• San Fran & Napa Valley spots?

  • Pertaining to all railroad subjects, past and present, in the American West, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, and The Dakotas. For specific railroad topics, please see the Fallen Flags and Active Railroads categories.
Pertaining to all railroad subjects, past and present, in the American West, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, and The Dakotas. For specific railroad topics, please see the Fallen Flags and Active Railroads categories.

Moderator: Komachi

  by Plate C
I'll be in San Fran and the Napa Valley for a couple of days in about 2 weeks. I'm wondering if there are any hot spots (or interesting train sights) there to catch freight traffic? I'm also interested in any good museums if they have a good freight collection. The only thing I'm aware of so far, which is not freights, is the Napa Valley Wine Train, which seems a little hard to resist. Thanks in advance for suggestions!
  by Plate C
16 views and no replies? Lol, guess everyone coming through is hoping to find a new tip too. How about a yard out these ways? A diamond crossing perhaps?
  by Plate C
I've made out quite well on my own here so far, took quite a few shots before I ever made it to the Napa Valley area. I'm still looking for San Francisco points of interest or railfanning areas for freight traffic (Sorry, trolleys don't do it for me). Any suggestions please let me know.
  by 3rdrail
Have you seen this ? It's on the East Bay. I'm a traction guy myself, so while I could tell you plenty on that topic, I'm afraid that I can't help too much on the freight topic. I would like to hear about your trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train though, as it is a trip that I'm planning to take also, the next time that I get out there. Good luck and enjoy !
  by Plate C
Yes, thanks, already seen that. Some necessary info missing from their page though. I'll let you know about the wine train shortly. I've heard nothing but good about it from the perspective of riding it or taking railfan shots.
  by ExCon90
No one has mentioned this yet, but the UP two-track main line down the middle of the Embarcadero in Oakland (okay, not SF, but you may have to cross the Bay to get much freight action), just (compass) north of the Amtrak Jack London Square station, has long, heavy freights, including double-stacks, which are a remarkable sight making their way between two rows of parked cars as they pass through traffic-lighted intersections with crossing gates. There are also plenty of Amtrak Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains, but you don't have to shoot them if you don't want to. Maybe a reader knows a good way to get close to the former SP line between Richmond and Martinez--some good scenic shots might be possible, but I've only ridden, not chased.
  by Plate C
I was disappointed that I only caught some passenger trains, but that Oakland spot is very photogenic. If I lived there I would definitely get the schedule down and hang out there for freight traffic.

Getting back to the Wine Train, I guess it all depends on your level of interest and your budget. If you're just looking to photograph the train itself, you can show up at their maintenance spot and get some decent photos. Plus, the train moves pretty slowly along its route, which parralels the road, so it's easy to catch and there are plenty of crossings to pull off at, plus the train's stopping point where they change the engine for the ride back.

As far as the cars themselves, you can pretty much walk through and photograph every one regardless of what ride you paid for, although the dome car is technically roped off at the top of the stairs for the people who paid to be there. If it's in your budget to ride in the dome car it is worth it, mainly for the view/ride. The food wasn't bad but you can pretty much get it a la carte in other cars and you're really paying for the view of the dome car. All of the cars are nice inside. You can get pretty good shots out of the train as it travels from many points, and good shots of them switching the engine around when it stops and prepares to return.

I was out there as a special occasion and opted to throw the $ down for the ride, otherwise, I might have chosen to just catch the train on its route and photograph it from the outside.
  by 3rdrail
Thanks for the trip info. Any chance that you could post shots of the wine train trip ?
  by Plate C
I'm probably the last person who does not use image hosting sites and thus have no way to post photos. I'd be happy to e-mail you some of the photos to check out if you PM me with an address, or if anyone is so motivated to post some PM me and I'll send them to you.
  by Gilbert B Norman
From reviewing material at another site, I've learned that the Napa Valley Wine Train has had to withdraw their Alco FA's from service. Apparently, there were environmental issues.

Here's a video of consists taken during November '23;

  by ExCon90
Another unique feature apparently now gone: The FA's were equipped with air horns scratch-made from drawings .found in Roseville, apparently used on Interurban Electric and Pacific Electric interurbans dating from the early 20th century (maybe also NWP?). The line is largely side-of-road with many grade crossings, so the interurban sound fitted right in. I assume they were installed in the first place to avoid a constant --o- every quarter mile or so; that may be the reason for the now-you-hear-it-now-you-don't effect on the engine in the video.
  by Gilbert B Norman
If any locomotive builder feels compelled to design and build a battery powered (no "Diesel-hybrid") locomotive, I couldn't think of a better "proving ground" for it than the NVWT.

First, the max auth speed is probably 30, second the route is paralleled by highways, meaning that "in the event...", the passengers could be evacuated to busses, and Mechanical Dept could get to the train to address the issue. Further, the engine is "back in the garage" each night for a charge-up.

Such could also provide NVWT with "free" motive power, and even allow for the withdrawal of the Generator Cars, which, I know first-hand, Amtrak always found "problematic". Perhaps the FA "hulks" could be salvaged to house the components of this "EV"; that would make for a "win-win" for the "EV" and the environmental interests.

Finally, even though I've never been near the NVWT (last on the West Coast during '91), nice to see that one of "my MILW's" Super Domes has found a "retirement community" in which to live out its final days.
  by R36 Combine Coach
Might been due to CARB rulings? As mentioned elsewhere most older diesels are grandfathered under EPA, so the
California rules might apply to historic equipment.