Skunk Train Willits Depot

Skunk Train. Photo by Brendan McGuigan.

Skunk Train Willits Depot

Kayla and Chuck the conductor boarding the Skunk Train
Chuck and Kayla prepare to board the Skunk Train.

Except for the passengers’ high-tech cameras and modern garb, a time traveler from the last century would feel quite at home riding California Western Railroads Skunk Train in the 1990’s.

The view from the restored rail cars is pretty much unchanged: towering trees, deer drinking from the Noyo River, an isolated fisherman’s cabin peeking from the forest. With occasional whistles as it chugs through tunnels, over bridges and past open meadows, the train follows the coastal “Redwood Route” as it has since 1885.

Built as a logging railroad, the Skunk line began that year as a logical vehicle for moving massive redwood logs to Mendocino Coast sawmills from the rugged back country.

Steam passenger service was started in 1904, extended to the town of Willits in 1911, and discontinued in 1925 when the self-powered, yellow “Skunk” rail cars were inaugurated. The little trains were quickly nicknamed for their original gas engines, which prompted folks to say, “You can smell ’em before you can see ’em.”

• Please keep your dogs on a leash the entire trip
• If your dog is spooked by loud noises, this is not a good trip for them

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