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Sierra Railroad and the two day trip home 6/12-13/2022

by Chris Guenzler

We woke up at the Best Western Luxury Inn and after Elizabeth and I checked the Internet, checked out of the hotel and went to Black Bear Diner for a hearty breakfast. Our first stop was Walmart for more film for Elizabeth and then I drove to Jamestown and parked the car.

All Aboard For Family Fun In the Gold Country!

Railtown 1897 SHP and the California State Railroad Museum Foundation are pleased to welcome guests aboard the historic Sierra Railway. Ride behind a historic steam or diesel locomotive on a train trip through California's scenic Gold Country. Your 6-mile, 45-minute roundtrip train ride will take you past the water tower from Petticoat Junction and transport you from the backyards of Jamestown to the rugged hillsides of California's Mother Lode country. After your ride, explore the historic grounds, have a picnic, and spend the day in the beauty of California's Gold Country. Trains are typically pulled by steam locomotives on Saturdays, however, motive power is subject to change without notice.

We walked to the station and picked up our tickets and were told there would be a roundhouse tour starting in a few minutes and to meet in the scale house next door. Here we met Austin, who started the tour with a bit of history before the three of us walked to the roundhouse where we were joined by a father and his two boys.

Our tour

Austin started his impressive tour.

Sierra combine 5 built by W. L. Holman in 1902.

Hetch Hetchy Railbus 19 built by Thomson-Graf-Edler/White in 1918. The first "track bus, this could carry thirteen passengers, but was primarily used as an ambulance car during construction of the O’Shaughnessy dam carrying injured and to the hospital in Groveland.

Sierra Railroad coach 6 built by W. L. Holman in 1902.

Sierra Railroad Shay 2 built by Lima in 1912 for Hutchinson Lumber Company in Oroville, California. Shay 2 was used to haul logs trains for the lumber company's Feather River Railway from 1922 until 1966. The railroad was abandoned in 1967, after flooding of a portion of its line by Oroville Dam, thereafter Shay 2 was donated to the State of California. In 1975, Shay No. 2 was leased to the Sierra Railroad and moved to Jamestown where it was rebuilt for tourist excursion service. Today, the locomotive remains at Railtown 1897, however the locomotive is out of service awaiting restoration.

Sierra Railroad 2-8-4 34 built by Baldwin in 1925.

Sierra Railroad 2-8-0 28 built by Baldwin in 1922, which is operational and appeared at Railfair 99 in Sacramento.

Inside of the cab of Sierra 2-8-0 28.

Front end of the Sierra 2-8-0 28.

Austin, our wonderful tour guide. He was full of information and he shared it all with us.

Sierra 4-6-0 3 built by Rogers in 1891 as "W. N. Kelley" for the Prescott & Arizona Central. Completed in 1886, the seventy-three mile line ran from Prescott, Arizona to a connection at Prescott Junction (now Seligman) with the Atlantic & Pacific, a subsidiary of the Santa Fe.

The front end of the Sierra 4-6-0 3.

Sierra 4-6-0 3 builders plate.

The blacksmith area of the station.

Sierra speeder 106 built by Fairmont in 1937.

A shop saw using a pulley system.

Sierra Railbus 8 built by Ford in 1925.

Wheel lathe.

Sierra Railroad shop view.

A handcar and a track speeder.

A velocipede in this roundhouse.

Part of the pulley system used in the roundhouse.

We went outside and Austin discussed the Sierra Railroad turntable with us. Also in this picture is Pickering Lumber Company 3 truck shay 7 built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1925.

Yosemite Valley box car 608. Austin then took us to see the Ferroequinologist passenger car at Elizabeth's request.

Southern Pacific Lounge-Observation 2901 was built by Pullman in 1910 for a cost of $50,000. Car 2901, christened "The Ferroequinologist" began its very historic life as Southern Pacific observation lounge 2901. The 2901 was assigned to various passenger duties during its tenure on Espee, most notably the company's most famous candy train of all, the Overland Limited, between 1910 and 1931. Interestingly, 2901 was originally built as a wooden car but in 1927 Espee upgraded 2901, spending $25,000 to add steel sheathing, a steel underframe and upgraded interior lighting. After its stint on the Overland, 2901 was transferred to the Northwestern Pacific and for the next ten years worked on the NWP between Sausalito and Eureka. Between 1941 and 1945, the car was transferred to the San Francisco-San Jose commute pool then found its way to the weekend-only, summer season Suntan Special between 1947 and 1956. In this service 2901 whisked beach goers and sun worshippers between Baghdad-By-The-Bay, and Santa Cruz. By this late date 2901 had outlived its usefulness to the railroad and was scheduled to be scrapped.

However, at the last minute, the railroad donated the car to the Central Coast Railway Club. The car was donated to the club by Southern Pacific in February of 1956. The club's first trip with the car was to be the February 12, 1956 trip to Sacramento, however, delivery of the car by the railroad was delayed and Southern Pacific 2902 was substituted instead. It appears that the inaugural trip under Central Coast ownership was the Inside Gateway trip to Bieber over the Western Pacific during September 1-3, 1956. Interestingly, the car did operate on at least one Central Coast trip prior to the club acquiring it, that being the Arcata & Mad River trip in 1954.) The car was well utilized by the club and many trips were made over the years, taking club members all over California and parts of Oregon. At the September 1967 club meeting the membership voted 48 to 5 to sell the car to members Doug Morgan and Sam Girdler for $505. The last trip on "The Foo Car" by Central Coast was shortly after its sale to Doug and Sam, and was a New Year's Eve trip from San Jose to San Francisco on December 31, 1967. Under new ownership, 2901 was used on a few more Central Coast trips but one of its most noteworthy trips was a journey to Ogden, Utah for Union Pacific's Golden Spike Centennial. Morgan and Girdler finally sold the car to the Sierra Railroad in 1971 and 2901 was promptly shipped to the Sierra’s Jamestown yard. In 1982 California State Parks acquired the Jamestown property from the Sierra Railroad, along with the all excursion train equipment.In 2010, Fast Forward to July 2010. One hundred years after entering service, it's again possible to ride the club's former The Ferroequinologist behind steam locomotives through the California Motherlode country. During the July 4th weekend, the car was part of the celebration of 1891-built Sierra No. 3's placement back in service after a 12 year hiatus. The 2901 and two coaches were coupled to the historic 4-6-0 for what could be considered by some a reunion run. On July 2nd, with the extra weight of 2901 on the drawbar, the diminutive No. 3 began slipping on the 3% grade out of Rock Siding. The train had to back down the hill and get a running start in order to storm the grade. The resulting show at trackside was impressive. The preceding information was taken from the Central Coast Chapter NRHS website.

Central Pacific wood open-platform coach 2 built by Wason Manufacturing in 1869 (ex. Hetch Hetchy Railroad, exx. Ocean Shore Railroad, exxx. Southern Pacific 1133, nee Central Pacific 43). With less than ten minutes before the train was scheduled to leave, we said goodbye to our excellent tour guide Austin.

Our trip

After a safety meeting by our train crew we were boarded late since equipment had to be moved in the yard because of a special event the day before. The two of us were seated in coach 597 right next to the engine.

Passengers were being loaded into coach 595.

Pickering Lumber Company 3 truck shay 7 and a box car.

The Sierra Roundhouse.

Pacific Fruit Express wooden referigator car 31211.

Looking down the roundhouse lead.

Our motive power for this trip is United States Army RS4TC 1265 built by Baldwin/Whitcomb in 1953, the same as we had in April 2021.

Beautiful California oak trees dot the hillsides.

Sierra caboose 8 on private property.

Two views of the "Unforgiven" movie set complete with a fake station.

Two views on the way to Rock Quarry siding.

Here the engine uncoupled from the train.

It cleared the switch then the conductor threw the switch. The engine backed up to make room for the fire speeder to get back onto the mainline.

The fire speeder then came by our train.

The fire speeder clears the switch.

The switch is thrown for the mainline.

The conductor gives the come forward hand signal.

The fire speeder came up behind us and the switch was thrown.

Now the engine ran around the train and one of the volunteers, Barbara, asked Elizabeth to hang up the two red flags signalling that this was the end of the train. She happily did this and for this service was given a railroad crossing key chain. She would take them down at the end of the trip in Jamestown.

Looking down into the creek on the return trip.

Views along the trip back to Jamestown.

Two views of the Petticoat Junction water tower which has been covered for quite some time, so the famous scene could never be repeated. Elizabeth did her duties and was asked if she could do this full time. She just had smiled broadly.

Our two day trip home

I drove CA Highway 108 to J59 west to a left on Bellevue Avenue to a right on Lake Road to a left on East Yosemite, then turned right on North Arboleda Drive to CA Highway 149 to Santa Fe Drive which we took south and found our first BNSF train.

BNSF 6988 West at Planada. We continued down Santa Fe Drive, saw a headlight behind us and I pulled over.

Amtrak San Joaquin 714 came flying by on its way to Bakersfield. We stayed on Santa Fe Drive to Road 22 then CA Highway 99 south.

Union Pacific 7810 West south of Madera. I drove south almost to Tulare where we switched and Elizabeth drove us south to Bakersfield and the Texas Roadhouse where we had dinner. We later checked into the Best Western Hill House for the night.

6/13/2022 We woke up at Bakersfield, then checked out and drove over to Maggie's Sunrise Cafe where we had an excellent breakfast. Elizabeth then drove us to Downey in search of another municapal pin but had no luck. She then drove us to the Santa Ana Post Office where we picked up our mail then back to our apartment where we offically end this rail adventure.