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Niles Canyon Railway East of Sunol 7/10-11/2022

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I woke up at the Best Western Plus in Milpitas and after we did our regular morning procedures, we went to IHOP for breakfast. We returned to the room and I finished what I was working on before we checked out and then Elizabeth drove us to Niles Canyon Railway where we parked across the street from the Sunol Station.

California Western M200 railbus

The California Western Railroad (aka The Skunk Train) used to have four railbuses - M80, M100, M200 and M300. One of them, M-200, still exists and is still running but not on the Skunk Line. She has been completely restored and she runs on the Niles Canyon Railway. M200 was built by the Skagit Steel & Iron Works, MAC Division, in January 1926. Only her rear truck is powered by a diesel-hydraulic engine. She weighs 21 tons. Her history starts when she was built new for the Longview, Portland and Northern Railway as their 20, she became Trona Railway 22 at Trona then was acquired by the California Western Railroad in 1941 as M200. She was acquired unserviceable by the Niles Canyon Railway in July 1975 and was completely restored to service in 1985, with her inaugural passenger service occuring on May 21, 1988.

The Trip

Hop aboard our fully restored, self-propelled ex. California Western M200 railbus for a unique experience of riding EAST of our Sunol station toward Pleasanton. For a few special weekends in July in addition to our regular Sunol/Niles train rides, we are offering this unique chance to head east. For these rides, our ex. California Western M200 Railbus will take control of this ride. It is a self-propelled railcar with just 30 seats available for each trip so please act early if you wish to ride on this day. The M200 will depart Sunol facing forward. The railbus will not be turned, but will return to Sunol in reverse.

Our Trip

Elizabeth went and picked up our tickets before we took a few pictures.

California Western M200 railbus built in 1926.

The inside of the railbus. While not really surprising, we did not expect to see our motorman from yesterday at History Park, Jim Maurer, who sat in front of us. We stayed in our steats until the trip started and then I went to the back door for pictures.

The east end of the Sunol siding.

We crossed Bond Road.

The X2 sign meaning two grade crossings ahead.

The Sunol yard limit sign.

An old siding along our route.

Our route crossed this little bridge.

We came to an active siding.

More of the museum's equipment.

Old Southern Pacific signal stands.

Heading to the bridge over Alameda Creek.

There used to be a Howe Truss bridge here.

On the way to our next Southern Pacific signal stand.

Old Southern Pacific signal stand.

On the way to the museum's connection.

The connection to the Union Pacific and the outside world of trains.

On the way to the next Southern Pacific signal stands.

Old Southern Pacific signal stands.

On the way to Verona.

Crossing Pleasanton-Sunol Road.

This is as far we came on the Southern Pacific Krauss-Maffei ML 4000 9010 Debut Run trip so I would be on new rail mileage. Now enjoy a trip to the Happy Valley Bridge at five miles per hour.

Verona siding.

We have reached Happy Valley Road.

We reached the end of track at Happy Valley Road which will be extended by the volunteers to Pleasanton in the future.

The inside of California Western M200 railbus at Happy Valley Road. We would head back to Sunol in reverse and upon arrival, I returned to the rear of the railbus.

Clover Valley Lumber Company 4 in front of the Southern Pacific station built in 1884.

Today we had our first revenue operation of the Clover Valley Lumber Company 2-6-2T 4 for 2022. With heavy hearts, 4 carried black flags in honor of Trains Magazine Editor and good friend, Jim Wrinn, who passed away earlier this year after a valiant battle with cancer. We are all blessed to have had Jim in our lives and carry on in his memory "doing the good work". Jim had a big hand in the restoration of the 4 with helping to fund a matching grant with the TRAINS Magazine Restoration Award which allowed PLA/NCRy to complete the restoration and return 4 to service in 2012. Today's engine crew was also comprised of several of Jim's long-time friends including our Fireman, Henry, who met Jim on the Graham County Railroad nearly 50 years ago where "Hank" to Jim was a fireman and Jim was a teenager who loved the Shay powered railroad in his beloved North Carolina. Jim ... You are missed.

The Two Day Trip Home

Elizabeth drove us on Interstate 680 to Interstate 580, to Interstate 205 to Interstate 5, to CA Highway 120 to CA Highway 99 and we went south.

This California landmark is in the median section of Highway 99 south of Madera and is where the palm meets the pine. The pine tree is north, representing Northern California and the palm tree is south, representing Southern California. The pine and palm trees represent a symbolic separation between Southern California and Northern California.

Union Pacific 7297 West south of Madera. Elizabeth drove us to south of Tulare where I took over and drove us to Bakersfield to the Black Angus Restaurant where I enjoyed Teriyaki Chicken and Elizabeth had a chicken breast. Both meals were excellent and filling. I then drove us to the Best Western Hill House where we spent the night.

7/11/2022 As usual when we stay in Bakersfield, the two of us had a good breakfast at Maggie's Sunrise Cafe. I drove us to the rest area at the top of the Grapevine then Elizabeth drove us home with very little traffic delays. At noon we were at the post office where we picked up our held mail. It had been a excellent railfanning trip and we met plenty of unique people.