Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park will present the fourth annual "Singing Rails" music festival on Saturday, reflecting America's longstanding love affair with trains and the railroad through the magic of music.

New this year, "Singing Rails" will include a music contest leading up to live performances by the Northern California bluegrass band Red Dog Ash and headliner Sourdough Slim.

The family-friendly music festival will take place outdoors on the roundhouse lawn starting with the music contest from noon to 4:30 p.m. Contestants will be judged in six categories including vocal, guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and miscellaneous. In addition, a special "Boxcar Willy Award" will be given to the best vocally-generated train sound.

Each contestant will perform two songs, one of which must be train-related. Awards will be announced at 5 p.m. when prizes of $50 will be awarded to the top contestant in each category, plus $50 to the grand prize winner.

Contest entry fee is $15 per category, including a train ride and ticket to the evening concert. Contestants can register online in advance at or on the day of the event as space allows. There is a limit of 27 total competitors.

After the contest, the live music will kick into high gear when Red Dog Ash takes the stage at 5:30 p.m., followed by headliner Sourdough Slim at 7 p.m.

Festival tickets are free to same-day train ride ticket holders. Otherwise, adult tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the gate. Children 12 and under are free.

Refreshments and food will be available for purchase. Picnics are also welcome. Guests should bring their own lawn chairs and blankets.

Advance train and concert tickets are available online at More information is available by calling 984-3953.

Proceeds will benefit the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, which helps operate Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.

Sourdough Slim, aka Rick Crowder, is a veteran of stages from the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering to the Lincoln Center's Roots of American Music Festival and the Carnegie Hall Folk Festival. His solo show finds him crooning Western classics, playing accordion, guitar and harmonica, dancing a jig, twirling a lariat, dishing out comedic sketches and letting loose with some mind boggling yodeling.

He won the Academy of Western Artists 2001 Will Rogers Award for "Yodeler of the Year" and 2009, 2010 and 2011 nomination for "Entertainer of the Year" from the Western Music Association.