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Sierra DinnerTrain

UPCOMING EVENTS

The Sierra Railroad Dinner Train, located in Oakdale, California, is a unique attraction for the entire greater Modesto area. A proud filming location for a wide variety of feature movies, from Oscar-winning High Noon to the pop culture phenomenon Back to the Future franchise, locals and travellers alike will make great memories here.

The Sierra Railroad Company was launched in the late 1800s to connect the Gold Country with the world. The Sierra is third oldest railroad in North America and besides carrying freight and passengers, Sierra became famous as “The Movie Railroad” for making over 300 movies, commercials and television shows. In the 1970s the railroad launched an industry when it operated the nation’s first dinner train. In 1995 the railroad was rejuvenated by new ownership and experienced a remarkable decade of growth and expansion. The Sierra now shares its rich history with visitors on the Sierra Railroad Dinner Train.

 

Thomas S. Bullock felt a railroad to the Sierra Nevada foothills was sorely needed and financially feasible. The railroad would handle passengers, supplies, ore, lumber, and cattle. Bullock’s vision was shared by Prince Andre Poniatowski, a French-born descendant of the King of Poland. Poniatowski then convinced banker William H. Crocker to provide the financial backing for the project. On February 1, 1897, the three formally incorporated the Sierra Railway Company of California.

 

The railroad was started in Oakdale and track was built eastward to the foothills. Much of the equipment and rail were from Bullock's defunct railroad in Arizona that became unprofitable after Santa Fe built a track parallel to it. On November 8, 1897, the Sierra’s first passenger train arrived in Jamestown where a depot and roundhouse were built. 

 

The Sierra had numerous branches off the mainline, including one that went deep into Yosemite National Park. Sierra has continuously moved move goods between the valley and the foothills, with today’s primary cargo being lumber. Fortunately for the Sierra, just as freight and passenger service began to decline, it was discovered by Hollywood.

 

With the growth of the motion picture industry, a new era began for the Sierra Railroad. With its superb scenery, the railroad was singled out by movie producers from around the world as a preferred location for filming. Featured in over 300 motion pictures, television programs and commercials, the world famous railroad is known as The Movie Railroad. Click here for movies. 

 

In the 1970s, the Sierra Railroad launched the first dinner train in North America. Playfully mimicking the famous Super Chief, the Sierra Railroad launched the Supper Chief. Never before had a railroad offered guests such an opportunity to experience the charm and nostalgia of railroads as regular attraction. While the Supper Chief was discontinued when the railroad was sold by the Crocker Family in 1982, the train helped launch an industry that now has 88 dinner trains operating throughout North America.

 

When the Crocker Family sold the railroad, they gave the Jamestown facility to the State of California to establish Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. Today, the Park operates one of America’s last authentic roundhouses and offers visitors short excursion trips on Sierra’s older locomotives.

 

By the 1990s, the Sierra Railroad was struggling to continue. In 1995, the railroad had its third owner when it was purchased by a group led by Mike Hart. During the next five years, Hart significantly restored the poorly maintained track, brought in new equipment, improved shipping and saved the railroad.

 

In 1999, Mike Hart’s brother Chris Hart joined Sierra with the goal of bringing tourism back to the railroad. On December 24, 1999 the Sierra Railroad Dinner Train was launched to offer guests the opportunity see unspoiled countryside, enjoy excellent food and service, and share some of the rich history of the Sierra Railroad.

 

This decade has been very busy for the Sierra Railroad. In 2003, Mike Hart agreed to merge the Sierra with the Yolo Shortline Railroad that was owned by Dave Magaw. The merged company kept the Sierra Railroad Company name, but the newly expanded freight division was named Sierra Northern Railway. In 2004 the Sierra purchased and reopened the famous Skunk Train that had closed after losing its freight business. In 2005 the Sierra added a third tourist train when it started the Sacramento RiverTrain.

Sierra Dinner Train boarding — Oakdale

330 S Sierra Ave, Oakdale, CA 95361


General FAQ

Why the name “Skunk Train”?

The nickname “Skunk” originated in 1925 when motorcars were introduced (today sometimes referred to as railbuses or railcruisers). These single-unit, self-propelled motorcars had gasoline-powered engines for power and a pot-bellied stove burning crude oil to keep the passengers warm. The combination of the fumes created a very pungent odor, and the old timers living along the line said these motorcars were like skunks, “You could smell them before you could see them.”

The railroad's historic name is California Western Railroad.

 


 

Do we need a reservation?

While you can travel certain times of the year without having booked in advance, we always encourage a reservation.

 


 

Do you accept credit cards?

Yes, we take Visa, MasterCard, and Discover. For purchases made on the train or at Northspur, we accept cash only.

 


 

Are pets allowed on the train?

Dogs are the only pets permitted on board. We do ask that you be considerate of your canine though – they simply may not like trains. Please bring whatever they need to be comfortable (food, water, dishes, a leash, etc.). Starting in 2013, there will be a charge for canine passengers.

 


 

Is the train handicap accessible?

Yes – but there are limitations, given that our railcars were built in the very early 1900s. We strive to make every guest feel comfortable and will do our very best to accommodate your visit.

 


 

Can we bring food on the train?

Only if you have dietary restrictions or are traveling with a child. Concessions are available on the train.

 


 

Can we bring alcohol on the train?

Absolutely not. We have a wonderful selection of wine from beautiful Mendocino County – which by the way is America’s Greenest Wine Growing Region – and local beers, including our very own Skunk Beer (bottled for us by Anderson Valley Brewing Company), plus a full bar on board the train.

 


 

Do your trains leave on time?

Without question we try to maintain our schedule. If you miss a train we will issue you a gift certificate for a future ride or book you on the next available departure. We will not, however, issue a refund because you’ve missed the scheduled departure.

 


 

How should we dress?

Comfortable and casual layered clothing is suggested to keep warm in the chilly months. If you plan on riding the Open Air Observation Car then we suggest dark clothing, because sometimes lighter clothing can get soot spots on it.


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Boarding Locations

Fort Bragg Boarding

Fort Bragg is located on the rugged Northern California Pacific coast.

 

100 W Laurel St

Fort Bragg, CA  95437

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Frequently Asked Questions

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General FAQ

Why the name “Skunk Train”?

The nickname “Skunk” originated in 1925 when motorcars were introduced (today sometimes referred to as railbuses or railcruisers). These single-unit, self-propelled motorcars had gasoline-powered engines for power and a pot-bellied stove burning crude oil to keep the passengers warm. The combination of the fumes created a very pungent odor, and the old timers living along the line said these motorcars were like skunks, “You could smell them before you could see them.”

The railroad's historic name is California Western Railroad.

 


 

Do we need a reservation?

While you can travel certain times of the year without having booked in advance, we always encourage a reservation.

 


 

Do you accept credit cards?

Yes, we take Visa, MasterCard, and Discover. For purchases made on the train or at Northspur, we accept cash only.

 


 

Are pets allowed on the train?

Dogs are the only pets permitted on board. We do ask that you be considerate of your canine though – they simply may not like trains. Please bring whatever they need to be comfortable (food, water, dishes, a leash, etc.). Starting in 2013, there will be a charge for canine passengers.

 


 

Is the train handicap accessible?

Yes – but there are limitations, given that our railcars were built in the very early 1900s. We strive to make every guest feel comfortable and will do our very best to accommodate your visit.

 


 

Can we bring food on the train?

Only if you have dietary restrictions or are traveling with a child. Concessions are available on the train.

 


 

Can we bring alcohol on the train?

Absolutely not. We have a wonderful selection of wine from beautiful Mendocino County – which by the way is America’s Greenest Wine Growing Region – and local beers, including our very own Skunk Beer (bottled for us by Anderson Valley Brewing Company), plus a full bar on board the train.

 


 

Do your trains leave on time?

Without question we try to maintain our schedule. If you miss a train we will issue you a gift certificate for a future ride or book you on the next available departure. We will not, however, issue a refund because you’ve missed the scheduled departure.

 


 

How should we dress?

Comfortable and casual layered clothing is suggested to keep warm in the chilly months. If you plan on riding the Open Air Observation Car then we suggest dark clothing, because sometimes lighter clothing can get soot spots on it.

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