Both locals and visitors will notice a change to the Napa Valley Wine Train in the coming months: unusual train cars.
Instead of the familiar burgundy and gold cars running up and down Napa Valley, a set of borrowed cars will host riders on daily trips through wine country.
Meanwhile, starting in April, the wine and tour business will begin renovating the exterior and interiors of Wine Train rail cars including the two-story Vista Dome.
To replace the cars under repair, Wine Train owners Noble House Hotels & Resorts, Ltd. and Brooks Street have leased five railcars, a locomotive and a power car from the Sierra Railroad Company.
The Sierra Railroad Company owns and operates tourism railways throughout Northern California, including the Sierra Dinner Train, Sacramento River Train and Skunk Train. The cars coming to Napa belonged to the Sierra Dinner Train based in Oakdale, which suspended operation in October.
“We want to keep our celebrated Napa Valley Wine Train in premium condition to provide our customers with the best experience,” said Napa Valley Wine Train’s Co-CEO Scott Goldie.
“We’re thankful to Sierra Railroad Company for providing us with an opportunity to expand our current offerings and keep the Napa Valley Wine Train running at full speed.”
“We look forward to updating our beloved Vista Dome and the main train railcars.”
“We are excited to be working with the Napa Valley Wine Train as they have the best dinner train operation in the country,” said Sierra Railroad Company CEO Mike Hart.
“It’s a win-win” for both companies, said Anthony Giaccio, director of railroad operations of the Napa Valley Wine Train.
The Vista Dome renovations should begin in this fall and could last as long as a year, said Giaccio.
The project could cost as much as $1 million, he said.
The Vista Dome, a 1952 Pullman two-story domed railcar, is one of 10 full-length domed railcars built by the Pullman Company.
One of only nine believed to still exist, the Dome offers panoramic views of the Napa Valley through the curved glass windows that run the length of the railcar.
The Vista Dome Car provides guests an “elevated observation style dining experience” with a multi-course gourmet menu prepared in the kitchen located on the lower level of the railcar, the Wine Train said a news release.
While the Vista Dome receives an update, the Napa Valley Wine Train will use a high-end dining and lounge car from Sierra Railroad Company.
The five rail cars leased from Sierra Railroad Company include one dining car, one car with removable tables and flexible space to be used for weddings and corporate meetings and two observation open-air cars, which can be used for a variety of experiences including weddings, large parties, tasting salons and holiday celebrations.
The current plan is for the Vista Dome to retain its cabernet red, champagne gold and grape leaf green color scheme. Other cars may not need new exterior paint, Giaccio said.
The Sierra trains are currently en-route to the Wine Train property, said Giaccio.
Renovations could be completed by 2019. The partnership between Sierra Railroad Company and the Napa Valley Wine Train has the potential to continue beyond the renovation period, said a news release.
For the past year, the Napa Valley Wine Train has established multiple new partnerships, events and offerings including Quattro Vino tours, private Twilight Tours, a partnership with Blue Note Napa for pop-up dinner and music experiences, Santa Trains for the holidays and collaborations with musical talents for Rock the Rails, a monthly musical concert series.
The business also announced plans to completely redevelop its McKinstry Street property in Napa estimated to cost $100 million. The existing Wine Train station building and surface parking lot would be removed to make room for a six-level, 60-foot-high structure containing a 148-room hotel, restaurant, shops, a pool, spa and a new terminal, with 396 parking spaces on the bottom three levels and rooftop gardens bracketing the north and south ends.
Noble House Hotels & Resorts, Ltd., a collection of luxury hotels and resorts, and Brooks Street, a California-based real estate development and investment company, bought the Wine Train in 2015. The train was sold by the family of its founder, the late Vince DeDomenico. A price was not reported.