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Railtown 1897 State Historic Park 4/3/2021

by Chris Guenzler

We woke up at the Holiday Inn Express in Oakdale and after checking the Internet and other things, we checked out and drove over to what we saw at a grade crossing on theway to dinner last night, but this time we had our cameras.

The wig-wag signal in Oakdale. We went to McDonald's and picked up breakfast but took it to Cottles Woods Park where we ate it in the car. Afterwards we drove to Coulterville to our first stop of the day.

Whistling Billy sign.

Merced Gold 0-4-0ST 1 built in 1898.

The history of Coulterville sign.

This caboose, Southen Pacific 1086, is part of an Airbnb rental called Vacation Station. From here, we drove up to Oakdale and followed the signs to Railtown 1897.

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park History

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, and its operating entity, the Sierra Railway, is known as "The Movie Railroad". Both entities are a heritage railway and are a unit of the California State Park System. Railtown 1897 is located in Jamestown, California. The entire park preserves the historic core of the original Sierra Railway 4 of California (later reincorporated as the Sierra Railroad). The railway's Jamestown locomotive and rolling stock maintenance facilities are remarkably intact and continue to function much as they have for over 100 years. The California State Railroad Museum, headquartered in Old Sacramento, assumed responsibility for Railtown 1897 State Historic Park on July 1, 1992.

The Sierra Railway served the West Side Lumber Company mill at Tuolumne, as well as the Pickering Lumber Company, in Standard, California. The West Side operated an extensive 3 foot narrow gauge logging railroad in the Sierra Nevada range. It operated into the 1960s, and was the last of the narrow-gauge logging railways operating in the American West. The Pickering Lumber Company operated an extensive logging railroad that extended northeast of Standard all the way north to what is now the South Grove of Big Trees State Park. In addition to seasonal steam and diesel-powered train rides, the Railtown experience includes tours of the locomotive roundhouse originally built in 1910, the machine shop, and related exhibits. Movie paraphernalia used in filming train sequences is on display. Volunteer opportunities are available to help preserve and educate the public about the park. Duties include giving tours of the roundhouse as well as delivering speeches about the locomotives and the surrounding areas while on a short train-ride tour. Since 1929, when The Virginian was filmed with the Sierra 3, the Sierra Railway properties have been a major resource to the motion picture industry. Over 200 movies, television shows and commercials have featured Railtown and its trains. Sierra's tracks, locomotives and cars have long been seen on the silver screen; film credits include Go West with the Marx Brothers, High Noon with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, 3:10 To Yuma (1957) featured 3 in the end of the movie, as well as Back to the Future Part III with Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. Television programs that regularly used the Sierra property include Wild, Wild West, Iron Horse, Tales of Wells Fargo, and perhaps most famously, Petticoat Junction. The Sierra 3 locomotive and Sierra's coach 5 were the Hooterville Cannonball. Locomotive No. 3 was also used in numerous episodes of Little House on the Prairie.

The Railtown 1897 State Historic Park was one of the 48 California state parks proposed for closure in January 2008 by California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of a deficit reduction program, though it did not close. In May 2011, California State Parks announced the closure of Railtown 1897 along with 69 other parks. The closing was anticipated in July 2012, but due to the efforts of locals and enthusiasts, Railtown 1897 will be open indefinitely, and has received funding to make major repairs to the Sierra 28, a steam locomotive original to the Sierra Railway and a mainstay of passenger operations for the park.

Our visit and ride

Elizabeth, who had never been here before, went and picked up our tickets then took a few photos before waiting in line for me to join her. Meanwhile, I went exploring.

The Sierra Railway's replica Jamestown station which houses the ticket office, gift shop and washrooms.

The power for our train, RS4TC 1265.

Hetch Hetchey Railroad railbus 19.

Sierra Railway combine 5.

Pickering Lumber Company 3 truck shay 7 built in 1925 by Lima Locomotive Works.

Sierra Railway MRS-1 613 built for the United States Navy in 1953.

Engines in the roundhouse.

Sierra Railway 4-6-0 3 built in 1891 for the Prescott and Arizona Central as "W.N. Kelley" and undergoing restoration.

Sierra Railway (Feather River) 3 truck shay 2 built in 1922.

Sierra Railway 2-8-0 28 built in 1922.

Sierra Railway Plymouth 8-tonner 5 built in the 1930s.

Sierra Railway Ford/FM railcar 8 assembled by the Sierra Railway from a 1920s Model T Ford body and engine and was equipped with running gear from a Fairbanks-Morse speeder.

Maintenance-of-way velocipede.

The turntable.

Track auto house.

Western Pacific wooden caboose 695.

Sierra Railway caboose 7 originally Elgin, Joliet and Eastern built in 1923. I found Elizabeth standing in line but realized I had forgotten my business cards so returned to the car then re-joined Elizabeth who was ready to board. They kept us socially distanced and everyone had to use hand sanitizer before boarding. We had chosen car 599, formely Canadian Pacific coach 1424 built in 1912 then it became mountain observation car 599, when buying the tickets and climbed aboard.

My lovely wife Elizabeth making her first trip aboard the Sierra Railway.

The author making another ride aboard the Sierra Railway.

The interesting items you find on flatcars. The train then started to move and we were off. We on the first train of the 2021 season. Now sit back, relax and enjoy a trip aboard the Sierra Railway courtesy of Railtown 1897 State Park.

The trip to Granite Quarry which was as far as we travelled on this trip. This location is also used as the terminus for the Polar Express, wild flower and robbery trains.

The engine ran around the train in preparation for the return trip. I relaxed the rest of the way back to Jamestown. Once at Jamestown, I took Elizabeth over to the roundhouse so she could have her first look at the collection of engines and other items.

Looking at the front of the engines in the roundhouse.

Tank on a handcart.

Sierra Railway coach 6.

Views of steam engines in their stalls.

Pickering Lumber Company 3 truck shay 7 built in 1925 for the Fruit Growers Express Company.

The turntable was built in 1922.

Sierra Railway MRS-1 613 built for the United States Navy in 1953.

Wooden boxcar.

Water plugs.

The sand house.

The Jamestown water tower used in the opening of "Petticoat Junction".

Sierra Railway bobber cabooses.

Body of an old Sierra Railway coach.

The tender of Sierra Railway 3.

Burnt out box car body.

Sierra Railway Baggage car 478.

Sierra Railway boxcar 220.

Sierra Railway MRS-1 612, originally United States Navy B-2063.

Sierra Railway MRS-1 65-00546, originally United States Army 2091 built in 1953.

Sierra Railway 45 ton switcher 7417 built for the United States Army.

Western Pacific outside braced caboose 678.

United States Army 80 ton switcher 1638 built in 1952.

Sierra Railway wooden coach 2, ex Hetch Hetchy, exx Ocean Shore Railroad, exx Southern Pacific 1133 nee Central Pacific 43 built in 1869 undergoing restoration. This car was present at the driving of the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory Summit.

Southern Pacific observation car 2901.

Roundhouse view.

Sierra Railway 2-8-2 34 built in 1925.

Sierra Railway 3 undergoing restoration.

Sierra Railway 2-8-0 28 built in 1922.

Outside-braced wooden caboose for crew use.

Pickering Lumber Company crane 1305.

Sierra Railway freight cars.

The historical marker. I met Elizabeth in the gift shop and we bought T-shirts, a magnet and lapel pins. We would like to thank Railtown 1897 for an excellent trip and we will bring our friends to this sometime in the future.