Train Mania


Editor’s Note: Day three of “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” featured the ‘Realm of a Million Elephants.’ Our series on one tank of gas getaways around the Bay Area continues with a method of travel that doesn’t require any driving and a beach both you and your pet can enjoy.

Christie SmithMy kids are wild about trains. For them it’s the sound: the wheels, the cars – all that machinery right before their very eyes. If you ask them “How was your day at school?” You might not get much of an answer. But, if you ask them about whether that was a freight car or a passenger car – look out, you’ve opened up a thrilling conversation. Here are some of our favorites places to spot trains. It’s by no means a complete list of Bay Area trains. But it’s a good start. All Aboard!

BART – This is an often overlooked train for kids because so many of us ride it to work. But it really has everything. It’s not too loud for little ears. It’s got tickets, whistles, train stations. Kid’s ride free day is Sunday, May 4th.

2) Train Town – A gem for train lovers tucked away in Sonoma. This place is terrific. It is just as the name implies. A train that rolls through a little town. Apparently, the station and clock are similar to ones from the 16th Street station in Oakland. I hear it gets crowded on summer days, but when I went crowds were reasonable.

3) Redwood Valley Railway – Also known as the Tilden Park Steam Trains. This is located in Berkeley near Orinda. Based on the narrow gauge railroads of the 1800’s this steam train is perfect for little train lovers. There is a tunnel, a small bridge and a cool trip through the redwoods. As a bonus there is a smaller train you can ride as well on the weekends with enthusiasts.

4) California State Railroad Museum – Located in Sacramento. This one is for kids who want to see that gorgeous machinery up close and learn more about the history of trains. A must see.

5) Roaring Camp – In Felton. This is a cool trip through the redwoods on a narrow gauge train. If your kids love “Thomas Train” check out a Day out with Thomas!

6) Niles Canyon Railway – In Sunol. I have not made it to this one yet. However, I have only heard good things from other train fans. I understand you can rent!

7) Capitol Corridor, Ace Trains, Caltrain, Muni: Often overlooked, but these are a cool ride for kids. Best of all with these there are destinations that kids might enjoy…like the Train Museum in Sacramento.

8 ) Skunk Train: I have never ridden this one, but It’s near Fort Bragg. My photographer Alan Waples says “it’s cool.” I will be here this summer…

9) Western Railway Museum – Suisun. These are electric trains. Very cool museum. The conductors wear period costumes and you actually get to ride in restored trains. They look like what we know of as street cars in San Francisco. They are vintage.

10) Golden State Model Railroad Museum – Pt. Richmond. Tiny model trains in a little model of the old Bay Area. Train lovers run the trains and little kids press their noses against the glass in awe.

11) Bill Jones Wildcat Railway – Los Gatos. It’s at Oak Meadow Park. I’ve never been there but I hear its good. Rides look cute. A little 1905 Train is there.

For quick hits: The Oakland Zoo has a great little train, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Pixieland in Concord.

Do you have any other suggestions? Leave a comment. Happy Travels!

Christie Smith
NBC11 Reporter


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