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Railtown 1897 State Historic Park facts for kids

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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 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 (CSRM), headquartered in Old Sacramento, assumed responsibility for Railtown 1897 State Historic Park on July 1, 1992.


The Sierra Railway #28 steam locomotive at Railtown 1897, in 2006

The Sierra Railway served the West Side Lumber Company mill at Tuolumne, as well as the Pickering (later Standard) Lumber Company) in Standard, California. The West Side operated an extensive 3 ft (914 mm) 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 No 3, the Sierra Railway properties have been a major resource to the motion picture industry. Over 200 movies, TV 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 No. 3 locomotive and Sierra's coach number 5 were the Hooterville Cannonball. Locomotive No. 3 was also used in numerous episodes of Little House on the Prairie.

Proposed closure

Sierra Railroad Machine Shop, Jamestown, CA
Sierra Railway machine shop. Hand car and wheel press are in foreground. Shaper and engine lathes in background. Machines are driven by an overhead, flat-belt line shaft.

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 No. 28, a steam locomotive original to the Sierra Railway and a mainstay of passenger operations for the park.

Locomotive Roster

Number Builder Type Date Built Heritage Disposition Notes
Plymouth 8-ton 1930s Bought in 1940s by Sierra Railroad In service
2 Lima 3-Truck Shay 1922 Hutchinson Lumber Co. #2, Feather River Railway #2 Out of service, awaiting restoration
3 Rogers 4-6-0 1891 Prescott & Arizona Central #3 In service
7 Lima 3-Truck Shay 1925 Fruit Growers Supply Co. #5, Standard Lumber Co. #80, Pickering Lumber Company #7 Out of service under private ownership, stored at Railtown 1897 SHP
28 Baldwin 2-8-0 1922 New to Sierra Railway In service
34 Baldwin 2-8-2 1925 New to Sierra Railway Out of service, under private ownership, stored at Railtown 1897 SHP
612 Alco MRS-1 1953 US Army B2063, USN 65-00612 Out of service, waiting repairs
613 Alco MRS-1 1953 US Army B2064, USN 65-00613 Out of service, waiting repairs
546 Alco MRS-1 1953 US Army 2091, USN 65-00546 Out of service, parts locomotive
1265 Baldwin RS4TC-1 1953 US Army 1265 In service
7417 GE 45-ton 1942 US Army 7417 Out of service, waiting repairs
52280 GE 80-ton 1952 US Army 1638 Out of service, waiting repairs
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