Railtown 1897

Jacksonville is a small town in California that is known for its trains. During the Gold Rush, it was a waypoint for prospectors. The workshops for a new railway were built in Jacksonville. It was a shortline railway that went from Oakdale to Tuolumne. The trains were useful to the prospectors because they helped move supplies. The trains that were introduced in the 1800 – 1900s are still in use today. Some of the track was removed during WWII but other than that there have only been minor changes, and the original workshops still stand. From the early 1950s to the late 1960s, the area was a major film scene for westerns, because there are few telephone wires, a great diversity of landscape and many old, operational steam trains. In the 1970s it became a state park called Railtown 1897. Most of the park is about the trains but they also have a collection of carriages that are about as old as the trains. There were many types of trains and some of them used pistons like a car to move. We went on a tour to the roundhouse and saw all the trains that they had and my favorite was the dismantled train. It was dismantled because regularly they have to check the thickness of the metal so that the steam and/or water don’t make the train explode – literally, it does that sometimes. Walt, our guide, was knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. I learned a lot of stuff about trains in general and was amazed at how big the tools are. The trains were very greasy and I got my hands quite dirty but it was worth it.

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