The Skunk Train
Come ride the skunk in its natural habitat. Forty miles of railroad run through majestic redwood forests, scenic mountain meadows, and over 30 trestles bridging the pristine mountain waters of Northern California. Packages are available! Please call us 800-459-9911 and we will custom design one for you!
This 3.5- to 4-hour round trip on our vintage rail cruiser departs Willits and begins the steep ascent (3.5% grade) to the summit of our line at 1,740 feet. Traveling through Tunnel No. 2, the trip descends into the Noyo River Canyon. In one spot, the vintage rail cruiser travels 8.5 miles to cover a straight-line distance of less than one mile in a serpentine of switchbacks.
Regardless of your departure point, the view from their restored rail cars is pretty much unchanged from the late 1800s. 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.
History of the Skunk Train
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.
“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.”
Are pets allowed on the train?
Dogs are the only pets permitted on board. They 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.)
Is the train accessible for the disabled?
Yes – but there are limitations, given that their railcars were built in the very early 1900s. They 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 their 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 they 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.
Can we bring alcohol on the train?
Absolutely not. There is a wonderful selection of wine from beautiful Mendocino County – which by the way is America’s Greenest Wine Growing Region – and local beers, including their very own Skunk Beer (bottled for them by Anderson Valley Brewing Company), plus a full bar on board the train.
Do the trains leave on time?
Without question they try to maintain their schedule. If you miss a train they will issue you a gift certificate for a future ride or book you on the next available departure. They 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.