All aboard… Northern California’s historic train ride through redwood forests is like nothing else. Not only is it an informative and scenic outing that will leave you more familiar with Northern California railroad and logging heritage, it’s a really thrilling ride you and your family won’t forget anytime soon.
The California Western Railroad, better and more affectionately known as the Skunk Train, is a heritage railroad in Mendocino County that runs from the railroad's headquarters in the coastal town of Fort Bragg to the interchange with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad at Willits.
It's the same railroad that was built in 1885.
The name "Skunk Train" was given to this type of train in 1925 when motorcars were introduced.
These single-unit, self-propelled motorcars had gasoline-powered engines for power and a pot-bellied stove 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."
Enjoy the view and the sensation as you travel along the historic route.
The California redwoods, pristine coastline, and award winning vineyards are all a part of the landscape that makes Mendocino County such an amazing place and home to this 131-year-old train.
The Skunk Train and this railroad route was once an important railroad route.
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.
It eventually was used for another purpose, however.
The train played a vital role during this time 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.
You have two options to consider when booking your trip on the Skunk Train.
The first is the Noro River Canyon, which departs from Fort Bragg.
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.
The second is to start in Willits and travel the Coastal Range and Redwoods route to Northspur, where you can get out and walk around.
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.
On either route, you will experience the ride of a lifetime.
Regardless of your departure point, you'll hear occasional whistles as your train chugs through tunnels, over bridges, and past open meadows. All trains have concessions for sale and offer an up close and personal look at history.
There is an Open Air Observation Car that gives you a view like you have never seen before of the redwoods.
If you plan on riding the Open Air Observation Car then we suggest dark clothing, because sometimes lighter clothing can get soot spots on it. It's quite the experience, though, so don't let that deter you!
The Skunk Train is an adventure you and your loved ones won't soon forget.
Whether you come for the history or the ride through some breathtaking scenery, you will definitely go home feeling satisfied. Keep an eye out for special events. The Skunk Train is known to host themed rides on holidays.