The view from our restored rail cars remains largely unchanged since the late 1800s. Regardless of your departure point, you'll see nature, virtually un-tamed, getting a sense of Northern California's natural beauty, even before humans arrived to develop the land.
Departing from Fort Bragg, the first few miles run alongside the Pudding Creek estuary, where common wildlife sightings include blue heron, egrets, osprey, ducks, and the occasional lounging turtle. After passing through Tunnel No. 1, the Skunk Train snakes its way along the Noyo River, zig-zagging through the redwood-thick Noyo River Canyon.
Departing from Willits and traveling to Northspur, your train will climb the Eastern slope of the California Coast Range, cutting through it at Tunnel No. 2 (Summit) before descending into the Noyo River Canyon. This is the mountainous part of our railroad line, in which 8.5 miles of track cover a straight-line distance of less than one mile.
Come see the Skunk in its natural habitat.
Built as a logging railroad in 1885 by Charles R. Johnson, the “Redwood Route™” was a logical vehicle for moving massive redwood logs to Mendocino coast sawmills from the rugged backcountry. The train played a vital role during this t ime in transporting families and workers who set up the various logging camps along the route and in doing so, became an entirely different type of line. It played an important part not only in the area's industrial life, but also in its social and cultural activities. No other logging railroad in America has made the deep impression on American life that was created by the line from Fort Bragg – first by the natural beauty of its route and later, by the distinctiveness of its equipment. Skunk Train's Motorcar M80 in the 1950s
“Smells like a skunk!”
The nickname “Skunk” originated in 1925, when motorcars were introduced (today sometimes referred to as railbuses or railcruisers). These single unit, self-propelled motorcars had gasoline-powered engines for power and pot-bellied stoves burning crude oil to keep the passengers warm. The combination of the fumes created a very pungent odor, and the old timers living along the line said these motorcars were like skunks, “You could smell them before you could see them.”
California Western Railroad was initially operated as a division of the Fort Bragg mill (Union Lumber Company, Boise-Cascade). In the mid-1960s, Arizona-based Kyle Railways began managing the railroad and purchased it in 1987. In August 1996, a group comprised entirely of local Mendocino Coast investors purchased California Western, marking the first time in its 111-year history that the line would be operated as an independent business. Today the Skunk Train is owned and operated by Mendocino Railway.