Jamestown Railtown 1897 State Historic Park – Another American Adventure Part 6

On the 2nd July, I visited the Jamestown Railtown, 1897, which has been the location where many movies have been filmed, notably, Back to the Future 3. Last October, I wrote an article on Back To The Future Day, the 30th anniversary of the release of the first film, when I discussed where the locomotive that was used in the movie is located.DSC01558 The entire park preserves the historic core of the original Sierra Railway of California, which was 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 the last 100-plus years.DSC01524As I mentioned in my article last year, the locomotive is known as The Movie Star Locomotive, which has been in over 100 movies since it was built in 1891, and the locomotive returned to operation in July 2010 after a fourteen-year absence from service and a three-year-long overhaul, requiring the replacement of its original boiler.Former Transportation History curator at the Smithsonian Institution William L. Withhuhn described the locomotive’s historical and cultural significance: “Sierra Railway No. 3 has appeared in more motion pictures, documentaries, and television productions than any other locomotive. It is undisputedly the image of the archetypal steam locomotive that propelled the USA from the 19th century into the 20th.”It has been called “the most photographed locomotive in the world.”DSC01525Due to its’ historical nature, and largely being the same from its’ conception, it has been used as a filming location, being affectionately known as The Movie Railroad. Since 1929, when The Virginian, the first talkie filmed outside a movie studio, 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 it’s 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 WestIron 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 Season 2, Episode 17 of Little House on the Prairie.DSC01526The Sierra Railway served the West Side Lumber Company mill at Tuolumne. The West Side operated an extensive 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge logging railroad in the Sierras. It operated into the 1960s, and was the last of the narrow-gauge logging railways operating in the American West. This is the route that the excursion operates on, and takes around 45 minutes before the train returns to the depot, where the locomotive runs around its’ train before making another journey.DSC01530There was a tour around the depot, which was built in 1910, to see the locomotives and rolling stock that are currently awaiting restoration. With the railroad being very small in comparison to some of the bigger railroads in the USA, the variety of locomotives is quite surprising. Below is a picture of a Shay Locomotive, which were used as logging locomotives, and have their pistons on one side of the locomotive, enabling to work up steep gradients with heavy loads.DSC01531DSC01536Another locomotive was awaiting repairs, which will soon be the main locomotive hauling the passenger excursions next year. This locomotive has been on the line since it was built, and has never left the railroad. This is one of the reasons the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, and its operating entity, the Sierra Railway, are a heritage railway and a unit of the California State Park System.DSC01534DSC01535DSC01537Another locomotive is soon to be returned to service, giving No. 3 a well-deserved rest, after being used extensively since 2013. The steam locomotive below, No. 28 has also been a star, making a few brief cameo appearances in several movies and TV show during this time including, Overland Trail, Nichols, Little House on the Prairie, Bound for Glory and The World’s Greatest Lover.DSC01538DSC01539Below are some of the unique vehicles that are converted cars to work along the line. These are antique vehicles that feel distinctively American, and were used to travel along the line to check the track, along with transport dignitaries to their destination. As they are effectively a motor car, they were easy to operate, did not cost as much as a steam locomotive. The vehicle below was originally used on the Muni, which is located in San Francisco, where I had previously visited a few days earlier.DSC01540DSC01542DSC01547.JPGAs the depot has remained, it was surprising to hear that 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, showing how the charm of the railroad is still alive within this small community.DSC01549The California State Railroad Museum, located in Old Sacramento, which I had visited the assumed responsibility for Railtown 1897 State Historic Park on July 1, 1992. Both of these museums are a must if any readers are visiting northern California.DSC01551At the end of the day, visitors can view the locomotive returning to the yard, and being turned on the turntable, which with the historical nature of the site, it is a unique experience to see a locomotive built for the line still in daily operation. A sight, which can only be seen at this Historic National Park.DSC01559DSC01560However, the star of the museum is props from the movies, which included the lamp and funnel stacks from Back To The Future Part 3. they also have the mock-up of the caboose that was used in the movie, due to Michael J Fox being too short to jump from a horse to the caboose in the film’s climax.DSC01552DSC01554DSC01555DSC01553Thanks for reading.

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