Niles Historic Movies and Trains


We’ve long enjoyed tracking down movie history all over California (see our stories on the village of Mendocino, the Alabama Hills, Alcatraz Island and the town of Sonora, for example). One of the least likely hubs of early film making is the town of Niles in the Bay Area. Niles takes great and well-deserved pride as a place where movie magic was made almost a century ago. Big careers and entire genres of visual storytelling were created and promoted here before Hollywood was huge. The next time you see Charlie Chaplin as “The Tramp,” walking away from the camera down a dusty road, think of Niles. As with most good things, the preservation and interpretation of Nile’s movie history has relied on the hard work and constant devotion of dedicated volunteers. And without volunteers contributing untold hours and extraordinary talents, the fabulous Niles Canyon Railroad also would not be in full operation and growing every year. That’s one of the consistent themes of the Open Road. Unselfish and devoted people, motivated by positive dreams and good spirit, enrich our lives every day. So here’s to the volunteers who are once again putting Niles and its Canyon on the map. And here’s to Nile’s tiny next-door neighbor, the community of Sunol. Any town that’s twice elected a dog as its mayor is a town worth honoring for its wisdom and sound judgment.

Before you head out, check the Niles Canyon Railway website to find out exactly when the trains are running. You can visit the Niles Silent Film Museum and then drop by Sunol for a bite and a brew and let Bosco lift his leg in salute to silent movies, steam engines, smart voters and all this region has to offer.

Niles, California.....the town that could have been Hollywood, where you can now ride the rails back in time to a community that was governed by a dog.
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