Railtown 1897 State Historic Park


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"Movie Star" Locomotive Sierra No. 3 Receives a Facelift

The Restoration of Sierra No. 3 came to its completion in July 2010. The "Movie Star" locomotive is up and running and ready for her close-up thanks to donors and members of the community.

Sierra No. 3 is not just an old iron horse brought back to put on display. This legendary steam locomotive is fully operational and up-to-date with current federal standards. The engine can now reclaim its role as the “star” of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.

Originally built in 1891, Sierra No. 3 is arguably one of the most widely seen steam locomotives in the world. Since 1919, when Sierra No. 3 was discovered by Hollywood, it has shared the movie screen with movie legends such as Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Paul Newman, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Jack Lemmon, Clint Eastwood and Michael J. Fox. On the small screen, Sierra No. 3 has starred in scores of classic television shows such as Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, and Petticoat Junction.

For more information on how you can help keep Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and the legendary collection running and open to the public, please call the California State Railroad Musuem Foundation at (916) 445-5998.

HISTORY OF RAILTOWN 1897 AND SIERRA NO. 3

Since the year 1897, Railtown and Sierra No. 3 have been central to community life in Jamestown. Railtown 1897 is one of only two preserved steam-era shortline railroad roundhouse complexes in the United States; once there were hundreds. Sierra No. 3 reportedly pulled the first passenger train to reach Tuolumne County, arriving at Cooperstown in June 1897. It was the most powerful locomotive on the line in the early years and generally pulled the heavy freight trains. Sierra No. 3 is essential to the story of Railtown 1897, where the Sierra Railway established its headquarters and maintenance shops in 1897.

The Historic Sierra Railroad Shops and Roundhouse complex in Jamestown—today preserved as Railtown 1897 SHP—was the operating center of the Sierra Railroad. These historic structures, railroad equipment, and grounds provide an accurate portrayal of the steam railroading era in the region from 1897 through 1955. While railroads generally were the prime means of transportation in California from 1860s to the 1950s, shortline railroads were an essential part of the railroad network—connecting with mainline or “trunk” railroad lines and transporting goods, supplies, and people to and from smaller, more distant communities.

The Sierra Railway connected mining and timber industries in rural Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties with the rest of the state. The Sierra played an important role in the post-Gold Rush mining era and helped build the Don Pedro, Melones, and Hetch Hetchy dams to provide hydroelectric power and water for irrigation. The railroad also played a unique supporting role to California's motion picture industry. Hollywood producers discovered Tuolumne County and Sierra No. 3, filming this steam locomotive at various locations along the Sierra Railroad’s scenic route to satisfy America's love affair with Westerns.

Known today as “The Movie Railroad,” Railtown 1897 has been featured in over 200 movies and TV productions. Operated by California State Parks with assistance from the nonprofit California State Railroad Museum Foundation, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park offers special events and trains throughout the year. For nearby lodgings and attractions info, contact the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau at (800) 446-1333 or online at www.thegreatunfenced.com.