‘Little House on the Prairie’: Where the Famous Sierra Locomotive Was Seen on Other Series, Movies

by John Jamison
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Some props are too unique to be replaced. And many are too expensive to recreate. In the case of the Sierra No. 3, however, both of these are true. You may recognize the locomotive from “Little House on the Prairie.” They used it to add an authentic touch to the show’s setting in tons of episodes. But the famous locomotive has had a far more prolific career than just the one show.

Because of its look and location, the Sierra No. 3 locomotive has been used in hundreds of productions over nearly a hundred years. As a result, it is appropriately referred to as the “movie star” locomotive. In addition to “Little House on the Prairie,” the Sierra No. 3 has made appearances in “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “Unforgiven,” and “Back to the Future III.” And the list goes on for days.

Notably, the locomotive was used in the first movie with sound that was filmed outside of a sound stage. Starring Gary Cooper, “The Virginian” features the Sierra No. 3 prominently. And even though the movie was filmed in black and white, the image was cemented.

You can get a great look at the famous locomotive in the video below.

Where is the Star Prop from ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Kept?

One does not simply pick a train up and move it. These things weigh in the hundreds of tons. For example, the average weight of a train locomotive is 210-220 tons. Conveniently, however, their whole purpose is to move. And because of its significance, the Sierra No. 3 remains operational to this day.

The locomotive itself is housed at the Railtown 1897 Historic Park in Jamestown, California. And because of how close it is to Hollywood, the Sierra has a leg up on much of the competition. The California Department of Parks and Recreation maintains the Sierra No. 3. And according to the website, Railtown is the oldest operating steam locomotive shop in America.

Clint Eastwood, an iconic Western star and former member of the California State Parks Commission, thinks there is value in keeping the Sierra No. 3 running. And in a quote on the State Parks website, he talked about why.

“Sierra No. 3 resides at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. It is housed in the original roundhouse which is still in use. Together these two assets provide a rare opportunity to experience history just as it was 109 years ago. Having this locomotive in operation will give filmmakers another reason to stay in California, as demonstrated by the hundreds of productions Sierra No. 3 has appeared in over the years,” he said.

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