JSNH&B • Fall 2008 • vol. 1 no. 3

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

In association with the Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office, Beverly Lewis, director

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is located in Jamestown, Tuolumne County. It is here that reality and fantasy merge. The park is a love letter to the railroad and to Hollywood. The park is only 26-acres, but its cultural range is huge. The location is the roundhouse and shops for the Sierra Railway, a functioning line that has been in business since 1897. It still supplies lumber companies and delivers rock, gravel and wood chips. The company was instrumental in providing building materials for the string of dams built along the Stanislaus and Tuolumne Rivers. In 1902, Sierra Railway assisted in the construction of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite. In 1982, the site was purchased by the state for use as an historic park.

Part of Hollywood Magic

However, it is not commerce or park standing that makes the railroad famous. It is movie magic. Beginning in 1919, the Sierra Railway has furnished the equipment and location for hundreds of motion pictures, television productions, and commercials. Among the movie productions are “High Noon,” “The Virginian,” “Bound for Glory,” “Duel in the Sun,” “Dodge City,” “Thomas Edison,” “Go West,” “The Gambler,” “Unforgiven,” and “Back to the Future III.” Television shows such as “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” and “Little House on the Prairie” all used Railtown extensively. The yard’s most famous steam engine, Locomotive No. 3, even became a TV star in its own right as the Hooterville Cannonball on “Petticoat Junction.”

Still a Repair Facility

The park is dominated by the roundhouse and a fully equipped repair facility still used by the railway. One fascinating stop is the side of one building upon which hangs the identification signs used by motion picture companies on their sets—Dodge City, Coffeeville, and other historic locales are represented. Guided tours inside the roundhouse are conducted most days or you can just wander around the outside of the structures and peer in the open doors. A special attraction is the steam train excursions occasionally offered on weekends. The trip is forty minutes and six miles long. The memories last forever.

Bonanza Dodge City title card Gunsmoke
The TV series “Bonanza” utilized Railtown in the 1960s. The movie “Dodge City” (1939) used Railtown The TV series “Gunsmoke” utilized Railtown in the 1960s
Hetch Hetchy engine High Noon Little House on the Prairie
The Sierra Railway’s Hetch Hetchy transport. The movie “High Noon” (1952) used Railtown The TV series “Little House on the Prairie” utilized Railtown in the 1980s
Railtown engine Railtown station Railtown
Railtown 1897 today Railtown 1897 today Railtown 1897 today
The Virginian Groucho Marx Rawhide
The Gary Cooper movie “The Virginian” (1929) was one of the first productions to use Railtown The Marx Brothers’ movie “Go West” (1940) used Railtown The TV series “Rawhide” utilized Railtown in the 1950s
Rawhide TV Guide cover Unforgiven poster
The TV series “Rawhide” utilized Railtown in the 1950s The TV series “Petticoat Junction” extensively utilized Railtown in the 1960s The movie “Unforgiven” (1992) used Railtown
Bound for Glory poster The movie “Bound for Glory” (1976) used Railtown


Movie clips from TV shows & films shot at Railtown:

Choose the format which works best on your computer:

Movie clips from other film shot in the Sierra: