While miniature railroads like Sonoma TrainTown are fun, eventually you have to move up to the real deal. Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in the Gold Country town of Jamestown offers families the chance to see what a real working railroad looks like and, better yet, to experience a ride on a historic, century-old steam train. Railtown 1897 was one of the many parks slated for closure back in July, but due to the efforts of passionate supporters, it remains open for all of us to enjoy.
A three-hour drive from the Bay Area, Railtown 1897 is a fantastic destination for a family weekend getaway, especially when combined with some of the other Gold Country attractions in the area, like Columbia State Historic Park. If you're thinking of getting in one last road trip before summer vacation end, this could be the place to go.
As the name implies, Railtown 1897 has been around since the end of the 19th century, when it was known as the Sierra Railway, a short line railroad that traveled between Jamestown and nearby Sonora, Angels Camp, and Oakdale. The railroad's chief claim to fame, and one of the reasons that it's still around today, is its role in countless Hollywood movies, including High Noon, Unforgiven, and Back to the Future III and TV shows like Wild Wild West and Petticoat Junction. Pretty much any western movie that you care to name that features a train was shot here.