Where to Watch Trains
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Where to Watch Trains
Two-year-old wants to see trains
Does anyone know of a good place to watch trains go
by? I'm looking for something local, not a schlep,
for my 2-year old's passion. Thanks
Jack London Square
In Oakland, the trains roll along the street on the
Embarcadero, passing Jack London Square, and the
passenger trains stop at the Amtrak station right
there, so you can sometimes see them when they are
stopped on the tracks.
Oh yes, we've spent many hours watching trains around
here, sometimes 2 trips per day for my obsessive 2-3
year old. We love Jack London, where there are plenty
of other things to do while waiting for the train. You
can park in the train station parking lot or just anywhere
on the street in the area, and walk along the tracks on
the sidewalk, as the train goes right down the middle of
the street. Most of the conductors got to know my son,
as he was there daily, and they always waved enthusiastically,
and tooted, when they passed us on the street. There
are also boats to see, ducks to feed, plenty of space
to run around (and Starbucks for Mom!)
I take my train-crazy son to Jack London square frequently.
We run around the whole area, watching boats and playing at
the fountain, and on the big grassy meadow by the ferry dock,
and then when we hear the ding-ding-ding sound of the
railroad crossing going down, we know it's time to run over
to the closest intersection and watch the train go by.
There are benches right at the corners by the railroad
tracks and sometimes we just hang out there and wait
for the trains. On Sundays there's a farmer's market
and in the evenings we sometimes have dinner at Hahn's
Habachi, which is quite kid-friendly (Korean food) and
has windows from which you can see the trains pass.
For full-size trains, some friends recomended Pizza Uno down by
Jack London Square and it works- at a typical weekend dinner, we see
4 trains go by, while seated in the restraunt. I'd give the pizza a B,
good, not great, while the service varies from C to B. Its a big
place with few waiters/waitresses. But for the younger train buff,
a definate hit. AND fire-trucks drive by from time to time, I think
they clean and test at the end of the grass strip one block further
Jack London Square is great for train watching. You can watch
trains anywhere along the tracks (Cost Plus to the Station
south of Broadway). You can look down on trains at the
station on the walkway over the tracks. Trains run every
few minutes (it seems). Another place you can see them
from is the kid section of Barnes and Nobles. That way
you can read books until you hear a train coming.
Niles Canyon Railway
(see also recommendations for Niles Canyon Railway)
Second best [after Jack London Square], the Niles Canyon Railway up Niles Canyon, which
has a number of operating engines and cars, $5-7 to ride, and smelly
if the diesel exhaust blows into the car you're in, but if it blows
in one way, it won't the other, and the ride is about 45 minutes worth.
Steam Trains at Tilden Park
(also see more recommendations for Tilden Park)
For smaller trains, the Steam Trains at Tilden Park are well worth
riding, the round house has a viewing gallery you can look at the
other engines from and you can just watch real live steam loco pull
cars out of the station if not actually riding in the cars. Its
the best miniature train within 100 miles north or south.
ALSO, further along past the ticket window and under a bridge,
there's a watching spot for the even smaller tracks of the Live Steam
Club, who have 7 1/2", 4 1/2", etc, gauge, engines and rolling stock.
Its hit or miss if you'll see anyone there, sometimes you do, sometimes
not, but the 1/4 size train has regular hours and is worth the trip.
$1.50 a ticket, the ride is longer than Oakland Zoo and prettier than
Train Town in Sonoma.
Rockridge library stocks a good video called "Big Trains and Little Trains",
shot in the San Diego area and ranging from models up through commuter
diesels. Much nicer than "There Goes A Train", although if you can take
Dave, the trains are pretty ok in that one too.
Our train buff is 4 3/4.
Dowling Park in Albany
I consider myself somewhat of an expert on this subject
having been through two train mad boys (well, one fanatic
and one a bit less obsessed.) The best and safest place
I ever found was in Albany! It is Dowling Park which we
first spotted from a train itself. Dowling is a bit hard
to find. Enter University Village and then travel in a
Westerly direction on 9th Street as far west as you can
go until you get to a parking lot (where the road turns).
Park in the lot in the guest spots at the end then walk
west through a gate. There is a sign for the park. The
park itself borders the train tracks and yet is completely
fenced in. There are climbing structures to play on while
waiting for the trains and a eucalyptus tree which is a
wintering spot for Monarch butterflies. It is absolutely
the best train spot.
Dreamland at Aquatic Park
Full reviews for the excerpts below can be found on
the Dreamland page
Dreamland, the Robert Leathers playground at Aquatic Park in W
Berkeley is a fabulous park ....
During his train phase, my son loved the playground at Aquatic park ...
My son is also train obsessed. A good spot is the
great park along the estuary near University Avenue.
The train usually
comes by 4 or 5 times while there.
Another good spot is Dreamland playground at Aquatic Park in Berkeley-- there are railroad tracks just behind the park, so you can see the trains go by without leaving the playground.
A great place to spot trains is at Aquatic Park in Berkeley (can't remember
the newer name for it), south of University, between the area west of 4th
Street, and the water. One fence runs right along the train tracks west of
4th Street. Trains go by quite frequently. This is just one of the many
kid-pleasing features of that park.
Its' especially good at Dreamland ...
Berkeley's Aquatic Park
Berkeley's Aquatic Park is a great place to watch trains
go by. It is also fun to take kids on Amtrak. Amtrak
stops in Berkeley and Richmond (same site as Richmond
BART). Stops in Martinez, Suisun, Davis, Sacramento all
have nice walks and parks/sights nearby.
Go to Aquatic Park in Berkeley (near the freeway/water) for a great view of
trains all afternoon long....
My 2+ year old boy is infatuated with trains, any trains. So here are my recommendations - all inexpensive:
Take him on a BART ride either out to the burbs or into S.F. and back. My son loved it! When you near the East Oakland station show him the Union Pacific train yard below the elevated tracks, and he can see the freight trains.
I recommend taking the train from Berkeley to Martinez
and back. You hop on and buy a ticket on the train.
Across the street from the train station in Martinez is
a large regional park with play structures.
This is a great are for trains. Tons of different things to
do. But check out Dowling Park. You'll love it.
Emeryville MarketPlace and Jack London Square both have train
stations. Lots of trains coming and going and at Everyville Train
Station there is a bridge you can walk over above the tracks.
Go to the China Station stop in Berkeley at the foot of
University Avenue and 3rd Street, or to the Emeryville
station to watch trains go but. For a total fun/train
fix go to the Railroad Musieum in Old Scaramento - fun
for small kids - can climb around etc.
There's a bridge over the tracks at Emeryville, near the Emeryville train
station and the shopping centre and movie theatre complex. Good place to
see trains going by underneath. Also there is a train track close to the
shops and restaurants in Jack London Square in Oakland.
My son was obsessed with trains between the ages of 2-5. A great place to
watch trains is at the Emeryville Amtrak station.
Another idea is to
go to the Amtrak station at Jack London Square - trains
come in and out and you can even get the schedule on-line.
My son was even
more partial to the Emeryville station, right near Borders
and the MarketPlace in E'ville. YOu can take an elevator
up to a walkway/bridge that crosses over the tracks and
trains below, and the conductors are sometimes game
enough to call out "All aboard!" upon request. If your
kid is up for it, you could even take the train from
Jack London to Emeryville and back. For variety, we also
head down to Aquatic Park playground (at the very bottom
of Bancroft street, turn left, it's right on the water),
a wonderful community-built playground unlike any other
in the area (except the new community park in Rockridge,
designed by the same firm). The train tracks run right
behind the playground, so it's a great place to play and
watch trains, lots of space to run, sand water, the works.
That's about it for us locally. Have fun!
There used to be a
model train store in the El Cerrito Plaza called Kit & Caboodle (I'm not sure
if it's there anymore) but they have model trains running; and the hardware
store on University near Oxford has a large department of model trains.
Ace Hardware in downtown Berkeley has tons of model train supplies
in the basement, plus a train running around elevated above the main floor.
Fourth Street in Berkeley
The 4th Street shopping area in Berkeley has freight trains and Amtrak
trains that pass on a regular basis. Good place to watch is the outdoor
seating area near Peet's.
Katia & Nick
Anywhere along fourth street is good, since the tracks run just to the west
of it. Alysson
Various Other Places
Pt Pinole park (bridge near parking
lot is over tracks)
Freight and Amtrak passenger trains roll out of
Richmond through Albany, Berkeley, and Oakland. Each
town has places to see them.
Albany at Buchanan Street
In Albany, drive West to the end of Buchanan Street
and, just before the bridge to 580/80, swerve to the
right alongside the bridge - it's the end of Buchanan
Street. Go one block and park. The train tracks go
underneath the bridge, and you can walk right up to
Berkeley at Gilman
In Berkeley, the same trains cross Gilman down near
the freeway. You can park on Gilman and see them.
Train Museums & Clubs
Model trains: We've driven by but never stopped at the model train
clubhouse on the way to Point Richmond. There's always the trains both
downstairs and upstairs at Ace Hardware at the top of University in
Berkeley. Ask a clerk to turn them on- the downstairs pair can be
turned on by customers. Best of all is the model train club in the
old station house just north of Niles along Mission Blvd. Not sure
the name, they're open 1st and 3rd Sunday every month or something
like that. Free to walk around, but donations appreciated. The upstairs
is a railway museum AND 'N' gauge layout covering severl rooms, the
entire downstairs is an "HO" layout that can accomidate three trains
with 60+ cars EACH at the same time- a lovely work in progress. Plan
to spend at least an hour. There are picnic tables outside and an old
cabose on the south side of the building. A real train rolls by from time
to time. This station is further north than Niles Station, a mile or 2. Bill
Niles (an older part of the city of Fremont, not a separate city) has a
train club and you can take your son for a ride on it a couple of times a
month, usually on the weekends. I'll find out the number. They also have a
shop/museum telling the history and selling souvenirs like trian whistles
nd conductors caps.
Th Golden State Model Railroad Museum in in Pt. Richmond, near the
Plunge, "has operating model railroads in 3 different scales." I
haven't been, but I've heard that it is great. However they are only
open a few hours a month. contact them at www.GSMRM.org or 234-4884.
this page was last updated: Apr 7, 2009
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