The Polar Express at Railtown 1897– Just the Start of Your State Parks Adventure!

If you are heading up into the Sierra Foothills for a ride on The Polar Express at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park this holiday season, round out your family adventure with a visit to other nearby state parks.

Columbia State Historic Park is  just a short 7 mile drive from Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and is full of holiday spirit for the month of December. The historic Gold Rush town is decorated with cedar bows, and lots of old-fashioned cheer. Park shops are open daily from 10am to 5pm, and offer unique shopping options.  You can watch old-fashioned candy canes being made at Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen, shop at the leather store, candle store or book store, enjoy a sarsaparilla or fresh baked cookie, and make family memories on a stagecoach ride.  During Miner’s Christmas you can also enjoy fresh roasted chestnuts and old-fashioned children’s games on the street.  Free town tours are offered every Saturday and Sunday at 11am and Columbia has a wonderful little museum.

The California Store at Columbia State Historic Park with a rare dusting of snow

The California Store at Columbia State Historic Park with a rare dusting of snow

Columbia State Historic Park offers  unique accommodations  in two historic hotels.  The City and Fallon Hotels are located on Main Street,  inside the park and offer beautifully restored Victorian-era rooms. The park also has several cottages available for overnight stays– perfect for families. Call the City Hotel to book your room or cottage at (209) 532-1479. Show the hotel staff your Polar Express tickets and you will receive a 20% percent discount for your entire stay!

Guest room in the City Hotel at Columbia State Historic Park

Guest room in the City Hotel at Columbia State Historic Park

Another California State Park within driving distance of both Railtown 1897 and Columbia is Calaveras Big Trees State Park located in Arnold, Ca. In the Winter months the park often has snow, and is home to some of the largest trees in the world, making this winter wonderland a must-see. The spectacular Sequoia redwoods can be seen on an easy trail hike. Once snow arrives in the park, guided snowshoe tours are held on Saturdays at 1 pm. Snow shoes are available on a first come first serve basis. Calaveras Big Trees State Park also has cabins available for rent. Call the park for more information at (209) 795-2334.

Giant Sequoia at Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Giant Sequoia at Calaveras Big Trees State Park

And, of course, don’t forget to come back and visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park during the daytime!  Tours of the historic roundhouse are available everyday.  This unique building is one of only two original, functioning steam-era roundhouses.  Climb into the cab of one of the sleeping giants, see a locomotive restoration in progress, visit the belt driven machine shop, and view the historic track car collection.  If you come between noon and 3PM on the Polar Express days, you can even watch the train crew firing up the famous Sierra No. 3 steam engine for the evening. The park also has a self-guided Jr. Ranger program.  Print the book ahead of time, or pick one up for free at the Depot Store (209) 984-3953.

Get an up-close view of a steam engine in the Roundhouse

Get an up-close view of a steam engine in the Roundhouse

Lots to see and do at these California State Parks in December.  Make this your new holiday tradition!
December Events in Columbia and Railtown 1897 State Historic Parks & Calaveras Big Trees State Park:

November 27-Dec 20th Candy Cane Making– Columbia SHP

December 2nd and 3rd  Lamplight Tours– Columbia SHP

December 12th Gold Rush Days– Columbia SHP

December 9th, 11th, 15th, and 16th The Victorian Feast at the City Hotel

December 10th, 11th, 17th, and 18th A Miners Christmas– Columbia SHP

December 11th Los Posadas Nativity Procession– Columbia SHP

December 11thEquestrian Parade- Columbia SHP

December Saturday Snowshoe Tours– Calaveras Big Trees SP

The Polar Express at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, December 2,3 4, 9,10,11,16,17,18.  Trains depart at 4:30, 6:00 and 7:30.  Tickets sell out quickly.

Buster and Hobo- the Sierra Railway Dogs

One of the most well known celebrities of the late 19th century was a little dog known as Owney the Mail Dog. For nine years and 140,000 miles, Owney travelled the country by rail, always riding in the mail car and cared for by the mail clerks. His fame grew as he traveled across the country and later around the world. Owney is one of many dogs that have taken to rail travel over the years. In Italy, Lampo, rode the trains and his story was told in the book, “Lampo the Traveling Dog,” by Elvio Barlettani. Pepe Marvel, a young dog who regularly rode the   commuter train in Valparaiso, Chile, became an instant celebrity when pictures of him sleeping on a rail car were circulated on the internet.   Pepe was adept at avoiding the transit security and sneaking on board the trains. His traveling days ended when he was finally apprehended and later adopted by a Buenos Aires family.

Buster the Sierra Railway Dog- artist's rendition by Karen Kling

Buster the Sierra Railway Dog- artist’s rendition by Karen Kling

Tuolumne County and the Sierra Railway were not without their own  canine celebrities. Old Bob was a well-known local dog who regularly rode the stage coaches that traveled between Sonora and Milton.  Besides being a friend and companion to the stage-drivers, he was also an eyewitness to several hold-ups. When the coaches were replaced by the railroad, Old Bob was lonely and despondent. One day, he hopped aboard a train to Stockton for a little change of scenery. Not being a city dog, Bob quickly became disenchanted with what Stockton had to offer. Then he spied a hack driven by Frank Robinson and jumped aboard and made himself comfortable under the front seat. From that day on, he was cared for by the hackmen of the city.

Hobo, arrived in Jamestown about 1898 with Station Agent F.T. Boyd.  Hobo found railroading to his liking and made the train station his home base. He loved everyone, but was particularly fond of the rail workers. Hobo was a wanderer and never one to stay in a place for too long. When he grew bored with Jamestown, he hopped aboard a train and rode up the rails to make new friends and see new sights, returning to Jamestown when the mood struck. Hobo didn’t care much for warm temperatures and would make his way to Sugar Pine or Strawberry each year to spend the summer months, returning each fall to Jamestown. Hobo was a village dog and he was fed and cared for by the many members of the community who loved and admired him.

Bummer, was a very intelligent shepherd dog who lived above Sonora with rancher Joseph Barron. Besides his ranch hand duties, Bummer took it upon himself to fetch the daily paper. Rain or shine, Bummer made his way to the Black Oak Station each night and awaited the arrival of the mail train. After receiving the paper from the express messenger, he would hurry home to his master.

Bummer’s career almost ended when he chased a squirrel across the train tracks and derailed a small motor rail car. Badly injured, he crawled home and was nursed back to heath by Barron.

When you are riding the train at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, don’t forget to bring your own canine companion, and remember the history of the Sierra Railway dogs who came before.

 

 

 

Working on the Railroad- Celebration of Workers- Sept 20th

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park (SHP) is planning a festive and fun community celebration on Saturday, September 20, 2014, to recognize and honor the hundreds of current and former Sierra Railway, Sierra Railroad and Railtown 1897 SHP workers, their descendants and family members. The celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will include special photographs, temporary exhibits, live music by the Black Irish Band, and more.

The Black Irish Band will perform from 11-2, under the Tulip Tree

As part of the Celebration, the Black Irish Band will perform from 11-2, under the Tulip Tree

Designed to celebrate all the workers who built, maintained and operated the railroad, the special event will include a behind-the-scenes tour of the Historic Shops, Roundhouse, Warehouse and other areas with a focus on sharing information and interpretation about the workers who practiced their trades, their job duties and who they were as individuals and community members.  The special event will also include a “Memory Wall” in the Carriage Room where Park visitors will be invited to post stories and photographs of past railroad workers that will become part of the permanent Park collection.

Tickets to “Working on the Railroad: A Celebration of Sierra Railway Workers” event are free with regular Park admission:  $5 for adults; $3 for youths ages 6-17; and free for children ages 5 and under.  In addition, steam train rides behind the “Movie Star Locomotive” Sierra No. 3 are available hourly that day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cost $15 for adults; $8 for youths ages 6-17; and are free for children ages 5 and under (train ride tickets include Park admission).

For more information about the “Working on the Railroad” reunion event or to share family stories or photos, please contact Karen Kling at 209-984-8703 or karen.kling@parks.ca.gov.  For more information about Railtown 1897 SHP in general, please call 209-984-3953 or visit www.railtown1897.org.

The Polar Express Train Ride is Coming to Railtown!

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THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is coming to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park! The popular train ride, based on the book and movie – The Polar Express – has made its way to Tuolumne County. Now children of all ages will be able to relive the magical journey of THE POLAR EXPRESS on an hour-long train ride to the North Pole. Guests enjoy hot chocolate and cookies as they ride along with some of the story’s characters such as the Conductor and Hobo. Upon arriving at the “North Pole”, the jolly old elf, Santa himself, will come on board to give each passenger a silver sleigh bell, the “first gift of Christmas”.

Traditionally, tickets for this exciting family holiday event sell out very quickly. Members of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park will have the opportunity to purchase a limited number of tickets in advance of the general public. There are several categories of membership to suit every household – from $35 – $250, as well as business memberships. New members must join by September 5 to participate, and current members must be active through October 31, 2014 in order to participate in the Member Advance Ticket Sales. Trains departing Railtown 1897 are scheduled for 4:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm; Fridays through Sundays December 5-7; 12-14; 19-21. (Railtown 1897 State Historic Park will not be offering train rides on Thanksgiving weekend, 2014, as Polar Express is replacing those train rides).

Tickets are: Coach – $40/person; First Class – $55/person. Children under 2 years of age are free and must be seated on an adult’s lap during the ride. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on October 9, 2014 and will be available for purchase online only at http://www.railtown1897.org. Prior to the general public sales date members of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park will be eligible to participate in Member Advance Ticket Sales. For more information about tickets or membership, please visit www.railtown1897.org.

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a fundraiser for the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, which supports Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.

‘Crew for a Day’ Program at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Taking on water at the historic water tank

Taking on water at the historic water tank

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is proud to offer a special “Crew for a Day” program perfect for those interested in a unique, hands-on experience.  The exciting new offering helps to raise much-needed funds for the Park, and makes a memorable gift.

As honorary Railtown 1897 SHP crew members, “Crew for a Day” participants learn about historic steam engines in an up-close and personal style, engage in hands-on locomotive start-up procedures — that include lighting the locomotive with a burning rag, lubricating, fueling, and taking on water at the historic water tank — and have the opportunity to watch the operation of the historic Sierra No. 3 steam locomotive from the engine cab.  The fun-filled experience ends with participants joining the fire crew and tailing the steam engine in a vintage track car.  All “Crew for a Day” participants receive a special “Crew for a Day” certificate and have their photograph taken with the members of the Railtown 1897 SHP crew.

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The day-long VIP program is available to adults ages 18 and older and can accommodate up to two guests at one time. The cost to participate in the unique “Crew for a Day” program at Railtown 1897 SHP costs $500 for one person or $750 for two individuals.

More information about the new “Crew for a Day” program offered by Railtown 1897 SHP is available at www.railtown1897.org/crew-for-a-day or by calling 209-984-8703.

End your shift with a run with the fire patrol in one of our historic 'speeder' cars.

End your shift with a run with the fire patrol in one of our historic ‘speeder’ cars.

Just an Average Thursday

The SIerra No. 3 being prepared for 4th of July weekend

The Sierra No. 3 being prepared for 4th of July weekend

The Sierra Railroad passing through on the main line, hauling empty lumber cars to the mill in Standard.

The Sierra Railroad passing through on the main line, hauling empty lumber cars to the mill in Standard.

 

Park volunteers making lunch for other volunteers.

Park volunteers making lunch for other volunteers.

Railroad Restoration Lead Worker George and Senior Maintenance Aide Phil getting some office work done

Railroad Restoration Lead Worker George and Senior Maintenance Aide Phil getting some office work done

Maintenance Aide Ray murdering weeds in the pond

Maintenance Aide Ray murdering weeds in the pond

Volunteer Laverne collecting sign in sheets to record volunteer hours

Volunteer Laverne collecting sign in sheets to record volunteer hours

Volunteer David working on valve repairs for the No. 3

Volunteer David working on valve repairs for the No. 3

Volunteer Tim leading a tour of the historic machine shop for park visitors.

Volunteer Tim leading a tour of the historic machine shop for park visitors.

Volunteer Coordinator Dave!  Working on the volunteer schedule.

Volunteer Coordinator Dave! Doing what he does best.

 

Park Maintenance Aide Scott working on boiler repairs on the No. 28.

Park Maintenance Aide Scott working on boiler repairs on the No. 28.

 

Volunteer Leroy working on repairs to the first-class car ceiling.

Volunteer Leroy working on repairs to the first-class car ceiling.

 

 

Volunteers Bill & Bob decorating for the 4th.

Volunteers Bill & Bob decorating for the 4th.

Volunteer Al cleaning out the cars for the weekend

Volunteer Al cleaning out the cars for the weekend

Volunteer Jeannie- car cleaning!  One of the most important (and under-recognized) jobs at the park.

Volunteer Jeannie- car cleaning! One of the most important (and under-recognized) jobs at the park.

Volunteer Hal and Park Maintenance Worker Rob- working on a broken water pipe.

Volunteer Hal and Park Maintenance Worker Rob- working on a broken water pipe.

Just another Thursday at Railtown.

Railtown 1897 Celebrates Railroading As Part of “National Train Day” on May 10!

Special Activities Include Steam-Powered Excursion Train Rides Behind Sierra No. 3 and Caboose No. 7, Historic Locomotives on Display, Historic Speeder Car Rides, Behind-the-Scenes Shop Tours and More!

Plus a Special Opening Reception for the Second Annual “In Train View” Photo Exhibition Featuring Rail-Related Works by the Sonora Photo Club!

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JAMESTOWN, Calif. – California State Parks and Railtown 1897 State Historic Park (SHP) will proudly participate in the seventh annual National Train Day on Saturday, May 10, 2014.  Designed to celebrate American railroading, trains and train travel in cities all across the country, the event offers a variety of special activities at Railtown 1897 SHP that remains as the only intact steam-era roundhouse and shop facility in California, and one of just two in the U.S.

Celebrate National Train Day with a visit to historic Railtown 1897

Celebrate National Train Day with a visit to historic Railtown 1897

On National Train Day, visitors to Railtown 1897 SHP will enjoy steam-powered excursion train rides behind the “Movie Star Locomotive” Sierra No. 3 and aboard the famous Caboose No. 7.  To the delight of visitors, behind-the-scenes tours of the historic Roundhouse and Shops will also be available. A number of historic locomotives, equipment and vehicles will also be on special display, historic track “speeder” car rides will offered from noon to 3 p.m. and Amtrak goodie bags will be available while supplies last. Also, the historic the blacksmith forge will be open and operating — which was once used to produce hardware and some parts for locomotives and cars.

Railtown 1897 also invites park visitiors to a special kick-off reception for the second annual “In Train View” photo exhibition with works by the Sonora Photo Club. Visitors can join the photographers for an opening reception at 11 a.m.Once debuted, the exhibit will then be on display at Railtown 1897 SHP through Labor Day weekend. The rail-related photographs will also be offered for sale, with proceeds to benefit the Park. The photo exhibit is presented by the Sonora Photo Club, founded in 2005 in the California Gold Country town of Sonora, to promote the art of photography.

Photo by Dave Henry

Photo by Dave Henry

Except for steam-powered excursion train rides, all National Train Day activities are free to the public with paid Park admission.  Railtown 1897 SHP admission costs are as follows:  $5 for adults, $3 for youths ages 6-17 and free for children five and under.  All train ride tickets are available for advance purchase online as well as at the ticket window beginning at 10 a.m. the day of the train ride (based on availability). Capacity is limited for tickets for the steam-powered excursion train rides so visitors are encouraged to arrive early. Excursion train rides are available hourly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and tickets aboard “Movie Train Consist” (enclosed suburban car and caboose)” are $15 for adults, $8 for youths ages 6-17 and kids five and under are free.   Train ride tickets are available online at www.railtown1897.org and more information about Railtown 1897 SHP is by calling 209-984-3953.  More information about National Train Day is available by visiting www.nationaldaytrain.com.