Napa Valley Railroad Police Department

About The Department

 

About The Department

Railroad Police History

Railroad Police In Action

Operation Lifesaver

Railroad Related Laws

Napa Valley Wine Train

Links To Related Sites

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The Napa Valley Railroad, based in the heart of the world's most beautiful wine producing region, is the current operator of a line that was first opened in 1865. San Francisco millionaire Sam Brannan founded the line. He had established a resort called Calistoga in an area of the Napa Valley that was (and is) exceptionally geothermic with waters that are naturally high in mineral content. To make his idea succeed, he needed a way for tourists to travel the 80 miles from San Francisco. The County of Napa, seeing the potential benefit of tourism raised a quarter of a million dollars to build the railroad. By 1870, the main line of the NVR reached from Vallejo over 40 miles to Calistoga. Several operators ran the line until the Southern Pacific assumed control in 1885. Under the stewardship of SP, the line grew steadily until it had connected with the main lines near Suisun and gave the Napa Valley its rail link to the rest of the nation.

Beginning in 1904, the line was electrified and extended towards Benicia, east of Vallejo. Passenger service on the Napa Valley Electric Railroad began the following year, reaching St. Helena and ultimately Calistoga in 1912. The rise of the automobile and the still relatively small population of the Napa Valley doomed the intercity passenger service and it was discontinued in 1929. Few traces of the electric system remain visible today.

The line continued to handle freight traffic until the 1980's, although in later years freight traffic was reduced to one train per week. Southern Pacific, unwilling to upgrade or maintain the right of way in support of limited traffic, petitioned the government to abandon the line. Portions of the right of way north of St Helena were ultimately abandoned and sold. The right of way between Napa and St Helena was purchased by private investors, was completely renovated and began operation as the NVR in 1987 to carry both passengers and freight. The NVR connects via Napa Junction with the California Northern Railroad, which also serves the area, and with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which serves the north coast of California, and which has recently resumed limited operations after several years of shut down. The NVR has also hosted trains from Amtrak as well as other private excursion trains. Since reopening, the NVR has safely carried more than one million passengers aboard the world renowned Napa Valley Wine Train and provided freight service to a growing number of clients. In June of 2001, passenger and excursion service to Yountville moved a step closer to reality with the opening of a new station at the front gate of the historic California Veterans Home.

Since the line was brought back into service, the population of the area has grown. New industry and businesses have sprung up in the corridor between Napa and Vallejo, and Napa's newest city, the City of American Canyon, sits astride the rail line at the southern end of the county. The former Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo is being redeveloped for civilian business and industry and has rail access. In the Napa Valley, what was once simple farmland has become perhaps the world's premier wine producing region.

The historic Napa line runs up from Vallejo, with the NVR right of way beginning south of Napa. The tracks run through the heart of the City of Napa, with its rapidly redeveloping downtown, and then up the center of the valley in part alongside State Highway 29. From Napa, through the small towns of Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, into the City of St. Helena and beyond, the NVR offers sweeping vistas of the vast vineyards of the Napa Valley. Currently the line ends just north of St. Helena but there is talk in the valley of reopening that portion between Calistoga and the City of St. Helena. If this were to come about, the NVR would again bring tourists to Calistoga to wash away their cares in the world famous hot springs and spas, without bringing their cars to an already congested Highway 29. Someday perhaps intercity service to Vallejo could be re-established, connecting with Vallejo BayLink's high speed ferries that serve San Francisco. No one knows yet what the future may hold, but it is very interesting to see how history could repeat itself in the valley.

The NVR Police Department was formed in 1999. And was appointed and commissioned as the first shortline railroad police department in the State of California. The NVR had operated a non-sworn Public Safety Department since 1989, but the unique nature of the services provided by the railroad and an increasing frequency of theft, vandalism, trespass and grade crossing incidents, coupled with the growth potential of the railroad, led to the formation of the Police Department.

The mission of the Police Department is based in public safety and service to the community. We protect the patrons, passengers, employees and freight transported by the railroad, as well as protecting the assets, property and right of way.

We are currently staffed with three railroad police officers and two public safety officers, all of whom report to the Chief of police. In April of 2008 we became the first California shortline railroad police department to particpate as a POST non- reimbursed agency, we subscribe to POST training and operational standards. The NVR Police Department is but one part of a long history of law enforcement on the rails. For more on this, as well as links to other railroad police departments please We are currently staffed with three railroad police officers and two public safety officers, all of whom report to the Chief of police. In April of 2008 we became the first California shortline railroad police department to particpate as a POST non- reimbursed agency, we subscribe to POST training and operational standards. The NVR Police Department is but one part of a long history of law enforcement on the rails. For more on this, as well as links to other railroad police departments please be sure to visit our history and photo pages.

The Police Department has officers on duty whenever trains are operating on the line. A police officer is available on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are available to handle any and all railroad related matters including safety issues, criminal matters and traffic collisions on the right of way. We also stand ready to assist the other railroads in the area when called upon. The department has reciprocal agreements with all of the agencies whose jurisdiction the right of way passes through. We also work hand in hand with a variety of state and federal agencies including the California Highway Patrol, California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Railroad Administration.

We achieve our mission through the traditional methods of high visibility, cooperation with other local agencies and enforcement, as well as other more non-traditional ways. We focus our enforcement efforts on the right of way, with particular attention to the grade crossings, trespass violations, vandalism, theft or any activity that interferes with the safe operation of the railroad or the safety of our passengers.

Members of the department also participate actively in community outreach programs. We believe that the best way of preventing needless injuries and deaths is through both education and enforcement. Operation Lifesaver is a nationally recognized program established by concerned railroad workers to educate the public on the dangers associated with trespassing on the tracks and rail grade crossings. For our fellow California peace officers we've posted a page of railroad and transit related violation sections. These are taken from the California Penal Code, the California Vehicle Code and other selected codes to help local agencies to assist railroads and railroad police throughout the state. A detailed California Law Enforcement Guide to railroad violations and operation is available from the Police Department or from the California Chapter of Operation Lifesaver.

Members of the department are certified presenters of the Operation Lifesaver program and are available to make presentations to schools, community events and professional drivers and for in-service law enforcement training. Many people are unaware of how inherently dangerous a moving train can be, and how much distance is required to stop even a slow moving string of rail cars. An important part of our mission is to raise public awareness, and not just in the Napa Valley. Members of the department will travel anywhere in the region to present this important message of public safety to interested groups and agencies.

We also support the "Trooper On The Train" program. This program is intended for law enforcement officers to see for themselves the problems railroads are faced with in regards to trespassers and traffic violations in the right of way and at grade crossings. Officers ride in the cab of a locomotive with the engineer and train crew. Officers from all jurisdictions are welcome. If you are in the Napa area for training at the local academy or just vacationing, please feel free to give us a call.

 

 

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