Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Skunk Train of Mendocino County, CA: A Historic Journey Through the Redwoods

The old Engine #45 of Mendocino County's Skunk Train coming back in May 2017

Riders of the celebrated Skunk Train, otherwise known as California Western Railroad, journey into the ancient Redwood forests of Mendocino County, along peaceful streams, and through dark tunnels as they race into the past on vintage steam locomotives. Initially used to move massive redwood logs to the Mendocino Coast sawmills from the rugged back country, the Skunk Train has become one of the most beloved attractions in Northern California. The railroad was built in 1885, and 132 years later, it has retained all of its original charm – minus the pungent smell the engines used to emit in the 1920s, when people used to say you could “smell the Skunk before you could see it.”

The Skunk Train is a multi-generational experience, and riders can even bring along the family dog. All will revel in the adventure as the train takes them deep into primitive woodland, through terrain that is totally inaccessible by any other means – all while leaving no ecological footprint. Riders will chug through tunnels and over bridges and get up close and personal with deer, blue heron, osprey, ducks, turtles – and even the occasional river otter – all without leaving their railcar seat.

“The Skunk Train offers 40 miles of scenic delights, 30 bridges crossing mountain streams and meandering through towering redwoods, and an 840-foot tunnel,” states Robert Jason Pinoli, ‘Chief Skunk’ of the Skunk Train and Vice President of Mendocino Railway. “There’s nothing else like it in California, and visitors can ride the trains year-round.”

Trains depart from the railroad's headquarters in the coastal town of Fort Bragg, as well as from the frontier town of Willits. The Skunk Train offers two Round Trip excursions: Pudding Creek Express out of Fort Bragg, and Northspur Flyer out of Willits. The 4-hour, 40-mile roundtrip train from Willits to Northspur climbs the Eastern slope of the Coastal Mountain Range and cuts through it at Tunnel #2 (the Summit) before descending into the redwood-thick Noyo River Canyon. At Northspur, the midpoint of the railroad, riders can disembark for an opportunity to walk around, purchase lunch, and breathe the pristine mountain air. The one-hour, 7-mile roundtrip train from Fort Bragg to Glen Blair Junction snakes along the Pudding Creek Estuary on this short and scenic jaunt, as riders travel over some of the first tracks laid down by the California Western Railroad in 1885.

Delightful year-round trips include the Sunset Barbecue Excursions and overnight Camping on the Noyo. Seasonal expeditions include the Pumpkin Express in October and the Magical Christmas Train in December, both of which are of which are beloved by adults and children alike.

Riding “The Skunk” is a long-standing family tradition for many Californians, with older generations returning year after year and new generations getting wide-eyed and excited when they hear for the first time the conductor bellow, “All aboard!”

For more information or to book a reservation, visit or call (707) 964-6371.

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