The California Western Railroad received its official name on December 19, 1947 when the CWR&NC's title was shortened. Interestingly, even by that date the system already held its nickname as "The Skunk Train." Passenger service was never a particularly brisk business with few towns of notable size located along its system. As a result, small trains, sometimes mixed with freight, usually did the job. Beginning in the 1920s the railroad began operating small, gasoline-powered railcars. They were more than capable of hanlding the light business generated on the route. However, with their gasoline engines and small, pot-bellied stoves which burned crude oil to keep passengers warm the resulting stench given off outside had less than pleasant odor.
The Skunk Train/California Western Railroad Locomotive Roster
California Western 2-8-2 #45 (Operational. Originally built as Owen-Oregon Lumber Company #3, a 1924 product of the Baldwin Locomotive Works.)
California Western 2-6-6-2 #46 (Restored planned. Originally built as Weyerhaeuser Timber Company 2-6-6-2T #110 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in June of 1937. The Mallet was rebuilt as a 2-6-6-2 between 1968 - 1970 for operation on the Skunk Train until 1981.)
California Western GP9m #64 (Operational. Originally built by Elecro-Motive as Texas & North Orleans [Southern Pacific] GP9 #244 in 1954.)
California Western GP9m #65 (Operational. Originally built by Elecro-Motive as Texas & North Orleans [Southern Pacific] GP9 #245 in 1954.)
California Western GP9m #66 (Operational. Originally built by Elecro-Motive as Chesapeake & Ohio GP9 #6145 in 1956.)
California Western Motorcar #M-100 (Operational. Originally built by the Edwards Rail Car Company in 1925 for the Moorhead & North Forks Railroad.)
California Western Motorcar #M-300 (Operational. Originally built by American Car & Foundry as Seaboard Air Line #2026 in 1935.)
Folks living along the line often said that, "You could smell them before you could see them," and thus, the name "Skunk Train" was born. Over the years the California Western came under different ownership until it was eventually acquired by the large Georgia-Pacific conglomerate. Since the mid-1960s it was managed, albeit not owned, by the Kyle Railways based in Arizona. Some two decades later Kyle purchased the railroad outright in June of 1987. Nearly ten years later it was again sold when a group of Mendocino Coast businessmen and today the Skunk Train remains a division of the Mendocino Coast Railway.
Since the Northwestern Pacific's main line northward through Willits remains out of service the railroad currently does not have a connection to the outside world. However, there is hope the route will be returned to service by 2020. In the meantime folks can enjoy riding the Skunk Train's 40 mile line, both steam and diesel powered, passing through small communities along the way such as Pudding Creek, South Fork, Northspur, Burbeck, and others. There are two notable tunnels on the line including the 1,122-foot Tunnel #1 located a few miles past Fort Bragg and Glen Blair Junction. In addition, another short bore, Tunnel #2 located near Willits that is 795 feet in length.
Thanks to the region's relatively mild climate, situated not far from the coast, the Skunk Train hosts public excursions throughout the year although they do run a reduced schedule during the cooler months in January and February. In addition to regular excursions they offer special trips, particularly during the holidays such as the Easter Egg Express, Christmas Train, Mother's Day Brunch, and the Halloween Express. If a connection is reestablished the California Western also hopes to restart freight service if enough business can be garnered. For more information regarding scheduling, pricing, and riding their trains please visit the Skunk Train website.
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The "Skunk Train"