The Napa Valley Wine Train is one of America’s premier excursion trains, running from Napa, through the Napa Valley, into Saint Helena, at the north end of the Valley. The train runs through spectacular vineyards, with views of the rugged peaks of the Vaca and Mayacama ranges. Along the way, you are treated with world class food and wine, and an experience that is not often rivaled.
The track used for the Wine Train is part of the original Napa Valley Railroad, founded by Samuel Brannan in 1864. Originally, this line was used to bring tourists from Vallejo, California (which connected via ferry to the San Francisco Bay Area ferry boat service) to the resort town of Calistoga, 42 miles to the north. This iteration did not last long, and the California Pacific Railroad Extension Company purchased the railroad at a foreclosure sale in 1869. The railroad was renamed the California Pacific Railroad, and it was then leased to Southern Pacific in 1885. SP then connected it to their main line in Suisun, California, and Southern Pacific later acquired the California Pacific Railroad in 1898.
Under SP control, the line was electrified and renamed San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway in 1905 and carried passengers until 1929. Once passenger service stopped, SP used the line as a freight branch line until 1987 when SP petitioned for abandonment.
In 1987, the Napa Valley Railroad Operating Company was formed by local entrepreneurs, headed by Vincent DeDomenico. Shortly after forming, the NVRR acquired the right of way of the line from SP, leading to the line in use today, from downtown Napa to Saint Helena.
The Napa Valley Wine Train began operation in 1989, and has carried more than 2 million passengers through the valley. This train has a capacity of 370 passengers, and often makes two runs per day. NVRR currently runs 9 passenger cars in its consist, including lounge, observation, and several dining cars. In 1997, the NVRR acquired a super dome car, which was originally run by the Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad, and had logged over 1 million miles. In 2013, they added a modified boxcar containing a 450 KW generator in order to maintain constant power to the train during the time that the locomotives are switched for the return trip from Saint Helena. These cars are normally pulled by two FPA-4 locomotives first owned by Canadian National Railway. These engines were modified to run on compressed natural gas.
In September 2015, the DeDomenico family announced that they had sold the railrod to Seattle based Noble House Hotels & Resorts, Ltd. and Brooks Street, a California real estate development company.
The most recent addition to the service through the valley came in May 2016, when it was announced that passengers can choose to be dropped off at four wineries along the route, Robert Mondavi, Charles Krug, Merryvale, and V. Sattui. To accommodate this new service, two passenger cars will be added to the fleet.