The Napa Valley Wine Train was initially started in 1987 by local
preservationists and railroad enthusiasts among stiff opposition from
local communities. After a lengthy court battle the railroad won out
and was granted the right to operate the then ex-Southern Pacific
trackage between Napa and St. Helena, California (the Southern Pacific came to own the original Napa Valley Railroad, later named the California Pacific Railroad, in 1889). While today’s Napa Valley
Railroad does see sparse freight service to complement its popular
passenger trains, there is talk that the NVRR may soon be hauling much
more significant freight traffic making it a full-fledged freight
The history of the Southern Pacific and its important impact on
California is hard to quantify, even though many now living in the state
probably have no idea just how important the railroad was to their
state. Today, anyone seeing a freight train in California will notice
either the yellow of Union Pacific or green and orange of BNSF Railway.
However, before the mega-mergers that began in the 1960s the SP
dominated rail service in the state, both freight and passenger, and
served all of its most important cities. Poor management
beginning in the 1970s ultimately was the company's downfall, purchased
by Rio Grande Industries in the late 1980s and merged into the Union
Pacific in 1996.
The success of the Napa Valley Train can be summed up in two parts:
first is their unyielding, incredible service, if you are interested and
riding and dining aboard perhaps the most luxurious tourist train in
the country, this is it as few other operations are comparable to the
services they offer; and second is their location. The railroad is
situated just an hour's drive to the north of Oakland, San Francisco,
and the entire Bay Area. Naturally, because they have such a close
proximity to such a large population area it is much easier for them to
draw in large crowds along with being located right in the heart of
California's premier wine region. Currently the Napa Valley Wine Train operates four Milwaukee
Locomotive Works FPA-4 diesel locomotives (MLW was the American
Locomotive Company’s Canadian division) plus one General Electric 65-tonner switcher.
· #52 – GE 65-tonner: Originally owned by the U.S. Navy.
· #70 – MLW FPA-4: Originally owned by the Canadian National and later VIA Rail.
· #71 – MLW FPA-4: Originally owned by the Canadian National and later VIA Rail.
· #72 – MLW FPA-4: Originally owned by the Canadian National and later VIA Rail.
· #73 – MLW FPA-4: Originally owned by the Canadian National and later VIA Rail.
Today, the Napa Valley Wine Train offers everything from dinners in dome cars and murder mystery specials to wine
tours of the local area. Along with the trains’ former Milwaukee Road
dome car it also features diner and lounge cars for the journey. In
total, the railroad's trains are typically nine cars in length and
totally restored, featuring a splendid custom livery of green, red, and
gold. All in all, with regal interior designs using mahogany and other fine materials (not to mention a splendid matching paint scheme) a trip aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train is certainly a unique, memorable, and lasting experience not afforded by most other tourist trains.
To learn more about everything the Napa Valley Wine Train has to offer please click here to visit their website (they also have a Facebook fan page if you would like to keep with the latest). There you can find out when their trains operate, pricing for both standard excursions (lunch and dinner) as well as specials, how to reach the railroad. Additionally, they provide information about taking local winery tours, and how to take the train for weddings and large group charters. Finally, be sure to check out their vacation packages if you want to plan your trip in advance. If you would like to know more about the Southern Pacific and its fascinating history please click here. Also, for more information about excursion trains like the Napa Valley Wine Train you might want to consider the book Tourist Trains Guidebook, which is put together by the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains