Railroad history abounds in the Bay area particularly just a few miles down Mission Blvd. in the Niles district of Fremont. The first steam trains entered Alameda Creek canyon in 1866 and just four months after the famous golden spike ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah the Central Pacific Railroad completed the transcontinental rail link between San Francisco Bay, Sacramento and points East by laying track through the canyon. The Central Pacific eventually became a Southern Pacific secondary mainline and Niles became a regional freight and passenger hub well into the diesel era. The canyon continues to be an active rail corridor through the coast range for the Union Pacific Railroad, the Altamont ACE commuter trains and the Niles Canyon Railway run by the Pacific Locomotive Association as an operating rail museum.
Artifacts of the areas rail history are evident at Niles Depot Park and Museum, Niles Canyon Railway yard and depot, Amtrak’s historic Centerville Station, Ardenwood’s narrow gauge railroad collection and Quarry Lakes Regional Park that supplied roadbed ballast for the Transcontinental Railroads western section. A new privately funded railroad themed art installation is located on Mission Boulevard at Mowry Avenue in Fremont. The owner of the Niles Station Apartments (formerly the Essanay Motel) Lila Brighurst commissioned Oakland artist Mario Chiodo to honor the area’s rich railroading legacy with a 150 ft. long sculpture of a steam train with engineer and conductor, water tower, depot and platform with a porter struggling with baggage for waiting passengers. A large playful mural of early Niles compliments the scene. The unselfish gesture of a private citizen to share her love of local railroad history with the community through art is remarkable and enviable. Check it out!
If you listen very carefully about mid-way through worship on Sunday mornings you can hear the faint blast of the diesel horn from the Capital Corridor train as rail travelers make their way between San Jose to Sacramento just as they have for 150 years. -Bill