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Skunk Train

UPCOMING EVENTS

Located in Northern California’s Mendocino County there is a skunk running through the redwood forest, but this isn’t any skunk, it’s the world famous Skunk Train. The California redwoods, pristine coastline, and award winning vineyards are all a part of the landscape of what makes Mendocino County such an amazing place and home to this 131-year-old train.

 

Regardless of your departure point it’s the occasional whistles as your train chugs through tunnels, over bridges and past open meadows, the train follows the coastal "Redwood Route" as it has since 1885. It is the towering trees, a glimpse of a deer drinking from the Noyo River, an isolated fisherman's cabin peeking from the forest, and the notion that you have left the rest of the world behind that draw people to the Skunk Train.

 


The Noyo River Canyon

Departing from Fort Bragg, the first few miles run alongside the Pudding Creek estuary, where common wildlife sightings include blue heron, egrets, osprey, ducks, and the occasional lounging turtle. After passing through Tunnel No. 1, the Skunk Train snakes its way along the Noyo River, zig-zagging through the redwood-thick Noyo River Canyon.

 


Coastal Range and Redwoods

Departing from Willits and traveling to Northspur, your train will climb the Eastern slope of the California Coast Range, cutting through it at Tunnel No. 2 (Summit) before descending into the Noyo River Canyon. This is the mountainous part of our railroad line, in which 8.5 miles of track cover a straight-line distance of less than one mile.

 


 

Come see the Skunk in its natural habitat. 

Our beginning

Built as a logging railroad in 1885 by Charles R. Johnson, the “Redwood Route™” was a logical vehicle for moving massive redwood logs to Mendocino coast sawmills from the rugged backcountry. The train played a vital role during this t ime in transporting families and workers who set up the various logging camps along the route and in doing so, became an entirely different type of line. It played an important part not only in the area's industrial life, but also in its social and cultural activities. No other logging railroad in America has made the deep impression on American life that was created by the line from Fort Bragg – first by the natural beauty of its route and later, by the distinctiveness of its equipment. Skunk Train's Motorcar M80 in the 1950s

 


 

“Smells like a skunk!”

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 pot-bellied stoves 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 caretakers

California Western Railroad was initially operated as a division of the Fort Bragg mill (Union Lumber Company, Boise-Cascade). In the mid-1960s, Arizona-based Kyle Railways began managing the railroad and purchased it in 1987. In August 1996, a group comprised entirely of local Mendocino Coast investors purchased California Western, marking the first time in its 111-year history that the line would be operated as an independent business. Today the Skunk Train is owned and operated by Mendocino Railway.

Fort Bragg Depot

Foot of Laurel Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

 


Willits Depot

299 East Commercial, Willits, CA 95488

Dear Members of the Media,

 

 

Welcome to the Skunk Train and to beautiful Mendocino County! This marks my 24th season of railroading, and my staff and I are grateful to host your visit. During your visit, if there is anything we can do for you, we’d be happy to assist.

 

As a member of media we ask that you familiarize yourselves with our Media Protocol so that we can be ready to assist you. Please also take a moment and review our Media Information as this provides a great synopsis of the Skunk Train operation.

 

Since 1885 we have been traversing the Redwood Route™ in some form or another. 2016 marks our 131st year of service.

 

My staff and I invite you to take a seat; it is time to make new memories as you travel through the majestic redwoods forests and most beautiful scenery along the Pacific Coast.

 

Welcome Aboard,

 

Robert Jason Pinoli — "The Chief Skunk"

 

 

pdf iconClick here for our Media Info PDF

 

 

Media Protocol

We at the Skunk Train welcome and appreciate members of the media traveling to beautiful Mendocino County to share the rich railroading history experience firsthand with their readers/viewers/audience. To help keep yourself and guests of the Skunk Train safe and preserve the experience, we ask that you follow this guide.

 

One Week Notice

In the peak season, the Skunk Train transports a lot of guests per day from both Fort Bragg and Willits aboard its historic trains. As such, the Skunk Train asks the media give a minimum one week notice when planning visits and either live or taped segments. Providing this notice will not only help the Skunk Train provide uninterrupted service to its guests, it will give Skunk Train staff the opportunity to respond to any special requests associated with the story/segment.

 

On-Site Media Contact

Skunk Train does not require that media be escorted by a member of the Skunk Train staff. After all, we do want you experience the trip as our guests do. If you so desire, we will arrange for an escort. In the event of filming, the on-site contact will be present at all times. If you have not received an on-site contact within 72 hours of a planned visit, contact Robert Jason Pinoli at the Skunk Train by email at rjp@mcn.org.

 

Interviews

Skunk Train is glad to assist in coordinating interviews for members of the media.

Submit all interview requests to Robert Jason Pinoli at the Skunk Train by email at rjp@mcn.org.

 

Parking Vehicles On-Site

Skunk Train has ample parking for media satellite trucks and SUVs, at both Fort Bragg and Willits Depots.

 

Filming En Route

Skunk Train does have access to locations where crews can film the historic train en route. The Skunk Train asks that any requests to film en route be made at the time a filming or segment is confirmed, as special arrangements must be made.

 

Filming on the Train

Skunk Train does allow crews to film on the train while en route; however, the Skunk Train needs to make special arrangements to preserve its guest experience. As such, please provide at least one week’s notice so that the Skunk Train can accommodate requests.

Please keep in mind that the larger the production, the more lead-time is required to make appropriate arrangements. Note that special requests, such as our ability to secure hotel rooms, special food and beverage and Skunk Train tickets, are subject to availability. The more notice given, the better equipped the Skunk Train is to make sure every request is met.

 

If you should have any additional questions, please contact Robert Jason Pinoli by email at rjp@mcn.org.

 

Information about the Skunk Train for the Media

Welcome to the world of Mendocino County, home of the famous Skunk Train. The California redwoods and pristine coastline provide an awe-inspiring backdrop for this piece of American history.

 

About the Journey

Regardless of your departure point, with occasional whistles as your train chugs through tunnels, over bridges, and past open meadows, the train follows the coastal "Redwood Route" as it has since 1885. It is the towering trees, a glimpse of a deer drinking from the Noyo River, an isolated fisherman's cabin peeking from the forest, and the notion that you have left the rest of the world behind that draw people to the Skunk Train.

 

Departing from Fort Bragg the first few miles are along the Pudding Creek estuary, where common wildlife sightings include blue heron, egrets, osprey, ducks, and the occasional lounging turtle. After passing through a dark, 1,122-foot tunnel, the Skunk Train snakes its way along Noyo River and zigzags through the redwood-thick Noyo River Canyon.

 

Departing from Willits and traveling to Northspur, your train will climb the eastern slope of the Coast Range of mountains and cut through it at Tunnel #2 (the Summit) before descending down into the redwood-thick Noyo River Canyon. This is the mountainous part of our railroad; 8.5 miles of track were laid to cover a straight line distance of less than one mile.

 

Location

Fort Bragg is located on the breathtaking Mendocino Coast.

Willits is conveniently situated on Highway 101, gateway to the redwoods and Mendocino County’s award-winning wine region.

 

The Willits Depot is located 2.5 hours west of Sacramento International Airport, 2.5 hours north of San Francisco and Oakland International Airports, and 1.25 hours north of the Sonoma County Airport, which offers non-stop service via Alaska Airlines from Seattle, Portland, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

 

History

Built as a logging railroad in 1885 by Charles R. Johnson, the Skunk line was a logical vehicle for moving massive redwood logs to the Mendocino Coast sawmills from the rugged back country. The train played a vital role in transporting families and workers who set up the various logging camps along the route.

Read more about our History.

 

“Smells Like a Skunk!”

The nickname "Skunk" originated in 1925 when motorcars where introduced (which today are 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 where like skunks, “You could smell them before you could see them.”

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?

All of our trains have a concession on board where you can purchase snacks and beverages. All morning departures (Christmas Trains excluded) make a stop at Northspur where you can purchase lunch, so we do discourage your bringing food on the train. The food is prepared and served by a concessionaire to the railroad. In the event someone in your party has dietary restrictions then by all means bring whatever is necessary. Of course, parents traveling with babies and children requiring special food and beverage items are also allowed.


If you are riding a BBQ Dinner train, dinner is served to you upon arrival at Northspur.

 


 

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 Information

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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Skunk Train 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?

All of our trains have a concession on board where you can purchase snacks and beverages. All morning departures (Christmas Trains excluded) make a stop at Northspur where you can purchase lunch, so we do discourage your bringing food on the train. The food is prepared and served by a concessionaire to the railroad. In the event someone in your party has dietary restrictions then by all means bring whatever is necessary. Of course, parents traveling with babies and children requiring special food and beverage items are also allowed.


If you are riding a BBQ Dinner train, dinner is served to you upon arrival at Northspur.

 


 

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.

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. Passengers going to Northspur can also purchase a meal there.

If you’re riding a BBQ Dinner train, dinner is served at Northspur.

 


 

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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