Michael Covino

East Bay Tramp: Charlie Chaplin took over Niles and then the world

In 1869 Niles was a sleepy agricultural town situated some 20 miles south of Oakland and 20 miles north of San Jose, almost in the shadow of Mission Peak. Then the train arrived, and Niles became one of the last links in the transcontinental railroad connecting the East and the West coasts. Surveyors had concluded that picturesque Niles Canyon offered the best route through the East Bay Hills and into the San Francisco Bay Area, so it was through there that the first Central Pacific railroad rolled into the Bay Area on Sept. 6, 1869. Some 43 years later, in 1912, Gilbert “Bronco Billy” Anderson, cowboy star and director, decamped the train into Niles, the junction point linking Oakland, Stockton and Sacramento. Anderson liked what he saw—the rushing stream and steep ravines of Niles Canyon...