Monthly Archives: April 2009

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

Caltrain, high-speed rail tie rail knot

In forming what they called a “monumental” alliance, Caltrain officials Thursday signed an agreement with the California High Speed Rail Authority that outlines how the two agencies will one day share the Caltrain corridor on the Peninsula.

The agreement joins Caltrain and the rail authority as official partners and for the first time formally gives the Peninsula a local voice in the massive state transportation project.

Caltrain owns the railroad that the state’s high-speed bullet trains will share.

The joint venture also paves the way for Caltrain to use bullet train technology to electrify its own trains, an upgrade seen as the only way for the agency to expand local service. It also should allow for Caltrain to install safety improvements and for cities to receive long-awaited grade separations, where the tracks pass either under or over streets.

(Read article here)

California Gold

An episode of Huell Howser’s “California Gold,” featuring the historic Perris Depot Museum and Railroad, will be shown on April 28. Check local listings for time and channel. Canyon Lake resident Paul Price, an exhibit contributor at the museum, was on hand when the episode was filmed on January 31.

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)

Small Railroads Key to PG&E Project

Sometimes it takes a whole team of railroads to haul a project cargo.

North of Sacramento, Calif., near the town of Maxwell, the Pacific Gas & Electric utility is building a new natural gas generating station. Yet transportation officials say the heavyweight, high-clearance turbines, generators and other components needed to go rail to avoid messing up area road traffic and maybe the roads themselves.

California Northern Railroad said it is handling the loads most of the way, bringing them 75 miles to near the plant construction site between now and July. It will take another year after that o complete the Colusa generating station.

“These loads require extra handling, specialized railcars and special clearance due to their significant weight and size,” said California Northern, a RailAmerica unit.

(Read article here)