Rail Fan Adventures

The Feather Bed Railroad Bed & Breakfast

For the railfan that wants the ultimate in quiet vacation retreats, may we suggest Northern California’s Featherbed Railroad.

The Featherbed Railroad Bed and Breakfast on the shores of Clear Lake in Northern California’s Lake County is a unique collection of luxuriously refurbished Railroad Cabooses – most with in-room Jacuzzi tubs for two and all featuring luxurious featherbeds. The cabooses are nestled among giant native trees in a park-like setting right on the shore of Clearlake. The Featherbed features their own boat ramp, dock and private beach. There is also a 100-year-old historic Main Station house featuring the Grand Dining Room which you can access during the day.

The Featherbed Railroad was the vision of Kelly and Sherry McClean and Len and Lorraine Bassignani. Kelly found the property, the former Johnson’s Resort, and decided he could turn it into something quite unique. After finding the cabooses in various places he had them dismantled and trucked to their present site.

For almost 20 years Len and Lorraine Bassignani ran the Featherbed Railroad creating a place that many people came back to year after year. While Len kept things running smoothly, Lorraine created the breakfasts that guests still rave about. Fortunately, they now live next door and are the best neighbors you could possibly want. Many guests today are still very excited to say hello to Len and Lorraine!

The cabooses had to be gutted of their railroad paraphernalia and completely refinished inside so they create that ambiance that makes this such a popular resort in Clear Lake.

(Visit the Featherbed Railroad website here)

Railroad history is right on track in Sacramento

Abraham Lincoln and his contributions to American railroads have come to visit at the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento.

Timed to also commemorate the 140th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, “The Rail Splitter and the Railroads” exhibit celebrates the efforts of our 16th president as he implemented and navigated rail transportation to move crops and gold throughout the West and the nation.

The California State Railroad Museum opened to the public in 1976 and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors annually. The main exhibit area totals 100,000 square feet and is home to 21 treasures of the rails, including locomotives and cars.

(Read article here)

Walking among the relics of the Western Pacific Railroad

Now and then grownups need to spend a little time being 12 again. We had that feeling of wonder June 21 after our morning hike on old Highway 70 along the Feather River.

That morning, we had followed a patchwork two-lane highway for a couple miles until it came to a group of small, very old wooden buildings, one reported to have been built in 1852 by mountain man Jim Beckwourth.

We still had a little time at the end of the day to return to Portola to tour the Western Pacific Railroad Museum.

Most of us living in the northern Sacramento Valley have visited the well-appointed California State Railroad Museum at Old Sacramento. It’s chock full of state history, beautifully restored railcars and a number of interactive displays that bring the glory of the tracks back to life.

Portola’s train museum isn’t that. Instead, it’s like a giant train parking lot filled with dozens and dozens of restorations yet to happen. In the meantime, time is catching up on many of these weathering reminders of America’s love affair with the rail.

(Read article here)

Niles Canyon Railway Wine & Cheese Special

The Niles Canyon Railway Wine & Cheese Special begins on August 9 and runs for 5 weekends through September 6. This year the Wine & Cheese Special will focus on Livermore Valley Wines, enabling the passengers to sample the wide selection of excellent wines available from the wineries in this historic wine region of California.

The Wine & Cheese Special will run on Sunday afternoons, boarding at 3:00 p.m. at the Sunol station and embarking at 3:30 p.m. for this 2 hour run. During the trip the passengers will sample the wines along with cheeses and bread especially selected to match these wines. The wine educator, Steve Ferree, will inform the passengers about Livermore Valley wine appellation and the wineries that were selected for that specific run.

(Read article here)

Stories of Our Lives : The Glendale Train

When you live on the tracks, there is no “wrong side” nor is there a “right side.” You simply live on the tracks; we always did.

We loved the trains; we had missed them the four or five years we had lived in the country, away from them. During those years, while shopping in town, we sometimes caught sight of one of the new streamliners, which thrilled us; occasionally an old steam engine would chug through bringing back memories of the railroad shanties along the tracks where we lived in Missouri.

We didn’t miss the shacks, but we missed the sight of Uncle George and his son Frank pumping the handcar down the track on a clean-up run after a storm. We missed the puff of the train’s engine, the sound of its lonesome whistle and the sight of that single headlight, like a one-eyed monster roaring down the line on the last night run.

(Read article here)

Next stop: Forever After

They’re calling it The Love Train. Lauren Richey and Scott Miller will get married today at the spot where they met – in a car on the Framingham/Worcester Line of the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad.

Richey, 36, and Miller, 40, will exchange vows on the inbound P556 between Southborough and Wellesley Farms as the train rolls along on its normal schedule. That gives the couple half an hour to get hitched. In Wellesley, the 100 guests will alight – quickly, so as not to hold up the train – and bagpipers and drummers will lead them to the reception nearby at the home of the groom’s parents.

Five years ago, Richey noticed “Bike Man,” as she called him, because he always had a fold-up bicycle on the train. He was mysterious: Sometimes he would already be on the train when Richey boarded in Ashland. Sometimes he would get on at a later stop. Did he have a girlfriend who lived in a different town? Was he a bike messenger?

Then there was The Blonde. “I’d also see a very pretty blonde getting on every morning, nicely dressed,” says Richey, who is a veterinary pathologist. Richey, a brunette, loves short stories, so she wrote one about Bike Man and The Blonde.

Then, one day in May 2005, Bike Man, in his typical jeans and T-shirt, sat down right in front of her. Richey, dressed in business casual, tapped him on the shoulder. “Can I ask you a question? Why do you get on at different stops?”

(Read article here)

Railtown Museum spring wildflower tour

On May 2nd, Railtown State Historic Park will provide guests with a unique opportunity to experience spring wildflowers from onboard a train! The special afternoon wildflower train will departs from the Railtown Depot at 4:30 PM. Prior to boarding the train, passengers will have the opportunity to learn about the wildflowers of California’s Sierra Nevada foothills.

Railtown’s Wildflower Trains will feature Interpretive Park Rangers from the nearby New Melones Recreation Resource Center, answering questions and pointing out flower groupings along the way. Wildflower Trains take guests on a 6-mile, 1-hour roundtrip ride through the scenic, rolling landscapes of California’s Gold Country. Along the way, trains encounter meadows and rolling hills, with such local flora as “meadow foam”, “gold fields” and other colorful flowers typically in bloom. A stop along the route will provide passengers with the opportunity to distribute wildflower seeds, too! Train capacity is limited, and reservations are suggested. Wildflower train tickets are $10 adults, $4 youth ages 6-17, ages 5 and under ride free.

Located in Jamestown, California, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is home to one of America’s last intact, still-operating railroad roundhouses. Known as “The Movie Railroad,” Railtown 1897, its historic locomotives and cars have starred in hundreds of film and TV productions, including High Noon, Back to the Future 3, and Petticoat Junction. Tour the Historic Jamestown Shops and Roundhouse daily. Weekends April-October (also selected dates November-December), ride behind a real steam locomotive.

Visit the Railtown website here

Northern California’s Skunk Railroad

Except for the passengers’ high-tech cameras and modern garb, a time traveler from the last century would feel quite at home riding California Western Railroads Skunk Train in the 1990’s.

The view from the restored rail cars is pretty much unchanged: towering trees, deer drinking from the Noyo River, an isolated fisherman’s cabin peeking from the forest. With occasional whistles as it chugs through tunnels, over bridges and past open meadows, the train follows the coastal “Redwood Route” as it has since 1885.

Built as a logging railroad, the Skunk line began that year as a logical vehicle for moving massive redwood logs to Mendocino Coast sawmills from the rugged back country. Steam passenger service was started in 1904, extended to the town of Willits in 1911, and discontinued in 1925 when the self-powered, yellow “Skunk” rail cars were inaugurated. The little trains were quickly nicknamed for their original gas engines, which prompted folks to say, “You can smell ’em before you can see ’em.”

California Western welcomed more “modern” equipment in later years, which rail fans can still ride. The vintage 1925 M-100 motorcar — the only remaining train of its kind in use anywhere today — runs the line year-round, as does the 1935 M-300 motorcar. During the busier summer months, they are joined by three 1950’s diesel-powered engines, and famous Old No. 45, a majestic 1924 Baldwin steam engine, the kind most kids dream of when they think “train.”

Moving at a leisurely pace (29 miles per hour maximum), the trains pull covered cars as well as open observation cars — perfect for capturing photographs of the truly exhilarating journey.

The Skunk Railroad is considered one of the top ten most scenic railroads in America.

You can visit the Skunk Railroad website here

Historic Steam Locomotive To Visit the West on Heritage Tour

No, you didn’t step through a time portal, that really is a steam locomotive. Thousands of individuals will have the chance to see this “living legend” in person when Union Pacific’s historic steam locomotive, No. 844, travels from its base in Wyoming, to California on a 32-day, four-state tour.

The “Western Heritage Tour” will be rolling from April 11 through May 12, heading through many cities and towns that witnessed the birth of the railroad. The 844 will make special stops in eight cities across Nevada, California and Utah for the public to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity, the No. 844 Western Heritage Tour. The Steam Locomotive will help “heat up” some special celebrations:

* The City of Roseville, Calif. Centennial
* Western Pacific’s Centennial at Portola, Calif.
* The 140th Anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike in Ogden, Utah

(Read article here)

Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad

Located in Nevada City, California, the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum is dedicated to the preservation of local transportation history and artifacts from the narrow gauge railroad era.

In addition to the railroad, this Sierra foothills county boasted such turn-of-the 20th century transportation as an electric streetcar line, a steam powered automobile, and the first commercial airport in the United States.

Visitors are offered a docent-led historical tour of the museum, railyard, and restoration shop. Exhibited in the main gallery is Engine 5, an 1875 Baldwin that began service hauling lumber, then passengers and freight for the NCNGRR, and finally as a movie engine at Universal Studios in Hollywood. The railyard houses a collection of wooden rail cars, some restored, others awaiting their turn in the restoration shop. The shop is usually a busy place with volunteers doing rolling stock maintenance and other restoration projects.

(Visit website here)