The Napa Valley Wine Train’s track is part of the what was originally the Napa Valley Railroad founded by early California pioneer Samuel Brannan in 1864. Brannan established it to bring tourists to the resort town of Calistoga, California which he also founded. The railroad’s 42 miles (68 km) of track ran from Calistoga to Vallejo, California where it connected with San Francisco Bay Area ferry boat service. California Pacific Railroad Extension Company purchased the Napa Valley Railroad Company at a foreclosure sale on June 9, 1869. Later that same year on December 23, the railroad was renamed the California Pacific Railroad. The track was leased to Southern Pacific Railroad on April 1, 1885 and was soon connected to their main line in Suisun, California. California Pacific Railroad was acquired by Southern Pacific on April 14, 1898. The line was extended to Benicia, California in 1904.
The line was electrified and renamed San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway in 1905 and carried passengers until 1929. The track was utilized by Southern Pacific as a freight branch line for the following 58 years until 1987 when the railroad petitioned for abandonment.
The NVRR operating company was formed in 1987 by local entrepreneurs and headed by Vincent DeDomenico. DeDomenico was a veteran of more than 50 years in the food business and was formerly the president of Golden Grain, a company founded by his father and famous for its Rice-A-Roni. DeDomnico purchased the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1964 and sold both it and Golden Grain to the Quaker Oats Company in 1986.
The NVRR acquired the right of way after Southern Pacific notified the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1985 of its intent to abandon the line. The new company’s plans to create a tourist-oriented Wine Train were strongly opposed by local community activists and several city governments. Some people disliked the noise and pollution of an active passenger train line in their midst, while others felt that the train would attract even more visitors to the Napa Valley, which they saw as already over-saturated with tourists…………well too bad….the Napa Valley Wine Train has been in operation since September 16, 1989 and has now carried more than 2 million passengers, the Tin Man being one of them.
The Napa Valley Wine Train is one of the most distinctive Napa restaurants, offering an authentic, memorable experience that echoes the glory days of train travel, with fine dining service, multiple course meals, Napa Valley scenery and ultimate relaxation aboard exquisitely restored vintage rail cars.
This top dining establishment is housed in a museum quality, antique train that runs on 25-miles of track in the heart of the Napa Valley. The train itself has two engines, three kitchens on board and a collection of early 20th century Pullman rail cars faithfully restored with Honduran mahogany paneling, brass accents, etched glass partitions and plush armchairs that evoke the spirit of luxury rail travel in the early 1900s.
The Tin Man booked passage in the Vista Dome Car. With promises of dining in elevated splendor.
The observation style dining car is expertly refurbished using Honduran mahogany paneling and brass accents, perfect for the Tin Man.
Upon arrival……….a glass of bubbly and an exquisite menu….
Our 1952 Pullman domed railcar provided the most private dining experience as only guests with reserved seating are allowed in the dining area of this two-story car.
We had the most delightful server, Froy, ….who made the experience even more fantastic…
The Hors d’Oeuvre arrived….Grilled Shrimp on Crispy Wonton with Sweet Pea Pesto and Endive….
…..with Raymond Estates Vineyard Private Reserve Chardonnay….
The beautiful scenery passed us by as we noshed on these delights…
First Course…..Red and Green Apple Endive Salad with Cambozola Cheese, hazelnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette…yes, yes…..
…my companion had the Crème of Cauliflower Soup (regrettably so, me thinks……hahhaha)
…..more Raymond Estates Chardonnay….of course..
We so loved the Cambozola Cheese and our delightful server surprised us with some extra slices!!!
Meanwhile the beautiful vineyards continue to be our vista as we gently roll through the Napa Valley…
But yes, it is time for the Entrée ….Roasted Beef Tenderloin on Gorgonzola Toast with a Sauté of Vegetables in a Cabernet Reduction…
….OH MY……tooo much wine….the Tin Man forgot to take a picture of this course!
Well here we go ….might as well have some more wine….
The dining was marvelous as the dining room was above the kitchen and a dumbwaiter delivered the food directly to us…therefore our dining room was very quiet and peaceful…..it was quite the experience….
I so wished that this train would continue for days and days so that the experience could go on and on and on……
Some delightful sweets to end the journey….a Handmade Chocolate Truffle and White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberry….
Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald prepared such unique menu for our dining pleasure, a culinary symphony we shall long remember…
But alas, our culinary journey has come to an end…..
I hope you have enjoyed this trip aboard The Napa Valley Wine Train
and if you are ever going to visit Napa make sure you make reservations aboard this most delightful venue…..
CLICK HERE to visit The Napa Valley Wine Train site
I take the train often on the West Coast but didn’t know about this one. Your post convinces me this was a bad oversight on my part!
This is a most delightful adventure, you should book it if possible……pure delight.
Oh, it is a delightful trip that is much too short! You gave so much history that I had missed but I do remember on our first trip years ago seeing the “No Wine Train” signs along the way. Glad to see they are gone. I so enjoyed riding along with you again and reading your descriptions of the food. How could you forget to photograph the entree? You are forgiven! The luxury of the train was amazing and I imagined that I was on the Orient Express! Cheers, Tin Man!
Oh yes!!!! Jo Nell!!! You were so correct, this was the most delightful journey. The elegance, the pampering, the culinary delights…..we so very enjoyed this journey. The staff were so marvelous to us and we had such the perfect experience.
There is a distinct advantage to wearing ruby slippers. Four clicks and you are there … traveling with the so urbane Mr. Tin Man. He takes one on journeys that are joyful, delicious, decadent and filled with memories to last a life time.
Virginia, you and Lar would have been the perfect traveling companions on this adventure; it was so you! This was one of the things we have done that will always stay in our memories.
I love both portraits of the Tin Man and the Napa Valley train. Both are quite dapper-looking! How long was the jaunt on the rails? I especially your shot of the reflection of the wine glass in the window. How many other passengers were on board? What a wonderful way to spend the day! And I love mahogany paneling. Beautiful! ~Theadora
You know Theadora, as I was setting up the shot of the wine glas reflection, I thought of you and that because of you I was now seeing that photo opportunity. The trip is four to five hours and pure delight! The staff was simply amazing. The train has many different riding and dining options. In our car there were perhaps 25 guests. Thank you for your lovey words and visit.
Your train trips are always so fun and delicious. Cambozola cheese is one of my favorites, I always have it for breakfast with seeded bead when we are in Germany. 🙂
If it were possible, I would live on a train. I so enjoy train travel!