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Best Place to Shunt the Boys Out of the House To, Whatever Their Age 

Niles Canyon Railway

Steam trains and fire engines have some deep genetic attachment to all humans born with the "Y" chromosome. The Niles Canyon Railway is yet another example proving the rule: Stream-train freaks — and there is a surprisingly large number of them about — positively swoon when they come to Niles. The railway's vintage steam and diesel engines run through Niles Canyon, a scenic slash through the Oakland Hills, cross the Alameda Creek several times, rumble over Works Progress Administration Bridges, and barrel past a stockyard of new and ancient diesel and steam trains in various states of disrepair. Tickets cost only $10, less for kids and the disabled. On special occasions the railway buffs in charge get their hands on a real old steam train of the truly massive variety and set it loose on the tracks. There is nothing in the world like listening to the chuffing of the train, watching steamy smoke belch from the stack, and hearing the train's piercing whistle. When in downtown Niles, don't forget to pop in to the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company's cinema, one of the first in the country. This was the studio where Charlie Chaplin made some of his first films, including The Tramp. Remember that scene of him wandering down the railway tracks? That was filmed in Niles!

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