Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad

2019 will be a big year at Niles Canyon Railway.

The Pacific Locomotive Association will be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad all summer long in 2019, beginning with a commemoration of the May 10th, 1869 “Golden Spike” connection at Promontory, Utah between the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific. Every weekend from then 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

From a historical perspective, we will be focusing on the importance of the Chinese Immigrants to the railroad’s construction, and the impact the Chinese had on their new communities. Our Sunol Depot will present an exhibition of panels from the historic collection at Stanford University. Chinese artifacts will also be displayed. The Depot will be open on weekends and will also be opened to the school groups who ride our popular education trains in spring and summer.

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, arriving 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. It will be the primary motive power on our Steam-Powered Operating days throughout the summer.

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.

In June, we will be hosting a Steampunk Festival, using real steam locomotives. Steampunk themed activities, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) educational activities as well as vendors and artisans will be a major part of the weekend.

In July we will be re-introducing to the world our newly restored SP9010, the last surviving Krauss-Maffei diesel hydraulic locomotive, a small fleet of which were purchased by Southern-Pacific Railroad in the 1960s and retired and scrapped in 1969.

The SP9010 has been meticulously restored and is fully operational. A series of excursions will be run using this locomotive. While the KM will be controlling the train, the motive power will be from a second locomotive.

Also on July 20th we will be running a Moonlight Train in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Lunar Landing on July 20th, 1969.

In August, 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).

Other activities are also being planned throughout the rest of the summer, as well as regular canyon train excursions on Sundays. Educational displays will be set up at the stations.

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 donts of railfan safety, and railfan etiquette. Saturday trips will travel all the way to our Verona station near Pleasanton before returning to Niles.

Sundays will have 3 round trips from Niles to Sunol. Some days will be powered by steam, others by our classic diesels.

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