Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

Beginning Saturday, Railtown 1897 State Historic Parkin Jamestown will resume its steam-powered excursion trains on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

While the park is open daily throughout the year, guests will enjoy six-mile, 45-minute round trip train rides on Saturdays, Sundays and extended holiday weekends.

Train rides this weekend will be offered behind the "Movie Star Locomotive" Sierra No. 3 steam enigne - and, during opening weekend only, residents of Calaveras, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties can visit the park and ride free with proof of residency.

To kick off the first day of operations, the public is invited to attend the "Early Bird" program that starts at 7 a.m. Saturday in the historic roundhouse to watch as the crew lights the fire and prepares the locomotive for the day.

Guides will be on hand in the roundhouse to narrate every step of the process. Then, interested spectators can follow it out into the yard and watch the turntable in operation as the crew moves the locomotive into place at the depot.

The official ceremonies will begin with Vietnam veteran Jim Sutherland performing the national anthem and a raising of the flag at 9:45 a.m. followed by a grand entrance and ceremonial whistle blowing. Mark Twain, portrayed by Pat Kaunert, will call out the first "All Aboard!" for the season at 10:45 a.m.

Throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, many other special activities will be offered as well, including live music both days - performed on-board the excursion trains by Dave Rainwater - tours of the roundhouse, and demonstrations of the historic belt-driven machine shop.

All steam train excursion tickets include park admission and are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the ticket window beginning at 10 a.m. on the days the trains are running.

Train ride tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for youths ages 6 to 17 and children 5 and under are free.

After opening weekend, Railtown plans to offer steam-powered excursion train rides behind Sierra No. 3 on Saturdays and vintage diesel locomotives on Sundays. Additionally, diesel train rides will be offered on Wednesdays throughout the summer season, July 10 through Aug. 28.

Several additional theme trains also will be offered throughout the year, beginning with wildflower excursions on April 13 and 20.

With spring in full bloom, Railtown will provide guests with the opportunity to experience spring wildflowers aboard a train pulled by Sierra No. 3.

Wildflower trains will depart from the Railtown Depot promptly at 4:30 p.m. Prior to boarding, passengers will have the opportunity to learn about the wildflowers of the Sierra Nevada foothills.

In addition, Tuolumne County Master Gardeners will have a display at the park on these special days with information about gardening with native plants.

Railtown's wildflower trains feature interpretive park rangers from the nearby New Melones Reservoir, answering questions and pointing out flower groupings along the way. Wildflower trains take guests on a six-mile, one-hour roundtrip ride through the scenic, rolling landscapes of California's Gold Country.

Train capacity is limited, and reservations are suggested.

Wildflower train tickets aboard the "mountain observation cars" - open-sided cars that allow for visitors to enjoy the spring weather - are available online at The cost is $24 for adults and$10 for youth ages 6 to 17. Children 5 and under ride free.

For more information, call 984-3953 or visit