December 5, 2006 > Train of Lights
Train of Lights
by Pushpa Warrier
"Railway termini... are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return."
- E. M. Forster
Train of Lights is an annual fundraiser presented by the Pacific Locomotive Association, Inc. (PLA) benefiting Niles Canyon Railway projects throughout the year.
"The tradition started 15 years ago to say thank you to our staff," says Chief Station Agent Al Mc Cracken. "We decorated the train with strings and lights. Soon, the public demanded a ride. Since then, we have exploded."
Last year tickets sold out in six weeks and this year they sold out in six days. Tickets for next year's train go on sale in August.
This popular family event takes three months to decorate the train that includes over 150,000 lights. A special Superintendent's (Southern Pacific, Sacramento division) Car is at the very end.
The 2006 train is dedicated to the military. The military, reserves and their families can ride free of charge. "Over 20,000 people are expected to ride the Train of Lights this year," says Al.
So, if you happen to see the magic of a brightly decorated holiday train, covered with thousands of lights, winding through the darkness of Niles Canyon on the 65-minute round-trip ride, you will know that it's the Train of Lights full of Christmas cheer.
The PLA operates the Niles Canyon Railway as a living history museum interpreting the importance of railroad heritage in the development of California and the nation, while preserving the physical aspects and atmosphere of Pacific Coast railroading during the period from 1910 to 1960.
Steam locomotives pulled trains through Niles Canyon for 80 years before diesels took over in the 1950s. Presently, PLA's Niles Canyon Railway provides historic train ride experiences to the public year-round from the 1880s depot in Sunol and from Niles Station in Fremont. For more information on visit www.ncry.org or call (408) 249-2953.