Then & Now…

Over the past few years, a few historic photos taken in Niles Canyon have surfaced that we have really liked. We really enjoy seeing what was as all we can see today is what is. One of our volunteers, Chris Hauf, has also decided to try to replicate some of these photos which were both taken just west of our Brightside yard.

Over the past few years, a few historic photos taken in Niles Canyon have surfaced that we have really liked. We really enjoy seeing what was as all we can see today is what is. One of our volunteers, Chris Hauf, has also decided to try to replicate some of these photos which were both taken just west of our Brightside yard. Here are two for comparison, and we want to thank the original owners of the photographs for allowing us to share them here along with links to their original posts on Facebook.

Along 84 by the bridge of Alameda Creek

Then…

Original caption. “: With a wave from the fireman, and an indifferent glance from the engineer and the lounging head brakeman, Southern Pacific AC-10 class “Cab-Forward” number 4232 thunders past with a train of refrigerator cars on a cold damp day. The massive oil-burning simple articulated 4-8-8-2 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, construction number 64314, in 1942. She was photographed with train number 408, the backwards “8” on the fireman’s side stands out, on the Niles Canyon line near Brightside, California at some point in the early 1950s.”
Taylor Rush Collection – From the Album Facebook Group

Now…

Clover Valley Lumber Co. #4 rolls toward Brightside yard during on test run on March 4, 2023 at the same spot as the photo above. The same tilted telegraph pole is still there some ~70+ years later although the set of telegraph poles is now gone so the trees have encroached further into the right-of-way.
Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission

At Brightside west of Estate Crossing…

Then…

Original caption – “April 1965, SP E-unit #6017, the first passenger diesel on the SP, passing thru Niles Canyon in the company of two PA units with an excursion train on it’s way over Altamont to Sacramento.”
Drew Jacksich photo – Drew Jacksich on Facebook – Used with permission

Now…

Robert Dollar Co. #3 pulls one of our weekend Niles Canyon Railway train rides just west of Estates Crossing on March 14, 2021 in the same location as the Drew Jacksich photo above.
Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission

Do you have any historic photographs of the trains of Niles Canyon you would like to share with us to try to replicate? We would love to see them. Please contact us and let us know.

Thanks!

Repairing from the rains…

In late December and through parts of January, the Bay Area received significant rainfall with storms lining up one after another. The joy of having our Niles Canyon Railway in a canyon is the incredible natural beauty of the steep cliffs, scenic Alameda Creek and the surrounding hills which make for some dramatic scenery as our railroad winds its way through. On the flip side when it rains, a canyon with its steep walls and creek are the first things to slide or overflow; both which took place with the heavy rains.

In late December and through parts of January, the Bay Area received significant rainfall with storms lining up one after another. The joy of having our Niles Canyon Railway in a canyon is the incredible natural beauty of the steep cliffs, scenic Alameda Creek and the surrounding hills which make for some dramatic scenery as our railroad winds its way through. On the flip side when it rains, a canyon with its steep walls and creek are the first things to slide or overflow; both which took place with the heavy rains.

Highway 84 look west toward Niles alongside our Brighside yard during the December rains. Our yard is on the hill to the right while Alameda Creek typically flows in its banks 100+ feet to the left.
Photo by Bob Bradley – Used with permission

Overall, our railroad survived the pretty well, but we had many slope failures where dirt filled our drainage ditches and culverts and in some cases, covered over our railroad. Since the rains started, our volunteer crews have been out working to insure our railroad is ready for our March rides to start and insuring our railroad is ready for the next rain whenever that may come. We certainly are not ones to not want to see our statewide California drought end.

Whether it’s rain or shine, our crossing signals have to be inspected and tested based on a schedule dictated by the Federal Railroad Administration.  On this rainy day our Signal Department crew is out with umbrellas at one of our six active grade crossings performing the required monthly inspections and tests. 
Photo by: Curt Hoppins – Used with permission

Here are some photos of some recent creativity and work to clean our ditches and culverts using a combination of some of our railroad equipment; some custom built by our own volunteers and some of our earth moving equipment which is kept for just these types of events and more.

All photos below by Christopher Hauf – Used with permission

Alas not all of the work can be done with machines. The mud has covered our railroad in many places where hand work with shovels is required to remove the earth from the ties in between the rails. We are very fortunate to have a very dedicated team that typically volunteers on Wednesday and works on Maintenance-of-Way and occasionally helps with other projects including the rebuilding of our two open cars last year. We thank them for their dedication, and I am sure they would welcome more hands to help.

Mud is shoveled from the ties east of Brightside yard by our dedicated Wednesday Maintenance-of-Way team.
Photo courtesy of Bob Pratt – Used with permission
Mud is shoveled from the ties east of Brightside yard by our dedicated Wednesday Maintenance-of-Way team.
Photo courtesy of Bob Pratt – Used with permission

We want to thank all of our volunteers who have come out to help in the wake of the storms. From our Signal Department crews to this crew to our Brush cutting crew who took care of several downed trees to our Maintenance-of-Way team that has been spending several days shoveling mud from our ties and right of way as sometimes working by hand is the only way to complete the job.

We always welcome new hands to help so please check our Volunteer page for the many different departments you can contribute to including Signals, Brush Cutting and Maintenance-of-Way.

SP #1744 – Q4 2022 Update & more…

Our Steam Department volunteers had a very busy end of 2022 working on the restoration of Southern Pacific steam locomotive #1744 while also working on other projects around the shop including the annual inspections of Skookum #7 and Clover Valley Lumber Co. #4. Here are a series of photographs that highlight some of the work undertaken on the 1744 during the fourth quarter of 2022. Please look for new updates coming soon in 2023!

Our Steam Department volunteers had a very busy end of 2022 working on the restoration of Southern Pacific steam locomotive #1744 while also working on other projects around the shop including some infrastructure work, maintenance items on Skookum #7 and Clover Valley Lumber Co. #4, and continuing to move parts of SP #2479 from Santa Clara to Niles Canyon. Here are a series of photographs that highlight some of the work undertaken on the 1744 and around the shop during the fourth quarter of 2022. Please look for new updates coming soon in 2023!

While we have you… 2023 is shaping up to be a busy year with the 1744 along with SP #2479 restoration work. The 1744’s boiler work is planned to continue and hopefully accelerate. This means we will need to purchase more parts including 1400+ new staybolts that need to be machined. To help us with the cost of that work, please consider a donation today to our ongoing SP #1744 fundraiser.

Machining #1744’s spring packs.
Hand grinding before machine grinding the engineer’s side pad weld.

Trips from PLA’s past – 1968 Truckee Limited

On May 30, 1968, the PLA operated the first of its Truckee Limiteds over the Southern Pacific. The trip was a round trip one day adventure from Oakland to Truckee, California and return. This was one and only time one of the three unique SP DH643 hydraulics pulled a passenger train.

The Pacific Locomotive Association, the owner and operator of our Niles Canyon Railway, was initially founded as a group to be able to organize and run trips behind the then disappearing steam locomotive. While the group quickly shifted into railway preservation in the late 1960s, it never lost its trip operating roots.

On May 30, 1968, the PLA operated the first of its Truckee Limiteds over the Southern Pacific. The trip was a round trip one day adventure from Oakland to Truckee, California and return. This was one and only time one of the three unique SP DH643 hydraulics pulled a passenger train.

Here are several photos of the special train that day running over Donner Pass.

Eastbound west of New Castle – Jim Evans photo – Used with permission
On now gone track #1 above Donner Lake – Jim Evans photo – Used with permission
Westbound ready to leave Truckee after going around the balloon track – Jim Evans photo – Used with permission

Did you ride this trip? Do you have anything interesting about the trip you could share with us as we continue to document our history? Please contact us if you do.

Thanks!

Continuing to Build East…

Our Build East track construction crew continues their monthly work to extend our Niles Canyon Railway track eastward toward the City of Pleasanton. Our track already extends several miles east of our Sunol depot and our crews are continuing to both relay new track along with hardening and surfacing currently installed track.

Our Build East track construction crew continues their monthly work to extend our Niles Canyon Railway track eastward toward the City of Pleasanton. Our track already extends several miles east of our Sunol depot and our crews are continuing to both relay new track along with hardening and surfacing currently installed track.

The crew typically volunteers the first Saturday of every month with some volunteers doing prep work (adding ballast, setting stakes, positioning materials, etc.) the Friday before. On November 5, 2022, the crew had a great day leveling, hardening and surfacing into the last long curve before the current end of track at Happy Valley Road Bridge. Here are a series of photographs from some of the work that took place that day.

For those who may be interested in this type of volunteering and lending a hand, the next work session is scheduled for Saturday, December 3rd. For more information on volunteering, please visit our Construction Department Volunteer page.

Hosting the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society – 9/14/2022

Our Niles Canyon Railway had the pleasure of hosting conventioneers of the 2022 Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society at our Brightside yard and on board a special train on Wednesday, September 14, 2022.

Our Niles Canyon Railway had the pleasure of hosting conventioneers of the 2022 Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society at our Brightside yard and on board a special train on Wednesday, September 14, 2022. The SPH&TS members and guests were treated to an escorted tour of our Brightside yard including many pieces Southern Pacific equipment including SP #9010, SP #2479 and SP #1744. They were also provided lunch by our Commissary Department and then a ride on an all SP train including double headed SP ‘Black Widow’ paint diesels, SP #5472 and SP #5623.

Here is a gallery of photos from their visit thanks to NCRy volunteer, Chris Hauf. All photos used with permission.

Train of Lights tickets on sale 10/1 @ 10AM

Tickets for the 2022 edition of our Niles Canyon Railway ‘Train of Lights’ will go on sale on October 1 at 10AM. We will be updating our website in early September with all of the details along with links to our ticket seller where you can start your purchase on 10/1.

Tickets for the 2022 edition of our Niles Canyon Railway ‘Train of Lights’ will go on sale on October 1 at 10AM. We will be updating our website in early September with all of the details along with links to our ticket seller where you can start your purchase on 10/1.

Please visit our Train of Lights page here.

Sample coach interior from our Train of Lights. Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission

Significant assets transfer complete…

In February of 2022, the transfer of ownership of several significant assets from Santa Clara County (SCC) to the Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA) was completed. These historic assets were donated to the PLA by Santa Clara County thanks to our proven track record of restoring and operating significant artifacts over the years.

In February of 2022, the transfer of ownership of several significant assets from Santa Clara County (SCC) to the Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA) was completed. These historic assets were donated to the PLA by Santa Clara County thanks to our proven track record of restoring and operating significant artifacts over the years. The PLA wants to thank the Board of Supervisors of Santa Clara County for its recognition of PLA and its Niles Canyon Railway to provide a forever home for these assets where they will be preserved, revered, and given new life and for its financial support to make a move of this size feasible.   All that was left was to move them from the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds to the Pacific Locomotive Association’s Niles Canyon Railway.

On Monday August 22nd, a large 150-ton steam locomotive, Southern Pacific #2479, was disassembled and loaded on to special trucks to go from its home for the last 40+ years at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds for a new home at the Niles Canyon Railway based in Sunol. On Wednesday August 24th the 50-ton Locomotive Tender (which carries the fuel and water for the steam locomotive) was disassembled and loaded onto trucks for movement to the Niles Canyon Railway. After that was handled, the 65,000-pound, 80 foot long ‘bridge’ of the Lenzen Roundhouse turntable was loaded onto another truck for transport to the PLA’s Niles Canyon Railway.

The boiler of Southern Pacific #2479 is set down on a trailer from Renn Transportation via cranes of Peninsula Crane & Rigging at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. This was the start of the asset transfer from CTRC to the PLA/NCRy. Photo courtesy of the California Railroad & Trolley Corporation – Used with permission.
SP #2479’s tender is lifted from its trucks and loaded for movement to the Niles Canyon Railway – CTRC photo – Used with permission
The Lenzen Roundhouse turntable bridge swings on a crane toward the waiting lowboy truck that will carry it to the Niles Canyon Railway. CTRC photo – Used with permission.

Originally built in 1923, steam locomotive #2479 pulled passenger trains for the Southern Pacific Railroad finishing its career in commute service between San Francisco and San Jose.   In 1958, locomotive 2479 was donated for display at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.   For the past 30 years, the locomotive has been undergoing an extensive restoration effort by volunteers of the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (CTRC).

#2479 departing San Jose on Train 149. Image courtesy of Al Schwoerer – Used with permission.

The Lenzen Roundhouse was donated by Union Pacific Railroad to Santa Clara County for preservation. The lead-based paint was removed from the turntable bridge, and the asbestos-filled mortar was removed from the bricks when the roundhouse was deconstructed. For the last 20 plus years, the roundhouse components were stored at the fairgrounds in the hopes of reconstructing it one day.

SP Lenzen Roundhouse back in Southern Pacific days. – Image courtesy of CTRC

On Tuesday August 23rd the undercarriage and boiler for the locomotive were unloaded from their trailers and placed on the rails of the Niles Canyon Railway. The boiler was secured to the undercarriage, and the entire 120 tons of locomotive traveled about 4 miles on its own wheels for the first time in over 60 years and is now securely located in the Niles Canyon Railway’s Brightside Yard. (About 30 tons of material were removed from the locomotive prior to the move and will need to be placed back onto the locomotive as part of the restoration).

SP #2479’s frame is just about touched down on our Niles Canyon Railway. 8.23.2022 Image by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission.
The #2479’s boiler is returned to its frame on the Niles Canyon Railway. Trucking by Renn Transportation, Inc. and rigging by Peninsula Crane & Rigging. 8.23.2022 Image by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission.

Take a 3D look around as #2479 was unloaded. 360 image by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission.

SP #2479 comes into Sunol station for the first time. A stop was made here to check the temperature of the wheel bearings to insure everything was running as expected. All was good so the move proceeded. Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission.
SP #2479 makes it first move as it is towed from the unloaded site at Bonita, east of Sunol, to the museum’s Brightside yard. It is seen here just west of Sunol after a stop was made at the station to check bearing temperatures. 8/23/2022 Image by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission

On Thursday August 24th the tender body was lifted from its special trailer and reset onto the tender’s pair of 3 axle 23,000 pound trucks (known as bogies in the rest of the world) at Brightside Yard, and securely stowed away. The crane was then moved out to the unloading spot east of Sunol used for the locomotive to place the turntable bridge onto a special heavyweight railroad flatcar. The 80-foot turntable was too long to navigate the roads into our Niles location, so the solution was to move it by rail. The crane than moved again to do the offloading of the bridge in Niles. The crane also had minor difficulties getting onto the property, but successfully arrived.

Touchdown on Niles Canyon Railway rails as the #2479 is re-mated to its trucks at the NCRy’s Brightside yard crossing. – Ken Middlebrook photo – Used with permission
The SP Lenzen Roundhouse turntable travels across the Niles Canyon Railway’s Farwell Bridge. Due to access restrictions, the turntable bridge was offloaded east of Sunol on to historic flat cars that are part of the NCRy’s collection. It was then moved to the railroad’s Niles yard where the same crane met it to unload it for storage in Niles while a master plan for the roundhouse and turntable continues to be developed. Photo by: Charlie Franz – Used with permission.

The volunteers at CTRC spent the last 9 months preparing these items for transport, including separating the boiler from the undercarriage, something that rarely happens to a steam locomotive. The professional at Steam Services of America were brought in to plan the locomotive and tender disassembly, and then to oversee the work of getting the pieces safely loaded onto the trucks, transported to Niles Canyon, and reassembled. In order for this to all happen in the four-day window the experts at Renn Transportation and Peninsula Crane & Rigging were brought in to plan the lifting of these massive pieces and transporting them over the highway to Niles Canyon.

All of this planning was worth the effort because the Pacific Locomotive Association is proud to announce that all of these massive pieces were successfully disassembled, safely transported and reassembled exactly as planned. On a project of this scale, there will always be little hiccups but these were handled professionally by all involved.

The Pacific Locomotive Association would like to express its heartfelt thanks to all the folks who worked so tirelessly and efficiently on this project. The crews from Renn Transportation and Peninsula Crane & Rigging, the crew from Steam Services of America, and the volunteers from both the CTRC and the PLA/NCRy who made this all happen.

Renn Transportation truck & low-boy trailer with SP #2479’s boiler on it. Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission.
The two cranes of Penninsula Crane & Rigging lower SP #2479’s boiler back on to its frame and running gear on the Niles Canyon Railway’s mainline. Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission
Robert Franzen, owner of Steam Services of America, works inside of the engine’s firebox to re-attached SP #2479’s boiler to its frame. Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission
Crews from Peninsula Crane & Rigging along with PLA/NCRy volunteers and CTRC volunteers watch the boiler of #2479 be lowered on to the frame which included having to get the front truck pin properly inserted into the frame. Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission.
NCRy volunteer, Doug Vanderlee consults with one of the CTRC volunteers who was in the smokebox of the #2479 working on replacing some of the saddle bolts to reattach the boiler to the frame. Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission
CTRC volunteer, Art Randall, helps get the #2479’s driving axle boxes reinstalled. The driving boxes help lubricate the main driving wheel axles via spring loaded grease cakes so they are a little tricky to get reset in place as they were removed for trucking. Art is a long time CTRC volunteer and will follow the engine to the NCRy. He is 86 years young in the photo. Photo by: Chris Hauf – Used with permission.,

This is only the first step in the relocation of the assets which Santa Clara County donated to us. The 60,000 gallon water tank from the Lenzen roundhouse needs to be disassembled and transported to Niles where it will be reassembled. All of the components of the roundhouse need to be re-palletized and loaded into containers for transport to Niles. These components will be used to recreate a modern version of the Lenzen Roundhouse to meet the structural requirements of today. There is still a lot of work to be done to get these items ready for transport, and then even more work to get the items put in place at Niles. We are still at the planning stages of that portion of this project.

We will need plenty of volunteers to handle the logistics and prep work for these future developments, and constant seek new people to join us.  As a non-profit organization, the support of our community through donations and patronage of our railroad excursions to make these dreams into reality is needed as well.   Please visit our website to see how you can volunteer, ride and donate.

We gladly accept donations by mail.  Please make checks payable to Pacific Locomotive Association and note SP #2479 in the Memo area. Please mail your donation to: Pacific Locomotive Association, SP#2479,  P.O. Box 515, Sunol, CA 94586-0515

About the organizations:

Pacific Locomotive Association / Niles Canyon Railway

The Pacific Locomotive Association, an IRS 501(C )(3) a community-benefit non-profit organization, is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year. 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.   For the past 35 years, the Pacific Locomotive Association has operated the Niles Canyon Railway on roadbed that once carried the original Transcontinental Railroad on its way to Pacific between Niles (City of Fremont) through Sunol and continues to rebuild its railroad toward Pleasanton, CA.

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

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.