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California Cultural and Historic Endowment supports famous Sierra Train restoration

The Sierra Railway steam locomotive No. 3 went into business in 1897 when it pulled its first passenger train through California’s Gold Country.  Sierra No.3 really hit its stride though when Hollywood moviemakers, after first using it in 1919’s Red Glove, made it the star of 200 movies and television programs in the 20th century.   

Sierra No. 3 at Railtown 1897 in recent years.
(Photo courtesy -- California State Railroad Museum)

Sierra No. 3 has been in High Noon, The Great Race, Bound for Glory, Back to the Future III and Unforgiven.  It has also appeared on television, in Lone Ranger, Tales of Wells Fargo, Petticoat Junction, Rawhide, Death Valley Days, Lassie, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Wild, Wild West, Little House on the Prairie and in various commercials. 

Today, Sierra No. 3, one of the most recognizable steam locomotives in the world, needs critical restoration work.  It lies dismantled in Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in historic Jamestown, California’s only preserved steam-era shortline railroad roundhouse complex.  

Sierra No. 3 in scene from Petticoat Junction TV series (1960).
(Photo courtesy -- California State Railroad Museum)

A grant from the California Cultural and Historic Endowment (CCHE) will help fund the restoration Sierra No. 3 so critically needs.  

In its Round Two grant distribution, the CCHE allowed $300,000 to the California State Railroad Museum Foundation (CSRMF), to help restore Sierra No. 3 to its 1929 appearance; to bring the locomotive into compliance with new Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) operating standards; to display and interpret it at Railtown 1897 SHP; and to steam it up for Hollywood events, excursion rides, and new filming engagements. 

The restored Sierra No. 3 will enhance heritage tourism and historic preservation in Tuolumne County.   Sierra No. 3 will draw to rural California children, teachers, adult learners, and tourists who want to see this “movie star.” While in Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, visitors will discover the rich cultural legacy of California’s railroads.  

Construction of Sierra Railway trackage circa 1904 as Sierra No.3 poses proudly with a steam shovel and members of the crew.
(Photo courtesy -- California State Railroad Museum)

For more information about Railtown 1897 State Historic Park please visit

About the California Cultural and Historical Endowment

In 2002, the California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE) was created to support the “acquisition, development, preservation, and interpretation of buildings, structures, sites, places, and artifacts that preserve and demonstrate culturally significant aspects of California's history and for grants for these purposes.” The CCHE Endowment is responsible for distributing $122 million in Proposition 40 funds.  Seventy-eight million has been allocated and the remaining $43 million will be allocated in 2007.

For more information about the California Cultural and Historical Endowment, please contact Executive Officer Diane Matsuda at (916) 651-8768 or email at






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