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The Napa Valley Wine Train by

Napa Valley Wine Train

Story and Photos by Carl Morrison,

Mr. Vincent DeDomenico purchased the 21-mile section of the Napa Valley Railroad, one of the oldest railroads in California, in 1987.  This line begins in Napa and ends in St. Helena, California.

In 1989 the Napa Valley Railroad commenced operation as a Shortline Railroad featuring year-round scenic gourmet dining, and has continued operation since then. a successful experimental conversion of a Napa Valley Wine Train Alco locomotive to 60% natural gas and 40% diesel fuel misture, in 1999 the conversion became permanent.  Experimentation is now underway to eventual operation of 100% Compressed Natural Gas.  The four ALCO FA4 diesel locomotives were purchased from the Canadian National Railroad.

The Napa Valley Wine Train travels 36 miles past 27 wineries through the heart of California's famed Wine Country.  Passengers dine in white linen style aboard authentically refurbished 1915-1947  era Pullman cars pulled by 1950s-vintage Streamliner locomotives.  Gourmet 3-, 4-, and 5-course meals are freshly 'prepared-to-order' and include creative vegetarian offerings.

DSC02665.jpgArrive at least a half hour before your reservations so you can browse the working art gallery, three shops, Artist's Corner Cafe and Wine Tasting Bar.  Some handicapped and wheelchair facilities are available with advanced reservations notice.

"We have the best seat in the house to view this world renowned wine growing region," says WIne Train chairman Vincent DeDomenico.  "Our ride offers a beautiful view of the valley in a relaxed ambiance where we pair fine falley wines tith gourmet meals."

Vincent DeDomenico, chairman of Napa Valley Wine Train, is the former owner of Golden Grain Macaroni Company.

The Wine Train has four parlor cars, two dining cars, one kitchen car,  and one 1947 Vista Dome Car with its own kitchen downstairs.

From the Honduran mahogany paneling and the brass accents to the etched glass partitions and wool carpeting, passengers are enveloped in elegance that reflects the tradition of the finest early 20th century european railroads sich as the Venice-Simplon Orient Express.

Two of the former Denver and rio Grande railroad cars are fitted as 50-passenger Napa Valley Wine Train lounge cars.  Each has 26 cushioned seats that swivel 360-degrees and six four-person booths for passengers riding the brunch, lunch and dinner trains.

A feature of the kitchen car most enjoyed by passengers is the mahogany-paneled passageway with a window wall on the kitchen, allowing patrons to watch their chefs in action.

The dining cars, with more than 60 seats at 20 tables, was originally a 1917 Pullman sleeping car.

Today, two locomotives power the Napa Valley Wine Train because there is no turnaround at either the Napa or St. Helena station.  The two engines are connected back-to--back as the lead engine pulls the train while the trailing engine provides electrical power to the cars.  At the line's end, the connected engines are released from the cars [with a mementary brown down then car generators take over]  and moved along parallel tracks to the back of the train, which becomes the front of the train for the return journey.

The Silverado car features open air dining in a 'western' motif.

(Click any photo below for a double-sized copy; click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

Wine Train cars at commissary/yard south of depot.
Locomotive at commissary/yard.
Platform car at commissary/yard.

Before departure, the spacious waiting area has shops and very comfortable seating for the guests.

We took the 'last train out of Napa' for dinner (right).

Go out on the platform early, while other guests wait in the Station, to get pictures of the locomotive.  The train will soon be in the dark with no other opportunities to photograph it from outside.

Friendly photographers take everyone's picture as they board the Wine Train.  Upon returning, photos are available inside the depot, or via mail if you forget to pick up your photo when you return.
Soon the Wine Train arrives at the Depot and an announcement is made to make your way to the train.
The Conductor steps off and the locomotive passes the photo spot, pulling the cars for boarding to the station.

Conductor and assistant welcome the guests onboard.

1947 Vista Dome Car, Champagne, with its own kitchen downstairs

We boarded right at sunset.


All Aboard!

Until our dinner time, we were seated for the first hour or so in this beautifully appointed lounge car where we could order drinks and participate in their 35-choice wine tasting bar.

Wine tasting bar at left, other upholstered chairs with tables at the ends of the car below the paintings.

There were only two other couples in our car, but the ntxt call had a Trafalgar tour aboard and they were enjoying wine tasting.
We could casually peruse the menu as we made our way up the Napa Valley.

One car was Western themed and more casual.
Next in the consist was the car in which we would have dinner later, at the second seating.
This car had 4-tops on one side and 2-tops on the opposite side.

Desserts and wine choices were displayed in a mirror-backed cabinet behind which was the kitchen for this car.

The chef (center) and helpers awaited dinner hour.

The Napa Valley Wine Train has Orient Express-quality cars, table settings, service, and food.

In fact, the GrandLuxe (Formerly American Orient Express) was in Napa at the same time, and they had taken the lunch train with wine tasting earlier this day.  They were on their San Francisto to Denver Excerusion and would be back every other week for 5 weeks with diferent guests to also enjoy the Napa Valley.

This dining car had 4-tops on both sides.

Those with reservations in the Champagne dome car enjoyed the full evening here.

The designers had made good use of the area under the glass at the end of the dome by making it a wine cooler-display area which you could see as you descended the steps to the lower level.

The lower level is where the W.C. was located, as well as the kitchen for this car.
After walking the train, I made my way to the favorite part of the train for me, the outdoor platform on the last car.  The evening was perfect in every way, great company (my wife), dry weather, comportable temperature, a new moon, wine for tasting, and the anticipation of a wonderful meal as we slowly made our way through vineyards of one of the most popular grape growing regions in the world.
Westward view.

They say Robert Mondavi's mansion is on the far ridge, east of the Wine Train.

By evening's end, I could see why the Napa Valley Wine Train was rated as ONE OF THE 20 BEST RAIL EXPERIENCES IN THE WORLD by The Society of International Railway Travelers.

And, why the Napa Valley Wine Train is mentioned in the U.S. and Canada edition of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

I concur completely with both prestigious awards.

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