Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from April to October, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., November to March. Trains are scheduled to operate every Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., April to September, with Polar Express rides in December. The park is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information about Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, call (209) 984-3953 or visit www.railtown1897.org/ online.

Groveland resident Kristen Rogers, 25, spent Labor Day with her sons, Porter, 4 years old, and Alden, 17 months, at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, because the boys love trains.

“We thought it would be cool to come and learn about all the history,” Rogers said while Porter and Alden stood at open windows on Sierra Railway Train 1265 to wave as volunteers rode by on a railway motor car known as a speeder, which does fire patrol for steam and diesel locomotives on tracks outside Jamestown.

More than 35 other people loved trains enough to join the Rogers family on Train 1265 for a ride out past Bell Mooney Road and Jeni Court. A total of 37 passengers and six volunteer crew were on board, including Engineer Warren Smith, 70, of Twain Harte, Vicki Smith, 73, of Tuolumne, and Steve Jacobs, 65, of Manteca, said Conductor Tommy Johnson, 84, a resident of Sonora and a retired Santa Fe locomotive engineer.

“It’s very hot and smoky today, so it’s dry,” Vicki Smith told passengers before they departed the Jamestown Depot on Train 1265. “We have water in the orange Igloo for you to drink, so help yourselves. It’s going to be a warm ride. You can see the smoke hanging in the air, from fires.”

Johnson said investors originally built the Sierra Railway out to Jamestown to capitalize on logging interests who wanted to get lumber out of the Central Sierra, and to bring freight and passengers up to Jamestown from Oakdale.

Jacobs pointed out Woods Creek to passengers as Train 1265 passed near it.

“It’s nice to see water in it now,” Jacobs said. “There wasn’t any water in it last fall.”

Sierra Railway Locomotive 1265, a diesel built in 1953, was pulling two passenger cars Monday. Johnson said the passenger cars were originally made in the mid-1910s and in 1922.

Volunteers trailed Train 1265 on the speeder to make sure the locomotive sparked no fires on its first trip of the day Monday, said Craig Konklin, a Railtown volunteer who joined Warren Smith in the locomotive for the return trip to Jamestown.

Volunteer Jerry Redfern, 91, a resident of Sonora, kept an eye on steam Locomotive 3 in the old roundhouse at Railtown. Locomotive 3 was originally fired by coal and it’s been converted to burn reclaimed motor oil, Redfern said.

Sierra Railway owners acquired Locomotive 3 from a railroad in Arizona in 1897 to help with completion of the Sierra Railway from Oakdale to Jamestown, Redfern said. Then Locomotive 3 was used to haul freight and passengers into the 1930s.

The roundhouse is billed as the last one like it still working in the western United States, said volunteer Stationmaster David Deutsch.

Locomotive 3 still earns its keep hauling passengers on weekends, Redfern said.

The venerable engine has also appeared in more than 100 Hollywood productions, according to Railtown historians. Sierra No. 3 is also known as the most-photographed locomotive in Hollywood history, according to Railtown’s website.

“The 4-6-0 type locomotive was built in 1891 by Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works in Paterson, New Jersey, for the Prescott and Arizona Central Railroad,” Railtown 1897 promoters say. “Sierra No. 3 was one of the original three locomotives on the railroad, and later pulled passenger trains before the arrival of No. 32 in 1923. Retired in 1932, it was returned to operation for movie work in 1947-48. It has appeared in numerous movies, TV shows and commercials.”

No. 3's film and television credits include “High Noon” in 1952 with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, “The Virginian,” an NBC series from 1962 to 1971, “Back to the Future III” in 1990 with Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, “Unforgiven” in 1992, directed by, produced by and starring Clint Eastwood, “Bad Girls,” the 1994 film about four former prostitutes on the run following a justifiable homicide and prison escape, “Petticoat Junction,” the CBS series from 1963 to 1970, “The Wild, Wild West,” a CBS series from 1965 to 1969, starring Robert Conrad, and “Little House on the Prairie,” the NBC series from 1974 to 1983, starring Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, Karen Grassle and Melissa Sue Anderson.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.

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