30 years of the Napa Valley Wine Train
On Monday, the Napa Valley Wine Train will celebrate 30 years of transporting grape loving travelers to wineries in Northern California. Despite its longevity, the controversial railroad has had its shares of highs and lows.
The train started back in 1987, when San Francisco food purveyor Vincent DeDomenico used funds from the sale of his Rice-A-Roni and Ghiardelli chocolate empire to purchase 21 miles of tracks along the former Southern Pacific Railroad line. Inspired by trips along the famed Oriental Express, Domenico restored eight vintage Pullman cars with the decadent finishes of a bygone era and hoped to carry a projected 450,000 passengers per year to wineries in the Napa Valley. The opulent dining venture immediately ran into opposition from locals who feared the tourist attraction would turn the rural wine region into Disneyland 2.0.
Despite the public resentment, the venture slowly picked up steam. Then in 2015, the train took another major blow when members of the primarily African-American Sistahs on the Reading Edge book club were escorted off the train by law enforcement officers after they received a complaint that the women were speaking too loudly and allegedly disturbing passengers on the train. The racial discrimination controversy led to a $11 million dollar lawsuit, which was settled for an undisclosed sum by the train’s new owners real estate firm Brooks Street and partner Noble House Hotels and Resorts.
Since then the Wine Train has worked hard to recover from the public relations crisis. They have expanded their list of offerings to include murder mystery dinners, beer tasting trips, and Yuletide rides with Ole Saint Nick. Plans are in the works to transform the vintage terminal into a 148-room luxury hotel, accommodating the slew of new travelers from across the globe.
The train continues to chug away toward a brighter future despite its storied past. Click through our gallery above to catch a glimpse of the Wine Train way back when.