Railtown to open with free rides

Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown will resume its steam-powered excursion train rides for the season this weekend.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, guests can take a six-mile, 45-minute round trip ride along the rails of the famous "Movie Railroad."

Excursion train rides on opening weekend will feature the "Movie Star Locomotive" Sierra No. 3.

And, during opening weekend only, residents of Tuolumne, Calaveras and Mariposa counties can visit the park and ride for free with proof of residency.

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

The locomotive is started with the tossing of a burning rag into the firebox, then the crew works to fuel, lubricate and water the engine as the boiler is slowly brought up to temperature.

Costumed docents 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.

After Sierra No. 3 rolls out for the season, the Great Mother Lode Brass and Reed Band will provide live music beginning at 10 a.m. Then in the afternoon, behind-the-scenes tours of work being done on Sierra No. 28 will be available from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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

Regular fares for excursion train rides are $15 for adults and $8 for youths ages 6 to 17, children 5 and under free.

All tickets include the $5 park admission fee.

Tickets are available online at www.railtown1897.org or in person on a first-come, first-served basis at the ticket window beginning at 10 a.m. on the days the trains are running.

After opening weekend, Railtown plans to offer steam-powered excursion train rides behind Sierra No. 3 on Saturdays and vintage diesel locomotives on Sundays through the 2014 operating season.

Additionally, diesel train rides will again be offered on Wednesdays throughout the summer season, July 9 through Aug. 27.

The schedule is subject to change, so visitors are encouraged to call 984-3953 or visit www.railtown1897.org for updated information.

The park is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Train rides are offered weekends April through October, and on special holiday runs in November and December.

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is operated by California State Parks - which this year is celebrating its 150 year anniversary - with assistance from the nonprofit California State Railroad Museum Foundation.

Known as "The Movie Railroad," the park and its trains have been featured in hundreds of feature films, TV shows, and commercials.

The park is located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Reservoir Road in Jamestown, off Highway 108.

The Union Democrat
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