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.

Some photos from our past – Castro Point Railway

Recently on Facebook, we found a set of photos taken in 1984 by Mr. Jim Maurer of a visit to the Pacific Locomotive Association’s Castro Point Railway. Before the PLA came to Niles Canyon to start rebuilding a portion of the original Transcontinental Railroad in 1987 and formed the Niles Canyon Railway, the PLA operated …

Recently on Facebook, we found a set of photos taken in 1984 by Mr. Jim Maurer of a visit to the Pacific Locomotive Association’s Castro Point Railway. Before the PLA came to Niles Canyon to start rebuilding a portion of the original Transcontinental Railroad in 1987 and formed the Niles Canyon Railway, the PLA operated a piece of railroad on US Navy property in Richmond, CA, and it was called the Castro Point Railway. Ultimately, that piece of railroad in Richmond was no longer available for the PLA to operate on, and all of the equipment was moved to storage and then to what is now our Niles Canyon Railway.

We hope you enjoy these photos from our past, and we thank Mr. Maurer for granting us permission to post his photos here on our blog.

Robert Dollar Co. #3 in service with Engineer, Lacy Sparks.

We were contacted by Mr. Tim Staten in 2020 who shared these great images with us. These are of his grandfather-in-law, Mr. Lacy Sparks, who was a Robert Dollar Co. locomotive engineer through the time he started with them until the time he retired. These are images of #3 and of Mr. Sparks. We hope …

We were contacted by Mr. Tim Staten in 2020 who shared these great images with us. These are of his grandfather-in-law, Mr. Lacy Sparks, who was a Robert Dollar Co. locomotive engineer through the time he started with them until the time he retired. These are images of #3 and of Mr. Sparks.

We hope you enjoy these. We certainly do! Thank you Mr. Staten for sharing them with us!

You can learn about Robert Dollar Co. #3 via our online equipment roster here.

Saving a cow on our railroad…

The Niles Canyon Railway winds through the canyon on a right-of-way first constructed in the late 1860s as part of the Transcontinental Railroad.   The volunteers, who operate and maintain the railroad, appreciate the scenic rural beauty and the freedom from high density living, just minutes away.  The railroad passes by very few homes and a …

The Niles Canyon Railway winds through the canyon on a right-of-way first constructed in the late 1860s as part of the Transcontinental Railroad.   The volunteers, who operate and maintain the railroad, appreciate the scenic rural beauty and the freedom from high density living, just minutes away.  The railroad passes by very few homes and a lot of ranch land.  Because of its isolated nature, the railroad volunteers are the first to observe and report hazardous conditions on adjacent properties such as fallen trees, power lines, plugged stormwater culverts, and the occasional backyard brush fire.  They also encounter stray sheep, goats and cattle that have snuck through fences and wandered onto the right-of-way. 

On Sunday, January 17th, 2021, two volunteers were working out in the canyon to clean up a very large oak tree that had broken in two, creating a fire hazard.  On their way, they spotted an adult cow that had slid down a hill, under a barbed wire fence and lodged itself between a couple of solid rocks at the base of the slope, 15 feet from our railroad tracks.  The animal was alive, alert, and laying on its side, but because of its position, was unable to get itself up.

NCRy volunteer, Doug Vanderlee, comforts the exhausted cow while waiting for help to arrive.

Using a list of neighbors’ contact information maintained by our museum for such an emergency, the railroad volunteers were able to locate the correct cattle rancher and direct him to the site.  The ranch foreman arrived to assess the situation.  It was a cattleman’s worst nightmare; a downed (and possibly injured) animal weighing 500 to 600 pounds in a place inaccessible to trucks and trailers or horses and cowboys to deal with the scenario using the traditional methods.  Short of air-lifting the cow using a helicopter, there were no easy solutions to the problem.

Luckily, the railroad’s General Manager, and professional heavy equipment operator, Stephen Barkkarie, happened to be at home in nearby Sunol enjoying a well-deserved Sunday off.  He was contacted and arrived on scene with the railroad’s Caterpillar backhoe, which is specially equipped to be able to travel on railroad tracks.  Minutes later, the cattle owner and a crew of 4 cowboys arrived.  Two of them were wearing rowel spurs.  These guys were the real deal. 

In short order the ranch hands threaded a couple of nylon soft slings provided by the railroad under the cow, and attached them to the bucket of the backhoe.  The cow was hoisted onto a railroad maintenance “pushcar”, then transported on the tracks 1/4 mile to an access gate through an adjoining neighbor’s property where it was hoisted off onto an awaiting trailer.  It was very lucky that the neighbor happened to be working on the property at the time to permit access.  All indications are that the cow was not severely injured by the accident and will make a full recovery and will be suckling little calves of her own in the late Spring.

With the ranchers having applied the slings, NCRy GM, Steve Barkkarie, begins the lift with the backhoe.
Up and toward the waiting MOW trailers.
Set down and secured on the Maintenance-of-Way trailers for the short ride to where the cow could be transloaded to a waiting trailer.

At a time when we are increasingly socially isolated from our neighbors, it is heartening to know that there are those who watch out for each other, and will take time out to lend a hand . . . or backhoe . . when the need arises.

Rebuild the #1744 – 2021 Fundraising

To begin to address the fabrication of the needed staybolts for the boiler and to start the running gear rebuild, the Pacific Locomotive Association is launching Phase II fundraising efforts now with the goal to raise $75,000 or more over the course of 2021.

The Pacific Locomotive Association and its Niles Canyon Railway would like to thank you for being a part of our heritage railroad community. Balancing operational expenses and reduced revenue due to Covid-19 restrictions since March of this year continues to be a challenging mission for our museum. Our supporters have helped bolster us greatly with financial support throughout this unprecedented time. The many hours of work from our volunteers have allowed us to continue some of our restoration projects while also allowing us to bring back train operations to Niles Canyon when we were given the appropriate approvals.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the PLA Board of Directors reviewed and adopted a long- term plan presented by the Steam Department to expand our fleet of steam locomotives for train operations. With lots of creative planning and logistics we purchased the Southern Pacific 2-6-0 steam locomotive #1744. This is another milestone for the PLA. We are committed to our goal for long-term sustainability of the Niles Canyon Railway as the premier all-volunteer west coast operating railroad museum for diesel and steam power. The historic SP #1744 is an exceptional fit with the PLA mission statement as it operated for many years out of Oakland on the SP Western Division and in California’s Central Valley.

This rebuild project is unique in that the locomotive was already disassembled and an extremely thorough restoration had been started by the previous owner. The #1744, however, still requires significant boiler work, mechanical work, and reassembly to restore it to operating condition.

Our NCRy Steam Department volunteers have already been busy starting to clean and prime #1744’s frame.

The scope of the project is outlined in a five-year restoration plan to spread out the impact on funding needs. We started a phased fundraising program with Phase I to complete the frame and tender transportation to our Brightside yard and the boiler trucked to Antonito, CO for contract rebuilding. We are now entering Phase II of the restoration plan that starts repairs to the running gear and boiler.

Did you know that main components for the boiler rebuild are 2000 staybolts of different types and sizes? The current staybolts are no longer serviceable and new staybolts must be custom machined and fabricated from raw stock. The average cost to create each staybolt is $60.00 for a total cost of $120,000.

Interior of #1744’s boiler shell after sandblasting and Apexior coating at Stockton Locomotive Works in Antonito, CO. This work took place on 12/1/2020.

To begin to address the fabrication of the needed staybolts for the boiler and to start the running gear rebuild, the Pacific Locomotive Association is launching Phase II fundraising efforts now with the goal to raise $75,000 or more over the course of 2021. The current rebuilding timeline has us budgeting to spend $75,000 each year until the rebuild is complete. If we can raise more than $75,000, we feel the five year rebuild timeline can be reduced.

Your donation will be essential for us to meet our goal of $75,000 to continue our work throughout the coming year. Would you please consider making a donation to help us kick off this phase of #1744’s restoration?

Checks are also welcome and may be made out to the Pacific Locomotive Association. Add in the memo section of your check that your donation is for the #1744 so we make sure to properly direct the funds. Mail to: Pacific Locomotive Association,SP#1744 Restoration,  P.O. Box 515, Sunol,CA 94586-0515

Your directed donations can only be spent on the project for which the donation was earmarked until the project is completed, or in other words when the SP #1744 is once again steaming on the Niles Canyon Railway.

Along with future mailings and articles in our newsletter, The Club Car, we will be posting updates to our website here and social media sites to mark our fundraising and restoration progress.

Thank you very much for your support, and we hope to hear from you soon.

SP #1744 on an excursion on the Knights Landing Branch of the SP – John West photo – Used with permission

SP #1744 – Boiler move

The Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA) is pleased to announce that the move portion of the Southern Pacific #1744 project is now over with the locomotive’s boiler, the last piece remaining in Alamosa, Colorado moved to the nearby Stockton Locomotive Works shop in Antonito, Colorado.

The Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA) is pleased to announce that the move portion of the Southern Pacific #1744 project is now over with the locomotive’s boiler, the last piece remaining in Alamosa, Colorado moved to the nearby Stockton Locomotive Works shop in Antonito, Colorado.  The PLA owes thanks the many donors who have helped finance the move and continue to donate in support of the restoration. 

The 2-6-0 Mogul built by Baldwin in 1901 operated for many years out of Oakland on the Southern Pacific Western Division and in California’s Central Valley where the Moguls were fondly called “Valley Mallets” by their crews.  The locomotive was made famous in later years by operating on several of the last steam railfan excursions on the Southern Pacific.  After many years of operating around the United States, the #1744 is returning home to once again to operate through Niles Canyon on the last leg of the Transcontinental railroad.

PLA volunteers have begun to work on the running gear at the Niles Canyon Railway’s yard and with the boiler moved to Stockton Locomotive Works, Stathi Pappas will now be able to begin the boiler work as well.  The restoration of the #1744 back to service on the NCRy has begun!  The PLA plan to return the #1744 to service is not a quick or inexpensive proposition but we are looking forward to the future when she will once again steam on the Niles Canyon Railway.  The non-profit all volunteer heritage railway encourages donations to help return this classic Southern Pacific Locomotive to service.  You can learn more about the #1744 here including links to our Steam Website as well which has more details.

Oakland Terminal #101 – It is time for your close-up

Recently we had an inquiry about our Oakland Terminal #101 diesel locomotive. #101 is a Baldwin model DS-4-4-1000. Baldwin was a huge producer of steam locomotives in the US including our own Clover Valley Lumber Co. #4 and our new to us Southern Pacific #1744, however, it was never overly successful in transitioning to the …

Recently we had an inquiry about our Oakland Terminal #101 diesel locomotive. #101 is a Baldwin model DS-4-4-1000. Baldwin was a huge producer of steam locomotives in the US including our own Clover Valley Lumber Co. #4 and our new to us Southern Pacific #1744, however, it was never overly successful in transitioning to the diesel electric locomotive market. That makes #101 more unique and makes this type of locomotive harder to find in preservation.

The inquiry was from a modeler looking for some detailed images of the rear platform of the #101. So on a recent visit to our Brightside yard, one of volunteers grabbed some detailed shots around the #101 which is currently stored awaiting from mechanical repairs to its running gear. This is another project where new hands would be very welcome around the yard. To learn how to volunteer, please check our Volunteer section of this website.

So here are a variety of detailed photos of the #101 which we hope will help modelers answer their detail questions. If we missed anything or you would like a different angle or close-up, please us know here. Thanks!

SP #1744 Running Gear Arrives – 9.02.2020

The Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA) is pleased to announce that the frame & running gear from the recently purchased Southern Pacific #1744 has been moved from Colorado to the Niles Canyon Railway.  The running gear was loaded on a heavy haul truck in Alamosa, Colorado on Monday 8/31 and unloaded this afternoon at Brightside yard.  …

The Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA) is pleased to announce that the frame & running gear from the recently purchased Southern Pacific #1744 has been moved from Colorado to the Niles Canyon Railway.  The running gear was loaded on a heavy haul truck in Alamosa, Colorado on Monday 8/31 and unloaded this afternoon at Brightside yard.  The PLA owes thanks the many donors who have helped finance the move from Colorado.  We are also grateful to the employees at the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad who have been instrumental in helping with the process to move the 1744. 

The 2-6-0 Mogul built by Baldwin in 1901 operated for many years out of Oakland on the Southern Pacific Western Division and in California’s Central Valley where the Moguls were fondly called “Valley Mallets” by their crews.  The locomotive was made famous in later years by operating on several of the last steam railfan excursions on the Southern Pacific.  After many years of operating around the United States, the #1744 is returning home to once again to operate through Niles Canyon on the last leg of the transcontinental railroad.

The Pacific Locomotive Association will move the boiler, the final piece of the locomotive still in Colorado, to a contract shop for repairs later this month.  This move will finish the project to move the  locomotive back to California.   With the running gear onsite, NCRy volunteers will now begin the inspection, repair and reassembly of the running gear in preparation for the eventual operation of the locomotive on the Niles Canyon Railway.  The PLA plan to return the #1744 to service will not be a quick or inexpensive proposition but we are looking forward to the future when she will once again steam on the Niles Canyon Railway.  Our non-profit all volunteer heritage railway encourages donations to help return this classic Southern Pacific Locomotive to service.  Please visit our Steam Department website to see more information and progress updates as the rebuild begins.