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Suger Pine Railroad

Sugar Pine Shay Steam Locomotive photoWhile not in the Yosemite National Park, but rather just outside its southern entrance on Highway 41 from Fresno and Madera, near Fish Camp, the Sugar Pine Railroad offers a chance to enjoy a steam rail ride through the thick forests of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Formerly a logging railway for the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company from 1899 until the end of active operations in 1931 when the creation of the national park made the heavy timbers less accessable. There were once miles of track through the pine forests of the Sierra Nevada where hearty lumberjacks sawed and chopped. The remnants of lumber mills now gone can still be spotted in the form of rusting steel cone smoke stacks which remain as markers of a time gone by.

Log Riding Cars photoThe Suger Pine Railroad now operates as a tourist ride along four miles of narrow guage track through the pine and oak woods on the Sierra National Forest. Two Shaw side stroke gear steam engines haul passenger excursions on nostalgic theme rides back in time. The Shay engines are distinctive for steamers, common in the steep grade of mountain operations for their traction. The rail cars in use on the Sugar Pine Railroad are rather distinctive as well, former log haulers refurbished in the form of hollowed logs for passenger seating.

Moonlight Special Steak and Rail Ride

Sugar Pine Moonlight BBQ photoThe Sugar Pine Railroad offers a variety of excursions. During the day, the Logger Steam Train takes a one-hour round trip with narration of the logging history and the nearby park, but more well-known is the Moonlight Special, an evening version of the logger, which begins about 5 pm with an included New York Steak Bar-B-Que at the station with live music, before heading down the tracks to the stop-over with campfire sing-a-long, then return trip under the moonlight. Bandits may be encountered along the way. The Moonlight Special has been going for 34 years on the Sugar Pine and reservations are necessary. It runs on Saturday in the spring and autumn and Saturdays and Wednesdays in the summer. Another similar experience is the Melodrama Evening, also with the BBQ dinner, then a melodrama play under the stars at the mountain canyon turnaround. The Moonlight Special with dinner is $45 for adults, $22.50 for kids. The regular Logger steam train ride is $17 for adults $8.50 for children 3-12. (Teenagers get to be adults in the mountains). The schedules can vary depending on the engines and the weather.

The Sugar Pine Railroad is about an hour drive from Fresno, 15 minutes from Oakhurst. There are several accommodation possibilities near the Sugar Pine Rail Road. Some very quaint mountain B&B’s nearby, like the Narrow Guage Inn connected by a walking path with an excellent restaurant, as well as the reportedly haunted lodge Sky Mountain Ranch, the elegant Chateau Sureau in Oakhurst and the elegant Teneya Lodge at the Fish Camp Yosemite Gate. © Bargain Travel West

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Sugar Pine Railroad

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