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Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
HeadquartersJamestown, California
LocaleJamestown, California, U.S.
Dates of operation1971–present
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length23.4 mi (37.7 km)

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, and its operating entity, the Sierra Railway, is known as "The Movie Railroad." Both entities are a heritage railway and are a unit of the California State Park System. Railtown 1897 is located in Jamestown, California. The entire park preserves the historic core of the original Sierra Railway of California (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 over 100 years. The maintenance facilities are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Sierra Railway Shops Historic District.[1]


The Sierra Railway #28 steam locomotive at Railtown 1897, in 2006

The Sierra Railway served the West Side Lumber Company mill at Tuolumne, as well as the Standard (later Pickering) Lumber Company in Standard, California. The West Side operated an extensive 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge logging railroad in the Sierra Nevada range. It operated into the 1960s, and was the last of the narrow-gauge logging railways operating in the American West. The Pickering Lumber Company operated an extensive logging railroad that extended northeast of Standard all the way north to what is now the South Grove of Big Trees State Park.[2][3]

Since 1929, when The Virginian 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 its trains.[4] 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, 3:10 To Yuma (1957) featured #3 in the end of the movie, as well as Back to the Future Part III. Television programs that regularly used the Sierra property include Wild, Wild West, Iron Horse, Tales of Wells Fargo, and Petticoat Junction.[5] The Sierra No. 3 locomotive and Sierra's coach number 5 were the Hooterville Cannonball.[6][7] Locomotive No. 3 was also used in numerous episodes of Little House on the Prairie.

Sierra Railway machine shop. Hand car and wheel press are in foreground. Shaper and engine lathes in background. Machines are driven by an overhead, flat-belt line shaft.

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.[8]

In May 2011, California State Parks announced the closure of Railtown 1897 along with 69 other parks. The closing was anticipated in July 2012,[9] but due to the efforts of locals and enthusiasts, Railtown 1897 remained open 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.

The California State Railroad Museum (CSRM), headquartered in Old Sacramento, assumed responsibility for Railtown 1897 State Historic Park on July 1, 1992.[10]


In addition to seasonal steam and diesel-powered train rides, the Railtown experience includes tours of the locomotive roundhouse originally built in 1910,[11] the machine shop, and related exhibits. Movie paraphernalia used in filming train sequences is on display.

Volunteer opportunities are available to help preserve and educate the public about the park. Duties include giving tours of the roundhouse as well as delivering speeches about the locomotives and the surrounding areas while on a short train-ride tour.[12]


Number Images Builder Type Date Built Heritage Disposition Notes
Plymouth 8-ton 1930s Bought in 1940s by Sierra Railroad Operational
2 Lima 3-Truck Shay 1922 Hutchinson Lumber Co. #2, Feather River Railway #2 Out of service, awaiting restoration
3 Rogers 4-6-0 1891 Prescott & Arizona Central #3 Undergoing FRA inspection and overhaul
7 Lima 3-Truck Shay 1925 Fruit Growers Supply Co. #5, Standard Lumber Co. #80, Pickering Lumber Company #7 Out of service Under private ownership, stored at Railtown 1897 SHP
28 Baldwin 2-8-0 1922 New to Sierra Railway Operational
34 Baldwin 2-8-2 1925 New to Sierra Railway Out of service
612 Alco MRS-1 1953 US Army B2063, USN 65-00612 Out of service, waiting repairs
613 Alco MRS-1 1953 US Army B2064, USN 65-00613 Out of service, waiting repairs
546 Alco MRS-1 1953 US Army 2091, USN 65-00546 Out of service, parts locomotive
1265 Baldwin RS4TC-1 1953 US Army 1265 Operational
7417 GE 45-ton 1942 US Army 7417 Out of service, waiting repairs
52280 GE 80-ton 1952 US Army 1638 Operational Operational as of Nov 2023

See also


  1. ^ "SIERRA RAILWAY SHOPS Historical Landmark". CA Office of Historic Preservation. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  2. ^ Ferrell, Mallory Hope, West Side: Narrow Gauge in the Sierra, pp. 1-32, 293-312, Pacific Fast Mail, 1979.
  3. ^ "West Side Lumber Company". Tuolumne City Memorial Museum. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  4. ^ "Railtown 1897 SHP". Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  5. ^ Bienick, David (July 1, 2010). "Movie Locomotive Restored To Old Glory". Sacramento, California (field report from Jamestown): KCRA. Archived from the original on July 9, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  6. ^ Stein, Dave (2005). "Petticoat Junction Hooterville Cannonball". Archived from the original on April 20, 2013. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  7. ^ "Railtown 1897 State Historic Park - Welcome". Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 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.
  8. ^ " List Of Calif. Parks To Close In Budget Proposal". Archived from the original on February 23, 2008. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  9. ^ California, California State Parks, State of. "Park Closure List". CA State Parks. Archived from the original on June 10, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2018.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Railtown 1897". The Historical Marker Database. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  11. ^ "Nostalgia reigns at railroad park". Sacramento Bee. March 26, 2006. Archived from the original on August 13, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  12. ^ "Railtown 1897 State Historic Park - Volunteer Opportunities". Archived from the original on January 16, 2016. Retrieved February 8, 2016.


Warwick Frost (2009). 'Projecting an Image: Film Induced Festivals in the American West'. Event Management 12:2, pp. 95–103.

37°57′3.54″N 120°25′3.75″W / 37.9509833°N 120.4177083°W / 37.9509833; -120.4177083