Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Railtown 1897 ~ The Movie Train!

After spending hours laboring on a hot day for our $35 worth of gold, we were ready to eat, cool down and relax. And to me, nothing is more relaxing than a slow leisurely ride on an authentic steam train through beautiful scenery .

So after a hearty lunch, we headed over to the Jamestown train station at the Railtown 1897 state historic park, where I promptly purchased passage from an authentic 1897 ticket agent.

Jamestown was luckier than most gold boom towns in the Sierras in that it never became a ghost town. That was due largely to the fact that in 1897 the Sierra Railroad built into town and Jamestown became a distribution center of goods and services to this region of the Sierra Nevada's.

Ah~ the rumble of the boiler, the bark of the cylinders, the hissing of the steam generator, the deep throaty wail of the whistle, the heavy brass bell, creaky old wooden cars, the scrape of steel wheels on steel rails, all a symphony to my ears.

The Sierra Railroad also established it's shops and roundhouse in Jamestown which, miraculously, has survived all these years along with it's stable of steam locomotives! Gad I love it when history survives.

Pretty view! With the symphony of steel going on and scenery rolling by that hasn't changed much in the last 110 years, one gets a rather authentic taste of the old west. Of course sharing the experience with a pretty damsel is always nice.

I believe two factors contributed to the survival of the historic Sierra Railroad. One, it's remote location. Time stood still here for a Century and resisted the need for modernization. And Two, the railroad and its westerny location was discovered by Hollywood, providing the railroad with the needed extra income to keep it going (also providing an incentive to keep it's historic fleet maintained!).

Did I mention that the ride is relaxing?

The Sierra Railway first appeared in movies in Hollywood's 1929 silent film “Virginian”. Since then the railroad has appeared in many movies and television productions. Here are some of its best performances:
Virginian (1929), Dodge City (1939), My Little Chickadee (1940), Young Tom Edison (1940), Santa Fe Trail (1940), Duel in the Sun (1946), High Noon (1952), Rage at Dawn (1955), )Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972), Oklahoma Crude (1973), Bound for Glory (1976), Nickelodeon (1976), World's Greatest Lover (1977), Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979), Gambler (1980), Long Riders (1980), East of Eden (1980), Shadow Riders (1982), Chattanooga Choo Choo (1984), Pale Rider (1985), Back to the Future (1990), Unforgiven (1992), Bonanza: The Return (1993), Bad Girls (1994), Shaughnessy (1996), Song of the Lark (2000), Redemption of the Ghost (2000).

Lone Ranger, Tales of Wells Fargo, Rawhide, Death Valley Days, Petticoat Junction, Big Valley, Wild Wild West, Green Acres, F.B.I., Iron Horse, Cimarron Strip,Man from UNCLE, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, "A" Team, Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

Even big boys have to put away their big toys when they're done playing. Cindy and Parkie watch as our locomotive takes a ride on the turntable and eases into the roundhouse. I didn't notice until now that I almost duplicated the scene of #28, about mid-way in this post, that was taken some 50 years earlier!

Ghosts of the past. After a good days work (play?) #28 is in it's stall for the night and will be readied for yet another day of pulling passengers through history.

As for us, tomorrow we are going to continue our tour of Tuolumne county gold country with a trip to the ghost town of Columbia. I'll blog about that next time on A California Adventure.

For more information on riding the Movie Train, visit the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park website:

See you next time!


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