Hey, classic TV buffs—the famous Petticoat Junction train is still “rollin’ down the tracks.” And you can see it up close and personal if you take a trip to Northern California.
That’s right, the Hooterville Cannonball is still in commission over 50 years after the hit television series bid farewell. It’s currently cruising the tracks at the Railtown 1897 Historic Park in Jamestown, CA. And fans can even hitch a ride on the iconic locomotive if they’d like.
Interestingly, the train has a past that dates back long before it was shuttling quirky townsfolk through the C. & F.W. Railroad, though. The Sierra No. 3 steam train was actually built back in 1891. And during the Great Depression, it almost became a forgotten relic.
But at the same time that the locomotive’s time as a commuter train ended, a Hollywood exec noticed the unique ten-wheeler wasting away, and they realized it would make a perfect set prop. So they bought the train and made it a star.
The Hooterville Cannonball Appeared in More Than 100 Movies and Series
The ca.gov website shared that the Hootersville gem made appearances in “over 100 movies and TV shows” throughout its career.
“Hollywood producers discovered Tuolumne County and Sierra No. 3, filming this steam locomotive along the scenic Sierra Railroad to satisfy America’s love affair with Westerns,” it added.
Its very first film was the 1929 flick The Virginian. It then went on to star in Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Death Valley Days. And later, producers used it in movies such as Back to the Future III and High Noon.
In Petticoat Junction, Sierra No. 3 filmed the opening and closing credits. But for the actual episodes, the series created a replica, which became a star in its own right. After the show ended in 1970, it went on display at Santa Rita Park in Durango, Colorado.
Clint Eastwood Helped to Restore the ‘Petticoat Junction’ Locomotive
In the mid-2000s, the original train started to feel its age. To keep the centenarian operating, it needed costly renovations. And it was Clint Eastwood who stepped up and saved the train from ruin.
Eastwood had used the train for his 1992 film Rawhide. And when he began production for Unforgiven years later, he hoped to use it again. But to do that he had to lead a fundraising campaign. And in the end, he was able to bring the train back to its former glory.
Once completed, the locomotive was certified as fully-restored. And after appearing in Unforgiven, it “officially returned to service on July 2, 2010, at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park,” according to the Online Archive of California.