A decision to eject several women from the Napa Valley wine train for allegedly making too much noise has caused a social media storm in the US.

Staff ordered 11 women off the Napa Valley wine train and handed them to police, because they were ‘laughing too loud’, according to passenger accounts reported to local media in California over the weekend.

The action has sparked outrage on social media, where users across the US criticised the move for being racially motivated –  a claimed denied by the wine train operator.

Most of the women in the group were African American and the hashtag #laughingwhileblack was circulating widely on Twitter among those critical of the way wine train staff were reported to have handled the incident.

The wine train could not be immediately reached by Decanter.com. But, a spokesperson told Napa Valley Register that passengers would only be ordered off the train if they were being ‘severely disruptive’ and other travellers had complained. An internal audit was underway, the paper reported.

Napa’s wine train runs through 25 miles of Napa Valley, taking in both the California wine region’s glamour and its rich history. Travellers can enjoy wine and meals in vintage carriages courtesy of three onboard kitchens.

It traces its origins to 1864, when Samuel Brannan – reputedly San Francisco’s first millionaire – decided to create a railway line that would take tourists up to Calistoga, in the north of the valley.