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Skunk Train at Willits, California

Skunk Train At Willits, California

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June 11, 2005

By Carl@TrainWeb.com


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After a full day and two nights in Fort Bragg riding the Skunk Trains from Fort Bragg, up the mountain to Northspur, and back, we drove the 1-hour drive from the Sealodge in Fort Bragg, to the Skunk Train Station in Willits scheduled to leave at 9 am.

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Appropriately, Amtrak Bus stops at the Willits Train Station!

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The Amtrak Bus connects riders to the San Joaquin and Capitol Trains.  So you really can take "Rails to Rails" and take Amtrak trains to the Skunk Trains.  These schedules are posted outside the Skunk Train Depot:

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Ably handling ticketing was Lisa.

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Veronica worked the souvenir shop

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Our focus this day was the M 100 motorcar and a roundtrip on it from Willits to Northspur.



The "Skunk M 100" is a diesel powered motor car built in 1925.  When she makes her run from Fort Bragg to Willits, it is through the Redwood Forest and along the Noyo River.  It crosses over 31 bridges and trestles and passes through two of the line's deep mountain tunnels.  On this day, from Willits to Northspur and back, we'll see the dryer eastern slope of the mountain range until we reach Tunnel #2 then redwood and fir forests  and the 'towns' of Crowley, Clare Mill, and Shake City before arriving at Northspur. 

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Engineer Evan managed the motorcar up the mountain and provided informative commentary as we motored over the mountain to Northspur from Willits.


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We had ample seating and the temperature was cool and you could have your window open if you wished.  Lisa had snacks for sale in the luggage area in the back (below) and there was a restroom...of sorts.  'Restrooms that don't move,' were available at Northspur.

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The only stop was at the KOA Deport where 2 passengers joined us from their campsite.  After the stop, we saw wild turkey and deer.
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The tunnel seemed to be the border between the dryer eastern slope and the moist western slope with redwood and fir trees.
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Tunnel #2.
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Water towers are maintained for their Steam Engine #45.

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This tower is dripping and has ferns growing at its base.
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This one, at Northspur, is easy to photograph from the platform.

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Dump cars used for track maintenance on the Skunk Line.

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Soon big redwoods lined the rails, most easily viewed from the open observation car.

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The redwoods and firs dwarfed our Skunk Train.
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Northspur "Station."


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Cummins diesel now powers the motorcar.



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At Northspur Station, Evan turns the M100, sets the brake, and walks back to the station to await the arrival of the train from Fort Bragg.  Passengers can transfer either way to continue their journeys to either Willits or Fort Bragg.  Others, like us, are on the round trip from Willits.

At Northspur Station, the first train to arrive awaits the other and luggage, including bicycles, and passengers who are on a through ticket, are transferred and both trains are off to either Fort Bragg, or, like us, back to Willits.  Waiting passengers are entertained by either The Train Singer or The Walkin' Blues Man.  When the train with the cafe car arrives, any passenger can board and buy food items.  The station itself has clothing items and ice cream.  A more picturesque station would be hard to imagine.

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The Motorcar's controls look somewhat like a busdriver's controls, except no steering wheel!

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For the trip down the mountain, I selected a front seat, directly behind Evan, for a cabride view.

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This tree had recently fallen across the tracks and had to be cut so the train could meet its schedule.

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Heading into the horeshoe curve, it is hard to imagine that this is standard a gauge railroad.  The builders had the foresight to know it was important to be able to ship the logs and lumber out over other standard-gauge lines.
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We made it safely back to Willits happy to have ridden all the Skunk Trains one can manage in three nights and two days in the Fort Bragg-Willits area of California!
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Goodbye

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Comments and corrections welcomed by Carl@TrainWeb.com


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