Old No. 3 a star at Railtown

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"Old No. 3," a steam locomotive that has appeared in dozens of movies and hundreds of television programs, is in pieces while railroad and film history buffs try to raise $250,000 to finish restoring it.

Fliers describing the project will be available during Movie Railroad Days this weekend at Railtown 1897 State Park off Fifth Avenue in Jamestown (See special section inside today's newspaper).

The event will highlight the role of historic locomotives like No. 3 in films. There will be movie re-creations, vignettes, train rides and run-bys.

Visitors may also see the major components of No. 3 frame, chassis, boiler, fire box and tender in the Roundhouse at Railtown this weekend.

For many years, No. 3 labored outside the glare of the spotlight.

It was built in 1891 by the Rogers Locomotive Works of Patterson, N.J., and first served a financially troubled Arizona railroad.

No. 3 was soon shipped to California, where it was used to build the Sierra Railroad's line between Oakdale and Jamestown.

After the line was completed in 1897, No. 3 hauled freight and passengers for three decades in the Sierra Nevada foothills between Oakdale, Jamestown, Sonora and Tuolumne.

At first, No. 3 was one of the heaviest and most powerful engines on the railroad. But as newer and more modern locomotives were acquired in the 1920s, the engine's role diminished.

It became a logical choice to serve in early movies. It's screen debut came in 1929 with Gary Cooper in "The Virginian."

Placed in storage during the Great Depression, the engine was considered for a role that could have ended its career permanently, a train wreck scene in the 1946 movie, "Duel in the Sun."

Sierra Railroad's master mechanic at the time, Bill Tremewan, put a stop to those plans.

"The old No. 3 is quite a treasure," said George Sapp, railroad restoration lead worker at Railtown today. "It's a funny thing. Much more modern engines have been scrapped over the years, but old No. 3 was always somebody's favorite. Somebody always saved it.

11701044
The Union Democrat
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