Skookum debuts at Niles Canyon

By May 16, 2019Features

By Aaron Isaacs, HRA editor

HeritageRail Alliance member museums and railroads  often choose the Spring and Fall conferences to roll out their latest accomplishments. We experienced that at Railtown 1897 with the first excursion behind newly restored 2-8-0 #28 and the first steam doubleheader in 27 years. California State Railway Museum backed us down to their new Sacramento Southern end of track at the Sacramento Zoo and unveiled new exhibits for the Transcontinental 150th Anniversary..

We received the same kind of special treatment at the Niles Canyon Railway.

HRA conference-goers bused to Niles, the west end of the line and boarded a special behind Clover Valley 2-6-6-2T #4. On the way to the rendezvous with Skookum at Brightside yard, they did a runby. Jim Vaitkunas photo.

The unique 2-4-4-2 Skookum had just arrived for the start of a one-year lease.

Skookum in the Nile Canyon Brightside yard.

We got to be its first passengers at Niles Canyon. Even more, we rode behind the first double-header of articulated locomotives since what–the Norfolk & Western in the late 1950s?

Skookum and #4 blast through a grade crossing west of Sunol during the first of two runbys. Paul Knowles photo.

That’s not all. Niles Canyon has been relaying track on their ex-Southern Pacific grade east from Sunol and had just overcome a major obstacle, the grade crossing of Verona Road.¬†Behind Clover Valley 2-6-6-2T #4 we were the first passenger train to run the two miles east of Sunol over the new grade crossing.

#4 pauses at the Sunol depot before running the first passenger train to cross the new Verona Road grade crossing.

Map of the Niles Canyon Railway, showing the extension east from Sunol.

The railway intends to keep laying track for 4 more miles to reach Pleasanton.