Ah, the open rails! It harks back to the days when train travel was the primary mode of transportation before the automobile took over and road trips became more common. These days one can experience an amazing open air train ride in Northern California by embarking on the Niles Canyon Railway. The company offers an array of exciting scenic adventures for the whole family. So, if you love adventure as much as I do, read on and get ready to hear “All aboard!”.

Another welcome aspect is that the Pacific Locomotive Association, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with scores of enthusiastic volunteers who spend countless hours in all aspects of its operation. Historic train rides in Northern California, on classic vehicles, with a philanthropic heart – that’s a double win!

Have you embarked upon a journey along the Niles Canyon Railway? If so, we’d love to see your photos and hear about your experience there. You can also find out about its rides and special events on the railway’s Facebook page. We also suggest that book this fun-filled experience through Tripadvisor.

For other railway-themed adventures in California, be sure to check out the River Fox Train Company Railbikes as well.

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Open Air Train Ride

What are some of the most scenic train rides in California? 

In addition to the open air train ride with Niles Canyon Railway, here are some of the most scenic train rides in Northern California:

  • Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad: During the 4-mile route, you'll chug through stunning scenery on a route used by logging companies.
  • Napa Valley Wine Train: I've taken this trip myself and highly recommend it to anyone seeking a novel way to sip some wine while soaking in some of the prettiest views in Northern California.
  • Sacramento River Train: There are several options available to tour this part of Northern California from the comfort of your train seat.
  • Roaring Camp Railroads: It'll be worth the trip to experience riding on an authentic 1880s steam locomotive located near Santa Cruz.


What are some of the best train rides in Northern California that you can take from San Francisco?

Here are some of the best train rides in Northern California that you can take from San Francisco:

  • Coast Starlight on Amtrak: Once getting on this train in Emeryville, take advantage of the lounge car known as the "Pacific Parlour Car".
  • Altamont Corridor Express: This train route goes from Stockton to San Jose. We think it's a good option if you want to take a break from being behind the wheel.
  • California Zephyr on Amtrak: While riding along this train route, be prepared to enjoy the stunning scenery from the comfort of your seat.






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