The Skunk Train
For my birthday surprise my husband took me on the Skunk Train. He wanted to take me to Fort Bragg, CA then take the train up to Willits but unfortunately the tunnels between the two cities have collapsed and they need to be repaired. Instead we took the train out of Willits up to Northspur. It was a half a day trip through the redwoods to the Northspur which was a mining camp. There we were able to purchase lunch, hamburgers, tri tip sandwich hot dogs, that sort of thing. There was also a gift shop. Thankfully bathrooms were provided. It was a good trip.
For me the highlight was the train itself. I adore riding trains. I love the clackety clack rhythm the rails make and the swaying could put me to sleep in a heartbeat. The car was built in 1913. It was pretty original including the chairs . They were made so one could flip them so the seats could face either direction. For those of us who get sick riding backwards that is a plus. The windows were small but still able to open them. That was good as there is no air conditioning on board. A small bar with drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and light snacks were available for purchase. The train takes cash only. Up at north spur they take credit card but you are in the middle of nowhere and the credit machine doesn’t always work, so cash it best.
The skunk train has been in operation since 1885 when it was built by the Fort Bragg Redwood Company as the Fort Bragg Railroad. On July 1, 1905 the railroad was renamed the California Western Railroad & Navigation Company. In 1904 passenger service was added, and on December 11, 1911 the route was completed to its length of 40 miles following the Noyo River, to its connection with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in the town of Willits, California. The name was shortened to California Western Railroad (CWR) in 1947. In 1925, Gas-powered, self-propelled, passenger railcars were added. The motorcars were nicknamed “Skunks” because people said “You can smell ’em before you can see ’em.” In 1965 the line reintroduced summer steam passenger service between Fort Bragg and Willits with Baldwin-built steam locomotive No.45, calling the colorful train “The Super Skunk.” That train was discontinued in 2001, and then revived in September 2006 as a special event train. No.45 continues to power excursion trains from Fort Bragg, California as far as Northspur, California, the CWR’s midpoint.
The engine that pulled us was the diesel no 64. It was built in 1987 and sees regular service. I do not know why the steam engine wasn’t used this trip, but I am ok with it. The cars were historic, the line was historic and the scenery was amazing. I highly recommend the Skunk Train. We will be doing it again once the line tunnels are open between Fort Bragg and Willits.