Hit the rails for summertime fun
This Fairmont A6 Speeder, built for maintenance of railroads decades ago, now serves as an open-air motor car for the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad. It takes passengers on adventures south of Highway 50. Photo by Susan Laird
Summer is officially here and there’s lots to do in the tri-county area. California’s beautiful golden hills beckon with their inspirational views.
One of the unique ways to take in the natural beauty of our region is to take a ride on the local Skagit Train.
Wait. Train? Local? How is that?
Yes. It’s true. There is a little, open air train that runs most weekends from the fringe of Folsom south to Latrobe.
Lovingly restored and operated by the volunteers of the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad, this is a little engine that DOES. This Weyerhaeuser Skagit motorcar was built in 1936. It hauled lumber crews and equipment in Vail, Wash. for decades. A full restoration in 1999 extended its life and today it is one of the main passenger motorcars on the P&SVRR line.
In addition to the Skagit, the P&SVRR also has two Fairmont Speeder rail motor cars.
Every Saturday and Sunday this summer there is something in the works at Hampton Station. That’s the name of the train stop just behind the Hampton Inn at Folsom, right next to In-N-Out Burger. Follow the signs and look for a pop-up tent — you’ve found the place.
Anyway, back to my point: Every Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. on, it is possible to ride century-old railroad tracks. (You will learn that this route was one of Southern Pacific’s most profitable, right up until its closure in the 1990s).
This is a great way to experience El Dorado County as our pioneers knew it. Dress comfortably and expect a few (safe) bumps. These rails ARE old!
Docents on the train will share local pioneer landmarks and point out local wildlife. Cattle and horses from local ranches will turn to look at you. Humans are unusual south of 50, and they rarely show up so far away from asphalt roads.
There are several rail adventures to choose from:
The County Line Limited takes you from Hampton Station through South Sacramento County to the El Dorado County Line. Starting at 10 a.m., it runs until 3 p.m. on the hour. The ride is roughly 45 minutes and is a bargain at $10 for adults and $5 for kids (12 and younger).
The White Rock Express runs from Hampton Station to White Rock Road. Check out the quartz rocks on the hillside that gave this road its name. White Rock Road was the original freight road from Sacramento to Placerville. This ride is shorter and runs on the half hour. It is $5 for all ages.
My favorite excursion is the Latrobe Breakfast Special. This is a three-hour trip into the heart of California and includes a down-home pancake breakfast at the Latrobe Grange. My family and I enjoyed seeing rare wildlife, family farms and just experiencing the great outdoors.
This excursion is a bit of an adventure. Wear comfortable clothing and good walking shoes, as you will have to walk from the train in Latrobe to the Grange Hall. There, volunteers serve breakfast. It’s cozy and old-fashioned, paper plates and all.
The next Breakfast Special run will be this Sunday, June 29, at 7:30 a.m. It’s a bargain at $25 for adults and $15 for kids. Check online for July and August dates.
Purchase tickets online. That assures you of a seat on the little train. Visit psvrr.org and click on “Ride the Rails>Purchase Your Tickets.” Drop-ins are welcome, but be aware that seating may be limited.
Whether your interest is in California history, local fauna or simply a chance to do something different, a ride on the P&SVRR rails won’t disappoint. It’s one of the great, unique things that make living here a joy.
Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to [email protected]