Niles Canyon R (and) R

October 20th, 2008


Took a day trip out to Sunol to catch a ride on the Niles Canyon Railroad. Took the low roads, passing through Hayward and Union City to get our fix of cemeteries and thrift stores.


Made it to Sunol just in time to meet the last train of the day.


Grabbed a seat inside, as far from birthday parties and squealing children as possible, and commenced to picnicking. All the volunteers who run the Railway are really nice and told us to bring aboard whatever we wanted though we still transferred the wine to unmarked bottles just in case. I’m sure I’ve said it a million times, but I love riding trains.


If all this seems familiar its because I was here once before, sans the general public (which is always nice). If that’s more your style, you can reserve the entire caboose for parties


Though the ride isn’t terribly long, its really lovely and you pass by all the engines and train cars still under restoration.


How I’d love to have taken a train through Yosemite.


And into the town of Niles. If you get the earlier trains you can disembark and walk around for a bit then catch another one back.



We just hung out at the depot while they attached another engine.



The bridge just past Dresser started out as a 380 ft. long wooden structure, but was damaged during the 1906 earthquake and replaced with a steel structure from Carnegie’s American Bridge Co. which is still in use.


Nearby the Dresser Bridge I spotted these on my first time out. One of the volunteers said they were the remaining chimneys from the long defunct Mission Clay Tile Works which helped rebuild San Francisco after the earthquake of aught six. Also overheard a conversation about the “secret sidewalk” which lay somewhere behind. Naturally we had to investigate.


A slightly ominous beginning to our adventure, not helped by the fact that our self-made path lay in the middle of highly illegal “No Trespassing, Violators Will Be Violated” Railroad property.


Scattered piles of old clay pipes told us we were getting close.


Read later that the Clay Works factory produced sewer pipes for San Francisco and the surrounding areas damaged by the fire and quake.


Came out into a clearing and found not only the old chimneys but stacks and stacks of old bricks. The neatest part was that they were all stamped with what I can only assume were the locations to which they were intended.





Kept looking for San Francisco but found nary a one. Lots of Richmonds, Merceds and even a few stamped Carnegie.




So odd to come upon piles and piles of untouched resources. Almost like an earthwork piece in their own beautiful way, made me realize how partial I am to the general piling of objects.




Walked across the field to the Union Pacific/Southern Pacific lines thinking we’d walk those back towards the car and found ourselves face to face with the secret sidewalk.


Walked that instead, winding through trees high above the tracks listening to the hollow sound our feet made on the old aquaduct.





Crossing tracks? Niles Canyon is southeast of San Francisco and can be reached in any number of ways, the slowest of which was probably our way. The Niles Canyon Railway runs through the winter on Sundays only and also features something called the Train of Lights on other days (more history and info on their site and my old post). To get to the brickworks from Sunol we took Niles Canyon Road back towards town and took the first left we saw at Old Canyon Rd. Crossed over Alameda Creek and parked in a small lot by the creek (can’t remember what the park was called but it was the only one there). Started out heading northeast on the trail adjacent to the creek but that ended rather quickly leaving us with the option of turning back or entering into UP/SP territory despite hefty fines if caught. We of course chose the latter, continuing along with the tracks on our right and eventually coming to the the 4 palm trees left from the ranch of Joaquin Murrietta and the remains of the Mission Clay factory. The secret sidewalk is just above the tracks, running paralell to them and is apparently not-so-secret to stoners, hobos, Klan members and its very own White Witch (sadly not Ms. Nicks). Anyhow, there apears to be a whole slew of odd stories and hauntings throughout the canyon, but if that isn’t enough of a deterrent remember the area’s private railroad property and Franklin and I narrowly escaped being busted by an SUV driving down the tracks, likely after some kids who came tromping along just after us and didn’t have their stealthy moccasins on.

Entry Filed under: Day trips


Add your own

  • 1. Maxwell Edison  |  July 19th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Pretty awesome collection! I love your photos of the area. I live around here and love exploring the canyon for its surreal air. Your pictures perfectly capture that beauty. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  • 2. Wilbur Voltz  |  December 16th, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Your site is ace! I love it!! Do you use Twitter? fancy a link trade? – my site is We Sell old Post Cards

  • 3. Nice Fremont CA photos&hellip  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    […] […]

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