Railtown 1897 and Sacramento River Train

By May 13, 2019Features

By Aaron Isaacs, HRA editor

Every HeritageRail Alliance conference features side trips to nearby rail attractions, both before and during the conference. Our host, the California State Railroad Museum, also operates Railtown 1897 at the Sierra Railroad in Jamestown. We visited there and were the first passengers to ride behind newly restored Sierra 2-8-0 #28 (Baldwin 1922). It was also the first double-headed steam run in 27 years, with 28 in harness with iconic 4-6-0 #3 (Rogers 1891).

Sacramento has two tourist railroads, the museum’s Sacramento Southern and the Sierra Northern’s Sacramento River train. We rode on both.

Railtown 1897

Everyone has seen the Sierra Railway in a western movie or TV show. The same time machine physical plant and rolling stock that attracted them caused the State of California to preserve the Jamestown engine terminal as a state park. You can count on one hand the number of roundhouse/shop complexes that survived intact and are carrying on and Jamestown is one of them.

The ownership arrangement is interesting. The Sierra Railway, now owned by shoreline Sierra Northern, still uses the rails through Jamestown and beyond to Tuolumne for freight. Railtown has trackage rights on the entire 46 miles. However, only the three miles west of Jamestown are FRA certified for passengers, so the excursions are restricted to that stretch.

The Jamestown complex, seen from the rear of the excursion. The depot is at left. The roundhouse and yard at right.

Newly restored #28.

Compare the more modern #28 with #3 below.

The engines pulled our excursion backwards. This is the start of the runaround.

We did runbys at two locations. This is the first, up a 2% grade.

The 2nd runby. HRA Board Member Rikki Puz, who runs and fires steam locomotives, agreed to show off her tattoo of Chehalis-Centralia Railroad 2-8-2 #15.

Outside and inside the blacksmith shop.

Back in Jamestown we toured the roundhouse and yard.

Putting away #3.

#28 on the table.

Sacramento River Train

Sacramento’s other excursion railroad runs to Woodland over a former Sacramento Northern interurban branch line which is flat and arrow straight. Your editor was elsewhere, so thanks to Paul Knowles for these photos of the push-pull consist.