The Christmas Train in Yolo County (see main story) is one of a number of holiday rail trips available in Northern California. Make reservations early, and be sure to dress warmly.
Santa Cruz holiday trains
A new train, the Train to Christmas Town, joins the Holiday Lights Train; both depart from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and both include Boardwalk attractions and tokens. The Roaring Camp Railroad runs three Holiday Lights Trains nightly on Dec. 8-9, 15-16 and 21-23, with Santa, caroling, hot chocolate. There are also Holiday Out with Thomas rides for young rail fans. The Train to Christmas Town, run by Santa Cruz-Monterey Bay Railway, travels north to Davenport through Dec. 23. It features a story brought to life, caroling and elves -- all on sleek, comfy rail cars. Find fares and times at http://beachboardwalk.com/holidaytrains.
Sierra Railroad's Christmas Train
This sister railroad of the Sacramento RiverTrain is also featuring "Morgan and the Magical Christmas Train" trips this season (see main story). Find fares and details at www.sierrarailroad.com.
Santa Trains in Solano County
The historic electric train cars of the Western Railway Museum -- located on Highway 12 between Fairfield and Rio Vista -- make Santa-focused trips Dec. 8, 15 and 22. Riders will meet with Santa for story readings, hot cocoa and hot cider ahead of time at the museum, then take a ride through rural Solano County. Trains depart at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. The fare is $5 for children ages 2 to 14, $9 for those 65 and older, and $10 general. Reservations are not necessary. Details: www.wrm.org.
Niles Canyon Train of Lights
The Niles Canyon Railway in Fremont offers two rides nightly on historic, lighted trains Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 30. The Niles train departs at 4 p.m., and the Sunol train leaves at 7:30. Santa will be onboard all trains before Christmas, and there's holiday music. The fare is $25 for everyone 3 and older. A bargain train, with $17 seats, will run Dec. 12. Refreshments may be purchased onboard (these trips are fundraisers for the nonprofit Pacific Locomotive Association). Tickets: 510-996-8420; www.ncry.org.
Skunk Train's Christmas Train
Mendocino County's restored railroad cars turn festive in December, with Santa, the elves, cocoa and cookies for the 90-minute ride through the redwoods. Trains leave the Willits Depot at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. daily from Dec. 8-23, or the Fort Bragg Depot at 4 p.m. Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 15-23. Guests are encouraged to wear pajamas. The fare is $24 for children ages 2-12, and $34 for teens and adults. Tickets: 707-964-6371; www.skunktrain.com.
-- Linda Zavoral, lzavoral@ mercurynews.com