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Post-Winterail Photographer's Special on the Niles Canyon Railway ~ March 11th, 2013

by Elizabeth Guenzler

For several years during Winterail's Stockton years, either the Niles Canyon Railway or the Sierra Railway hosted a Post-Winterail Photographer's Special event. 2013 was no exception and it was the debut of Clover Valley Lumber 2-6-6-2T 4 after its lengthy restoration and the steam engine's first public excursion since 1985.

After an excellent breakfast at Perkins, myself, Bob, Chris Guenzler and Chris Parker made a couple of stops along the route to Sunol.

Southern Pacific 0-6-0 1293 built in 1924, is on display at Powers Park in Tracy after being retired in 1958. We then drove over Altamont Pass to Livermore.

The Southern Pacific station in Livermore, built in 1892, now home to a real estate office.

The history plaque.

The station sign. From here we went to Pleasanton.

The 1894 Southern Pacific station.

The station sign. Then it was on to Sunol.

The former Southern Pacific station, now the ticket office and gift shop for Niles Canyon Railway, where we picked up our tickets.

My ticket for the event, the first one that I had been on. We then walked to the photo line for our first views of Clover Valley Lumber 4.

Niles Canyon Railway history plaque.

Clover Valley Lumber 2-6-6-2T 4 performing a runby past the semaphores and into the boarding area for the excursion.

Clover Valley 4 History

It was built in 1924 for the Clover Valley Lumber Company and operated out of Loyalton, California. In late 1956, the Clover Valley Lumber Company sold out to the Feather River Lumber Company, but the rail operation remained the same. In late 1957, the railroad became history when the logging operation switched to trucks. It was at this time No. 4 was sent to the Tahoe Timber Company's mill near Reno for stationary boiler service. That service lasted only a few weeks, but the locomotive was to remain there for many years. Between 1978 and the end of 1985, it was in regular operation at Castro Point. In addition to passenger operation, she was also called on to carry out special operations on occasion. One of these was the movement of the former Western Pacific F7, 918, into our facility at Molate Beach in 1982. On December 1st, 1985, No. 4 had the honour of handling the last passenger movement on the Castro Point Railway. When the engine arrived at Molate Beach, the passenger-carrying days on the railroad were over. In late 1986, along with Heisler 5 and Shay 7, No. 4 was moved out of Castro Point to Niles via a special train movement. The locomotives were put in storage along with other Pacific Locomotive Association equipment. On January 8th, 2005, No. 4 and many other pieces of PLA equipment were moved into Niles Canyon and onto the Niles Canyon Railway. Clover Valley 4 remained in storage until June 2008 when rebuild commenced and she was test=fired on May 5th, 2012 and test run on August 25th, 2012. It has recent received extensive running gear work and is one of the steam locomotives used to power the Niles Canyon Railway's trains.

Clover Valley 4 at the station in Sunol. We boarded the train and took seats in the open car.

The engine running around the train so it could lead us to Niles.

Clover Valley 4 approaching us.

The front of the steam engine as it couples on to our train. After a crew briefing, we started the trip to Niles with runbys on the return.

Smoke from the stack.

Passing the semaphores as we left the yard area.

The first of two wig-wag signals on the line.

The second wig-wag signal.

Niles Canyon as viewed from the train.

Spring greenery was abundant this morning.

Upon our arrival in Niles, we passed Western Pacific caboose 467 and the former Southern Pacific station.

The Southern Pacific station at Niles.

The engine cut off the train and headed to the switch to run around.

As this was happening, Amtrak's Capitol Corridor Train 727, bound for San Jose, passed through Niles.

Clover Valley Lumber 4 reverses to the switch.

The steam engine passing us as it makes its way to the other end of the train. We started the eastbound trip back but did not go too far to the first runby location.

The reverse move.

Clover Valley Lumber 4 on its first runby of the post Winterail Photographer's Special.

Southern Pacific coach 1949 and Southern Pacific concession car 6719 in the consist.

The hillside scenery.

Looking back at the tracks upon which we had just travelled. We detrained for the next runby which was a little on the shady side.

The second photo runby.

I walked to the other end of the train and captured the view of the Dresser Bridge, originally built in 1866 as a 380 foot Howe Truss bridge which was damaged in the 1906 earthquake and replaced in 1906 with a steel bridge built by the American Bridge Company. We continued on to the third runby location at Farwell.

The reverse move in preparation for the runby.

The fourth runby (one of two here) in Farwell Canyon.

The fifth runby (and second here). Everyone re-boarded the train for the short distance to the last runby of the day.

I decided to stay aboard and took this view as the train reversed.

Clover Valley Lumber 4 performing a photo runby as viewed from on board the train.

The photo line with Chris Parker giving us a wave as we passed.

Brightside Yard was travelled through on the return trip.

Clover Valley Lumber 4 at Sunol after a very successful and enjoyable ride. I immediately noticed the shamrock that had been affixed to the engine.

The builder's plate of this tank engine. The obligatory visit to the gift shop for some souvenirs was made then we returned to the car and Chris drove us to Pleasanton to get some lunch then dropped Bob and I off at the BART station at Dublin-Pleasanton. After eating, we rode to Oakland then caught the connecting bus to the airport for the flight back to Seattle.

What a fantastic experience it had been on board the Niles Canyon Railway. I was very impressed with the operation and enjoyed everything that the Post-Winterail Photographer's Special presented. It would not be until 2020 that I returned, with three visits in the space of six months. But that is for future travelogues.