest motion picture studio of the time. Stars such as Broncho Billy and the esteemed Charlie Chaplin were working in Niles, prior to HollywoodLand becoming the home of the major studios. Learn more about this at our Silent Film days).

Niles Canyon Golden Spike Weekend

The true final completion on September 6, 1869 is when the Last Link of the Transcontinental Railroad was opened from Sacramento to Alameda. This last link is historically important for the surrounding communities we serve, as their very existence and sustained growth was predicated on the railroad passing through them. It is also historically important for the Railroad Preservation Community locally and nationwide.

Join us September 6-9 as we gather to commemorate the all important 150th Anniversary of the connection between the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad.

Something For Everyone

The major weekends will be geared towards the hardcore railfans on Saturday mornings, with excursions including 3 photo runbys in the canyon, and a photo stop with the train at our 1884 depot in Sunol. The Saturday afternoon trips will be for those who want to learn more about railfanning and will be perfect for families. They will include 1 photo runby and the photostop in Sunol. Volunteers will be available to instruct passengers in the dos and dont’s of railfan safety, and railfan etiquette. Saturday trips will travel all the way to our Verona station near Pleasanton before returning to Niles.

Other activities are also being planned throughout the rest of the summer, as well as regular canyon train excursions on Sundays.
Sundays will have 3 round trips from Niles to Sunol. Some days will be powered by steam, others by our classic diesels. Educational displays will be set up at the stations.

Details including times and ticket prices will be announced as the
events are finalized. Advanced electronic ticketing will guarantee a seat on the train.

Where do you find parts?

For a fifty-four-year-old custom-made German import locomotive being restored thousands of miles from its birthplace, that’s a reasonable question.

For a fifty-four-year-old custom-made German import locomotive being restored thousands of miles from its birthplace, that’s a reasonable question. Fortunately, this restoration may be one of the preeminent examples of internet restoration interactivity.

Through our German connections, we’ve replaced the wretched and unrestorable catastrophes that were our four cab sun visors with Original Equipment Manufacturer replacements — still stocked five decades later by the OEM!

These Happich-GHE replacements parts, as originally supplied, were also used in German trams and omnibuses, and so were still active items in this prolific transportation industry vendor’s catalog.

They’re part of what makes our 1964 Krauss-Maffei Model ML 4000 C’C’ Series Unit visibly different from anything else on the Southern Pacific Railroad, and we’re always delighted to find the right parts for the job.