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4 March 2010

Steam Locomotives, and their Fans, to Gather in Sunol

The Pacific Locomotive Association's Niles Canyon Railway plans to fire up and operate four steam locomotives at the same time on its rail line between Sunol and the Niles neighborhood of Fremont.
On 21 Mar 2010, passenger trains will depart both the Sunol and Niles station hourly starting at 10:20 a.m. (Niles) and 10:30 a.m. (Sunol) as part of "Steamfest II." The last trains of the day running through Niles Canyon alongside Highway 84 leave each station at 3:30 p.m.
This unusual gathering features four restored iron horses, besting by one, the first Steamfest in 2007. Mason County Logging No. 7, part of a Willits-based private collection, will this year join three other similar-sized small steamers featured at the inaugural event.
Two of the other locomotives, Quincy Railroad No. 2, and Robert Dollar Co. No. 3, are kept at Niles Canyon Railway, the fourth, California State Railroad Museum's Granite Rock No. 10, will be trucked from Sacramento to the event.
In addition to the Sunol-Niles runs, another train, dubbed the "Hearst Flyer", is scheduled to make five runs east from Sunol on recently rebuilt track to Hearst, near the Pleasanton-Sunol Road - Verona Road intersection south of Pleasanton.
Alan Siegwarth, a member of Pacific Locomotive Association's steam department, said the Mason County steam engine and its train will offer the first public rides on this segment, other than some trips by the association's self-contained M-200 "Skunk" railcar.
Though they survived at isolated spots for a few years afterward, steam locomotives were pretty much extinct from the American railroad scene by 1960. Their fans are quick to say they have more personality than the diesels that replaced them starting in the 1940s.
Passenger fares for the Hearst trains and the "Canyon Flyers" between Sunol and Niles are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $8 for children. The Hearst train fares are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and kids.
Separate from all these is a "photo freight" train scheduled to run Saturday, 20 Mar 2010. This train is set to include all four steam engines pulling several freight cars, from the 1960s and older, restored by PLA volunteers. There will also be limited passenger space on the train, Siegwarth said, which will do "run-bys" for the paying passengers for photo and video-making purposes.
These are more expensive tickets, for remaining availability, e-mail Other spectators can expect to get some more limited views of this train Saturday as it rolls through Niles Canyon.

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