Rail Journeys

The Great West Rail Adventure

15 Days | 23 June to 1 July 2023
Location: USA

A one-week tour exploring some of the steam railways in Western California and Navada and tying in with the 38th annual National Garden Railroad Convention.

We will visit the Niles Canyon Railroad; Nevada County Narrow Gauge and Transportation Museum; Nevada State Railroad Museum; Western Pacific Railroad Museum; California State Railroad Museum; Western Railway Museum; Sacramento Southern Railroad; Napa Valley Wine Train. We even fit in short rides on the legendary Amtrak trains California Zephyr and Capitol Corridor.

Maximum group size is 24.

From: London Heathrow plus other UK airport (indirect).

Tour Itinerary

Arrival into San Francisco and take Caltrain electric service to Santa Clara (1 hours journey). Check into the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

H8RG3G SF lowres
San Francisco (Alamy)

Meet our guides in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Santa Clara, California at 8:30AM. The Hyatt Regency is the official hotel for the 38th Annual National Garden Railway Convention being hosted by the Bay Area Garden Railway Society. Our charter road coach will depart from the hotel at 8:30AM. First stop will be at the Niles Canyon Railroad at Sunol. This railroad is operated by the Pacific Locomotive Association. We will have our own private charter train which will take us through Niles Canyon on the former Southern Pacific route. We have requested that Clover Valley No. 4 a 2-6-6-2T Mallet. Next, we visit the Niles Depot Museum at Fremont. This is the original Southern Pacific passenger depot built in 1901 and now has been made into a railroad museum with operating N and HO scale model trains. We then board Capitol Corridor train 736 due at Fremont at 3:34PM. We will ride this train all the way to the end of the run which is at Auburn in the High Sierra foothills due at 7:06PM. We will have dinner in Auburn then ride our road coach to Nevada City and hotel check in at the Northern Queen Inn.

CMPKRK low res
Niles Canyon Railroad (ALAMY)
ABG29F Capitol Express lowres
Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor Train (Alamy Images)

After breakfast and once you have checked out of your room all you need to do is walk down to the narrow-gauge railroad depot which is right next to the hotel and board a waiting charter railcar operated by the Nevada County Narrow Gauge and Transportation Museum for the ride through the forest to the railroad museum. Once at the museum you will have plenty of time to enjoy the motive power, rolling stock and displays. After our museum visit we will board our road coach for the ride to Colfax where we board Amtrak’s eastbound California Zephyr due at 12:21PM for the ride over Donner Pass to Reno, Nevada. You may want to enjoy lunch in the dinning car. Our road coach will be waiting at Reno for the 3:56PM arrival of Amtrak and take us to Carson City and hotel check-in.

HRP86W Donner Pass lowres
Donner Pass (Alamy)
BCX1PP CZ Restaurant Car lowres
Food is served on the California Zephyr (Alamy Image)

Morning visit to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City. We have arranged to have the Virginia & Truckee McKeen Car in operation for ride around the museum loop track. Next, we go to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad’s Eastgate/Carson City station where our charter train pulled by one of the steam locomotives will be waiting to take us up the steep grade to Virginia City. Several photo run-bys will be made on our way to Virginia City. Upon arrival in Virginia City we will give you a workshop tour before letting you explore colorful Virginia City. Then late afternoon we travel on our road coach from Virginia City to Portola, California and motel check-in.

CRN1F1 low res
Baldwin Locomotive Engine 18, Virginia City & Truckee railroad (ALAMY)

Morning visit to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum. We have arranged to have WP 165, a 0-6-0 fired up and operating for our visit. This is the only operating WP steam locomotive. Departing Portola we head west down the Feather River Canyon with a stop at Blairsden to enjoy Chris Skow’s G scale model railroad and his artifact railroad museum including a Mexican Buffet lunch on the deck as the model trains run through the forest in his backyard. After lunch we then spend the rest of the day watching and photographing the freight trains in the Feather River Canyon on the Union Pacific and BNSF Railroads. Hotel check-in at Oroville which is located at the mouth of the Feather River Canyon.

KJEPH9 river canyon low res
Feather River Canyon (Alamy)

Departing Oroville in the morning we travel southwest to Sacramento where we visit the California State Railroad Museum. Mid-afternoon we will take a ride on the Sacramento Regional Transit out to historic Folsom. Upon arrival back in Sacramento we have hotel check-in. In the evening we will visit the Sacramento Model Railroad Historical Society’s HO layout. They will have a special operating session for our group.

R9TNFJ low res
Sacramento (ALAMY)

Today our road coach will take us from Sacramento to Rio Vista Junction to visit the Western Railway Museum including an excursion out into the countryside on one of the museum’s interurban rail cars. Then mid afternoon we travel from Rio Vista Junction to Walnut Creek on our road coach. We have arranged to visit the Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society’s huge HO scale model railroad with an operating session just for our group. After our visit we then will board a BART train in Walnut Creek and ride to Richmond where we then transfer across the platform and catch a Capitol Corridor train for the return journey to Sacramento. 2nd night at Sacramento.

BKG8T1 Cal State RR lowres
California State Railroad

In the morning we will take you on a tour of the former Southern Pacific workshops which now is where the California State Railroad Museum stores all of their locomotives and rolling stock that is not currently on display. Then at 1:00pm we will take a ride on the Sacramento Southern Railroad excursion along the Sacramento River which is scheduled to be steam hauled. Then mid afternoon you will have time to explore Old Sacramento before we board our road coach and head for Napa. In the evening we will have dinner on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Once the train returns to Napa our coach will take us back to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Santa Clara and the end of our tour.

A3D0T7 low res
Napa Valley Wine Train

Departures. We are happy to include rail tickets to San Francisco and extra hotels nights should you wish to stay on.

Prices & Options

Holiday Prices

  • Full 9-day holiday joining with flights from UK: POA
  • Full 9-day holiday joining in Santa Clara: £2,850


  • Single Room Supplement: £475


  • £1,000

Transport & Accommodation

Direct Flights
VS041 17:30 Heathrow to San Francisco (arr 20:25)
VS042 22:15 San Francisco to Heathrow (arr 16:30 next day)

BA287 14:05 Heathrow to San Francisco (arr 17:10)
BA286 19:25 San Francisco to Heathrow (arr 13:50 next day)