Trains Run Through

My daughter is in love with trains (and buses, planes, trucks and heavy construction machinery). All my life, I've never lived in a place where I cannot hear trains passing by deep in the night. Their distant whistles or sirens have always been my backdrop for life's extremely still or frenetic pace.

When I'd take a moment to stop and listen, trains were my reminder that time and change are constant, though not always perceivable. Here's a fantastic steam train whistle that is better quality than the wind whipped iPad recordings I took of the Niles Railway engine's whistle. Zen out on and ponder how change and time move through your life. Is it like an unstoppable train, or a meandering bird pecking about for a worm?

This summer we've delighted in two of the Bay Area's historic rail lines still in operation today. Lots of fun for the kids and a fun thing to do if you live here and  have guests in town you need to entertain.

The Niles Canyon Railway is a delightful 40 or so minute train ride into the beautiful hillsides of the East Bay. There is nothing more exhilarating than that blaring steam train whistle and the turn of the (20th) century enclosed and open air rail cars to give you a feel for what transport used to be like. The Niles Railway first started in 1866, briefly, then resumed in 1869 as part of the Western Pacific Railway effort to link Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay Area. Here's the history.

The volunteers working this experience were all dressed to the part and their dedication is worth noting in how much passion and energy they give to a preserving this authentic experience. Thank you!


The Redwood Valley Railway running up in Tilden Park in Berkeley is a small gauge steam train that boasts scenic views of San Francisco Bay and the scent of redwoods as the miniature train chugs its 8-minute journey among the trees. The Tilden Steam train has been running since 1952 and was started by hobbyist Erich Thomsen.

Breakfast among a model train collector's collection? If you have a real train (and breakfast) lover on your hands, I highly recommend breakfast or brunch at the Montclair Egg Shop. A serious train lover has decorated the place with lots of model trains in viewable boxes, plus historic photos. Running back and forth along the kitchen wall is a model BART train in addition to a miniature funicular that runs just around the back of the restaurant's open kitchen. And breakfast is fabulous, too!

Red Tricycle also has a nice resource article on other train-loving destinations around the Bay Area.
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