I have always been fascinated by rail travel and just love riding a train any chance I get. That hasn’t been nearly as often as I’d like, though. I’ve taken the train from Los Angeles to New Orleans and the Coast Starlight from San Jose to Seattle. Rail travel is always an adventure and these two trips were no exception. I’ve also done lots of short trips from Santa Ana to Carlsbad or San Diego. Does the train at Disneyland count? I think it does! There’s just something about it that gets my blood flowing. And the nostalgia of a historic steam engine is even more exciting.
Last year, some friends went on a wildflower train ride and just raved about it. I tried to go last year but tickets sold out. The Wildflower Train only runs on two weekends in April, so when tickets went on sale this year, I jumped on them.
The Wildflower Train
So, what is this wildflower train? It is a special event at the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, CA. What sets the wildflower train apart from other train rides at the park is that naturalists and Interpretive Park Rangers from the nearby Bureau of Reclamation’s New Melones Visitor Center are on board to point out and identify the various wildflowers. They had to work hard on this ride searching since not a lot of flowers were blooming.
We’ve had lots of rain and not much sunshine for the past several weeks. In fact, it was pouring the morning before our ride. Miraculously, it stopped raining around 2 pm (our ride was at 3 pm) and the sun came out a little. It made for a spectacular sky with beautiful, big clouds. We were in an open car and some of our seats were wet but we didn’t care. We were just grateful and happy that it wasn’t still raining.
We received a checklist of spring wildflowers common along the route so we could keep track of our sightings. We also got a booklet of wildflowers which has helped me identify some of the wildflowers I photographed on Electra Road. When we were given a packet of California poppy seeds, we were reminded that, as the state flower, it is illegal to pick, cut, mow or otherwise damage them.
Even though there weren’t many wildflowers, the hills and fields were an amazing green, like most of Gold Country right now.
Woods Creek, in the photos below, was one of the richest streams in the Mother Lode. Early miners pried large nuggets from the rocks and one lucky miner found a 75 pound nugget.
You can take excursion train rides every Saturday and Sunday, April through October at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. There are four trains each day at 10:30, 12:00, 1:30 and 3:00. To be guaranteed a seat, buy your tickets in advance online. Tickets are available for pre-purchase online on weekdays only. Tickets must be purchased at the park on weekends on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth, and free for children under 5 and members. Tickets and souvenirs are available in the store.
The round trip ride is about 6 miles and takes 45 minutes to an hour. At the end of the line the train stops and the engine uncouples. It “runs around” the train on a side track and couples up at the other end for the return trip.
Below is our view before and after the engine switches ends. The engine is facing backwards on the way out.
The park has several other special event rides, like the Polar Express train in December. There’s hot chocolate and cookies to enjoy while you ride along with characters from the story. Santa joins the train at the “North Pole” where he gives each passenger a silver bell. This sounds like such a fun ride and even the adults in my group said they want to do it.
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
18115 5th Ave.
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