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Niles Canyon Christmas Train

Like most people, I spent Thanksgiving at home, taking a break from the usual overdose of work, projects, and social life. Instead, I overdosed on family, friends, food, and, er, football. We even found time to put up our Christmas tree, as well as digging holes in our front yard and attacking rogue cars with spray paint and Bondo. Don’t ask. :P

However, for me, one of the most memorable moments happened far from home, family, and friends.

A long time ago, I spent a summer working long hours and late nights at as a lowly game tester at EA. (Yes, it was fun.) I lived at home, so I slowly nailed down the perfect driving route between Pleasanton and the peninsula.

The route takes me through Niles Canyon, six miles of curvy, unlit, two-lane driving bliss that parallels Alameda Creek and the Niles Canyon Railway.

This year, on my way back, I hit the canyon at dusk. It was peaceful and dark, and the road was deserted. As I rounded a bend, a blaze of colored light appeared out of nowhere. I watched through the pine trees in awe as the light came into focus. A train, covered in strings of Christmas lights, floated silently through the canyon. It was unsettling, it was eerily beautiful, and it gave me goosebumps.

I learned later that it was the Niles Canyon Train of Lights, which rolls every Christmas. I’m sold; I’ll definitely have to get tickets next year. Still, sitting inside the train can’t possibly match the experience of seeing it from the road, larger than life, glowing through the trees.

Polar Express, eat your heart out!


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