NEXT STOP, RAILTOWN 1897

Jamestown of­fers one of 209’s unique state parks

Escalon Times - - LIVING - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT

JAMESTOWN — You may never have been to one of Cal­i­for­nia’s most unique state parks — Railtown 1897 — but the odds are if you are 50 or over you’ve seen glimpse of it as well as the rail­road tracks that run into the nearby Sierra foothill coun­try­side.

If you watched “Pet­ti­coat Junc­tion”, “Bo­nanza”, “Rawhide”, “Gun­smoke”, “Father Mur­phy”, “Lassie”, and “Lit­tle House on the Prairie” then you’ve seen snap­shots of Railtown 1987. The same is true for movies such as “Back to the Fu­ture III”, “The Ap­ple Dumpling Gang”, “High Noon”, The Gam­bler”, “Un­for­given”, “My Lit­tle Chick­adee”, “The Great Race”, and the 1956 ver­sion of “The Lone Ranger.”

More than 200 movies, TV shows, and com­mer­cials have been filmed at Railtown 1897.

This time of year the ex­cur­sion trains don’t run — you have to go a Satur­day or Sun­day from April to Oc­to­ber for hourly train rides from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or wait for spe­cial train rides in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. That said if you are a rail­road fan, his­tory buff or just want a pleas­ant ex­cuse to visit the Gold Coun­try to en­joy the scenery, take a short stroll, and af­ter­wards dine in Jamestown at the 1859 His­toric Na­tional Ho­tel (worth the trip on its own) or at other restau­rants vis­it­ing Railtown 1897 is the foun­da­tion for a low-key re­lax­ing day.

Be­fore we go on, let’s get a few pos­si­ble mis­con­cep­tions out of the way. This is not the Cal­i­for­nia Rail­road Mu­seum in Old Sacra­mento. The world renown mu­seum with its painstak­ingly re­stored rolling stock and lo­co­mo­tives is just that — a mu­seum.

And as rail­road yards goes it is not the Union Pa­cific by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion. I have been in parts of the UP mar­shal­ing yard in Ro­seville sev­eral times when it was owned by South­ern Pa­cific. The round­house there was teem­ing and im­pres­sive. It is also a work­ing rail­road.

Railtown 1897 is a real rail­road — the

Sierra Rail­road — that has been pre­served. That in­cludes rolling stock, lo­co­mo­tives, rail­road build­ings and equip­ment of which many date back to the line’s 1897 ori­gins.

That is what makes it unique. Vol­un­teers la­bor to keep the equip­ment in work­ing or­der.

This time of year is low-key with your best bet be­ing the self-guided walk­ing tour. It cov­ers the fright shed, car­riage room, pas­sen­ger plat­form, round­house and turntable, car­pen­ter’s shop, black­smith shop, movie ex­hibit, Fresno scrap­pers, belt driven ma­chine, and the Hetch Hetchy car.

There are also plenty of ta­bles on the pic­nic grounds if you opt to be­ing your own lunch.

The mu­seum store of­fers a num­ber of movies that were filmed at Railtown 1897 as well as enough train stuff from books and pho­tos to Thomas the En­gine items to drive train fans of any age bonkers.

Sonora is just six min­utes far­ther north up High­way 49 from Jamestown while Columbia State His­tor­i­cal Park — a pre­served and op­er­at­ing “ghost town” from the Gold Rush era that is free to ac­cess — is just 20 miles away. That al­lows, if your wish, com­bin­ing two des­ti­na­tions in one but then you’d be re­duc­ing excuses for a re­turn trip to the western end of Tu­loumne County.

DEN­NIS WY­ATT/209 Liv­ing

TOP PHOTO: Kate­lyn Line­hart stands by a pond re­flect­ing Sierra Rail­road pas­sen­ger cars. MID­DLE LEFT PHOTO: The Railtown 1897 round­house. MID­DLE RIGHT PHOTO: The Jamestown sta­tion. BOT­TOM LEFT PHOTO: Kate­lyn Line­hart poses on a more mod­ern en­gine. BOT­TOM RIGHT PHOTO: Kate­lyn Line­hart checks out an­tique scales.

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