Niles Canyon Railway has opened ticket sales for its 2021 Train of Lights, a holiday delight for many who enjoy the evening 13-mile round trip between Sunol and Niles with refreshments, music and holiday lights aboard the antique coaches.
Masks will be required onboard and in the ticketing area for ages 3 and older. Passengers cannot have been exposed to COVID in the previous 14 days before departure or be exhibiting symptoms.
"We understand that this year will look and feel a bit different, but the Pacific Locomotive Association Inc., operators of the Niles Canyon Railway, is committed to doing everything in our power to ensure a safe and memorable experience for all involved," the website states.
Organizers also note that passengers must follow public health directives in place on the departure date, including possibly vaccine and testing. Customers will be notified via email if new restrictions are enacted.
This holiday season the trains are scheduled to depart from Niles at 4:30 p.m. and Sunol at 7:30 p.m. on select Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 19 to Dec. 28, but not Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The earlier departure in Niles allows passengers to enjoy the scenery of Niles Canyon on the way to Sunol and the train's lights on the return trip in the dark.
This year all tickets must be purchased online at www.ncry.org and picked up from the ticket window before the ride. Children under 3 who will be sitting on a lap do not need a ticket. Boarding will begin 30 minutes before departure. The train pauses only briefly before beginning the return trip so passengers remain onboard.
Tickets include the following:
* General seating: $30 each for unreserved seat in a regular passenger coach or open car.
* First class dome: $60 each for a reserved seat in the Santa Fe 505 Dome Car with swivel seats and a lounge with an attendant.
* First class parlor: $60 each for a reserved seat in the Southern Pacific 10040 Dining Car, appointed with the original Cuban Mahogany interior.
* Private caboose: $650 flat fee. Santa Fe cabooses provide a special ride for groups of up to 24 people, with tables for refreshments, seats high up in the cupola, and a docent aboard to talk about the railroad.
Entire trains can also be chartered.
Trains run rain or shine, so passengers are cautioned to be prepared for cold and wind. Also small flashlights are recommended for the night trips. ADA accommodations are only in covered "open" cars; make arrangements with the railroad in advance for assistance.