California Trip 2006

Day 5

Saturday, September 30, 2006

52 degrees and more shore clouds. Ron's sure they will burn off as soon as we leave. He keeps swearing that this time of year is beautiful and that they only have the shore clouds during the summer months. We don't believe it!

We had a 10:00am boarding call this morning for the Skunk Train out of Fort Bragg to Northspur about 19 miles or one hour and forty five minutes away. The Skunk Train is the name of the whole operation but what we traveled on today is a 1924, steam powered, oil fired, Baldwin Locomotive. It tows four early 20's Pullman passenger cars, one open car and one food service car which is also a Pullman.

Steam Train
Steam Train at the Station

The tour is considered the most popular attraction on California's North Coast and is one of the top ten best scenic train trips in North America. It starts out along Pudding Creek which was originally called Put-In Creek by the Northlanders who worked in the timber industry. It was the place where they "Put In" the logs to be floated to the sea or mills.

Train Route from Fort Bragg to Northspur
Train Route from Fort Bragg to Northspur

The train soon starts following the Noyo River winding its way through coastal mountains and towering redwoods. It was interesting that the whole area has been clear cut twice and burned. The last cutting was seventy years ago and the trees are already huge. The redwood tree is the fasting growing tree in the world.

About nine miles out they encountered a little problem and had to stop the train.

Marilyn and I
Marilyn and I waiting for the tanker to bring water

They said that due to a mechanical problem the water for the steam went down too fast and they were going to run out before we got to Northspur. We believe that someone screwed up and forgot to fully fill it before they left. You have to realize that this area is sparsely populated with very few roads. They had to have a tanker truck deliver the water from Fort Bragg and it took about an hour for the truck to arrive. Once the truck was there it took another forty five minutes to empty it into the tank.

Tanker filling the train
Tanker filling the train

Filling the Tank
It's a small hose!

It made for an interesting adventure but it really stretched out the trip. There were some people living in the area where we stopped and they had some interesting stuff in their yards but once you saw that there wasn't much else to do.

Collection of Stuff
People's collection of "Stuff"

We did go look at the speeder that follows along behind the train looking for fires that might start from sparks. It looks like it would be a lot of fun to drive one of these little speederss.

Scooter front   Scooter back
The speeder follows the train to watch for possible fires from sparks

After the tanks were filled we continued our journey to Northspur. This is an area where they can turn the engine around and re-hook it to the other end of the train for the trip back. They also have a water tank where the engine took on 2,000 gallons of fresh water.

Taking on Water
Taking on Water for the trip home

The conductor said that the engine could hold 4,000 gallons.

While the engine reconnects we were entertained by "The World's Greatest Train Singer".

The World's Greatest Train Singer   Train Singer
The World's Greatest Train Singer, Greg Schindel

He plays guitar, harmonica and sings train songs. He boarded with us and serenaded us all the way back. The trip back to Fort Bragg was less eventful and an enjoyable ride. Greg has a CD and you can read all about him at

We needed to be back for a dinner party that Lolli had planned for us to meet Ed and Susan, good friends of theirs. Due to the water delay we barely made it in time. Not only did we have the dinner party but we also had tickets to the local production of "Funny Girl".

Funny Girl
Funny Girl staring Sandy Glickfeld

After dinner we rushed out the door and headed for the Eagles Hall Theater. It's the old Eagles hall in Fort Bragg that they've converted into a nice theater for live plays.

The production of Funny Girl was very well done with great costumes, lighting, sound and a five piece orchestra. The acting was superb and complimented by seven local high school students. Sandy Glickfeld, "Fanny Brice", was wonderful and really has a nice voice. It really was a first rate production and not something you'd expect from a small community like Fort Bragg.

We ended the night with good-byes to Ron and Lolli and thanked them for a wonderful time. Lolli wanted us to stick around because there was lots more to see and do but we'll have to take a rain check until next time. Who knows we may even see the sun come out the next time we come down here!


Back to the travelogue page.