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Railtown 1897 Kicks Off 50 Year Celebration as a Tourist Destination

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Date/Time
Date(s) - 05/01/2021 - 05/02/2021
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

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With a rich and impressive railroad history, industrial heritage and as a popular destination for the Hollywood film industry, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, California State Parks, and the California State Railroad Museum are proud to celebrate 50 years of this special site opening for tourism to the delight of railroad enthusiasts over decades. While the railroad has been in place since 1897, it was not until May of 1971 that the site began operating tourist excursions and providing tours to the public. Then in the early 1980s, the prized historic site joined the esteemed California State Parks system.

To kick off a year of celebratory activations in compliance with all state, city, and county guidelines, weekend excursion train rides behind the historic steam locomotive Baldwin No. 28 will be available on Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2, 2021. Known as a loyal, hard-working hauler of all types of freight and weighing a whopping 71 tons, the massive steam locomotive was rebuilt in the historic Roundhouse and Shops in Jamestown and returned to service in 2019. With enhanced sanitation measures in place, weekend excursion train ride departures are scheduled for 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. To accommodate physical distancing, trains will run at limited capacity. Two of the three train cars operating will be open-air cars and all will be cleaned in between each train ride. In addition, special attention will be focused on high-touch points such as grab irons and handrails, and face coverings are required for all Park staff and visitors.

As background on the railroad’s impressive history, the Railtown story began to take shape in the late 1960s. The freight trains of the Sierra Railroad had been powered by modern diesel-electric locomotives for over a decade, bypassing the now-famous facilities at Jamestown. Although the steam engines had been officially retired from hauling everyday freight, they kept busy rolling up and down the tracks for the Hollywood cameras. With the increasing popularity of Western movies, and the tourist railroad business gaining traction all over North America, the Sierra decided to market the entire collection of antique equipment and historic buildings as a one-of-a-kind destination, to provide fun and nostalgia for the whole family and caught the eye of Hollywood. In May of 1971, “Rail Town 1897” was born. Special themed trains created by Rail Town proved to be especially popular. With names like the “Twilight Limited” and the “Wine & Cheese Zephyr”, history came to life at Rail Town. The Sierra even pioneered the concept of the Dinner Train, creating the “Sierra Supper Special” in the mid-1970s. After later becoming a California State Park, Railtown 1897 SHP continued the Sierra’s legacy into the 21st century. Interpretive experiences such as guided Roundhouse Tours and the popular “Walking the Rails of Yesteryear” living history program provide visitors a unique look into the behind-the-scenes details of the now-famous railroad facility. In 2021, the historic site is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a tourist destination with a series of unique events all year that bring back the feel and the romance of the past half-century. Special trains, programs, and activities will roll-out throughout the year and visitors are encouraged to plan a historic train ride or a day at the Park to enjoy a tour, picnic, or leisurely stroll around the grounds.

Weekend excursion train ride guests will enjoy a memorable six-mile, 45-minute round trip ride along the rails of the famous “Movie Railroad,” including past the iconic water tank seen in “Petticoat Junction,” a popular TV show that aired in the 60s and early 70s. The Park will also be open for self-guided tours and exhibits will include interpretive signage. With the reduced capacity, visitors are encouraged to purchase excursion train ride tickets online in advance. If still available on the day of the train ride, tickets can be purchased at the Depot Store on a first-come, first-served basis. To aid in social distancing, seating is sold in groups of 4 seats and is priced by the number of passengers in the group: 1 passenger costs $15, 2 passengers cost $30, 3 passengers cost $40 and 4 passengers cost $50. All paid train ride tickets include Park admission.

For tickets and/or updated information about weekend excursion train rides and Railtown 1897 SHP in general, visitors are encouraged to visit www.railtown1897.org. For more information about the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, please visit www.californiarailroad.museum.

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