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A "Go Loco" Ride In The Engine Cab On The Wine Train
  This year, I would take two rides on the Wine Train with the first being a "Go Loco" Engine Ride. I would ride in the cab of Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) FPA-4 #73 which was a 1959-built diesel engine that has since been converted to run on Compressed Natural Gas! Since this trip was booked, the Wine Train no longer advertises this experience but if you would like to still take a cab ride, just give the Wine Train a call to check for pricing and availability at 1-800-427-4124. For 2014, the Wine Train is celebrating 25 years of providing beautiful views of Napa Valley by rail and preserving the rail line through here which was originally built in 1864. When first built, the line ran from San Francisco northeast to Calistoga. Today it ends in Saint Helena though most of the line today is set up largely in its original configuration.
  Once I arrived in Napa, I checked in at the main desk and signed a "Hold Harmless Agreement" and was given a "Goody Bag" that included a water bottle, engineer hat, pin, train whistle, deck of cards and a set of ear plugs. They gave me one of these last year as well, very nice touch! I would also have a very nice conversation with a member of the Wine Train's Marketing Department whom I knew from last year regarding the photography I wanted to do on this trip. The fencing on the bridge from the Napa Station building to the platform is still lined with padlocks just like last year! A sign on the bridge says that the bridge is dedicated to lovers. You can personalize a padlock and attach it to the fencing on the bridge and drop the key in the swale below. This tradition is popular in Europe and was thought to have originated in China where partners "lock their souls" together and yes, padlocks are available for sale in the gift shop! I walked up to the head-end and climbed up into the lead locomotive. Having worked a summer job on a small railroad 20 years ago when I was in high school (am I that old?) served me well as I knew the proper way to climb onto a locomotive! I was then introduced to the engineer and conductor (the conductor rides in the engine). The plan today was to ride north to Saint Helena in the locomotive and have the Gourmet Express Lunch in Dining Car #1090 - "Le Petit Gourmet" on the ride back to Napa.
  We departed the City of Napa on time at 11:30am and would have an excellent ride north through beautiful Napa Valley. I chose to ride in the engine going north as the angle of the sun allowed for better lighting for photography. The train would ride through the towns of Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford before arriving in Saint Helena. We would also make a stop at the Grgich Hills Estate Winery in Rutherford as some passengers would do a tour of their winery there as well as have lunch, then be picked up by the Wine Train on the return trip back to Napa.
  Once we arrived in Saint Helena, the train's two locomotives would be uncoupled and run around to the other end of the train for the ride back to Napa. I was able to stay in the cab during the run-around move. We had an absolutely perfect ride to Saint Helena and I would thank the crew for such an excellent ride, then get off the locomotive and board the train for my return ride in the "Le Petit Gourmet" car back to Napa. On the ride back, I would have the Gourmet Express Lunch. I started my lunch with the First Course being a Baby Lettuce Salad with candied walnuts and smoked goat cheese in a honey cider vinaigrette. For the Entree, I chose the Grilled Breast of Chicken entree and it was absolutely delicious along with the salad! For dessert, I would have Chocolate Tiramisu, and in all honesty, I'm not a tiramisu fan (I don't drink coffee which is one of the ingredients generally), but this was absolutely delicious and I would have it again!!! After lunch, I took more pictures as we made our way back to Napa and would have about an on-time return back to Napa Station at around 2:30pm. Included here are links to photos taken on this excellent ride! This was a lot of fun and every member of the train's crew provided an absolutely top notch level of service!
  Once I got done doing roster photos of the train, I would eventually make what would end up being a pointless drive back to Vacaville as I basically had to turn around and come right back to Napa as I would be doing night photos of the dinner train once it was ready to depart. I guess I underestimated just how much traffic I'd be stuck in trying to get out of Napa! You'll see those photos later (they are awesome!). For now, check out the photos by clicking the links below...