As we Road Trip around NorCal I am always in search of something with the “Wow” factor to share with our readers and for this edition I hit the jackpot.
On a blustery day in December my better half Randy and I packed a quick overnight bag and took the lovely drive from Westwood to Dunsmuir for a quick getaway at the Railroad Park Resort.
Purchased by Mark and Mary Lilley in 2017 this 50 acre hideaway in the shadow of the majestic Castle Crags is not just a lodging option, it is a genuine railroad themed destination.
As you enter this train lover’s haven in the woods your eyes are immediately drawn to a 1926 Willamette Shay locomotive sitting on rails. One of only six remaining in the entire world this piece of railroad history gives guests an opportunity to climb aboard and get a real up close and personal look at the inner workings of an authentic steam driven locomotive that actually traveled the tracks. Randy’s inner child just couldn’t resist and this is just the kind of place for him to come out to play. He climbed aboard for a photo from the drivers seat to share with friends and family the minute we climbed out of the car. Say cheese?
We wandered into the gift shop to check-in and were greeted by friendly and informative General Manager Neon who shared a bit of this area’s interesting railroad history. Dunsmuir was established in the late 1880’s and was originally named Pusher because at this spot trains traveling up this steep part of the Upper Sacramento River Canyon needed extra engines to give them a push to make the climb. The name changed in 1886 when Lord Alexander Dunsmuir of Canada came to invest in the growing railroad and promised the town the beautiful water fountain that sits in the City Park today if only they would give their fine town on the banks of the Sacramento River his family name.
Besides exploring the locomotive inside and out guests can stay in one of 27 guest rooms, including 22 authentic caboose cars that previously rode the rails as well as the amazing Honeymoon Suite in boxcar #20 that boasts a chandeliered bathroom and clawfoot tub. Caboose #8 was our cozy home for
the night with two double beds, knotty pine walls and many accents from the working caboose preserved in the decor. An in-room coffee maker and the Evening News gave us a chance to unwind after our long drive. Guests in search of pure relaxation can enjoy a nice long soak in the covered hot tub next to the pool or even get an on-site massage that Neon or his wife and managing partner Lisette are happy to schedule with your reservation or after you check-in.
Four vintage cabins, two with kitchens and another with room for five, are also available with great views of the Castle Crag mountains and a feel for what it was like to be the train master back in the booming days. Full RV hook-up sites are available for those that bring their home along and pets stay free at both the RV and tent camping sites at the hospitable Railroad Park Resort. Access to full bathrooms close to the campsites, BBQ pits and nearby access to the Pacific Crest Trail make this a great stop over for hikers in search of a hot shower and a great hot meal in the on-site Dining Car Restaurant.
Open to the public for breakfast and dinner, Thursday-Sunday from January to April and 7 days a week the rest of the year, the unique
Dining Car Restaurant at the Railroad Park Resort is housed inside vintage passenger train cars with the feel of a well kept museum. Overhead luggage storage racks still hold suitcases and doctor’s satchels true to turn of the century and antique hand tools, gauges and a host of other authentic railroad memorabilia allow guests to bask in the experience of a ride on rails in the old west with a view of several cabooses before the stunning mountain backdrop.
We enjoyed a dinner visit on a Saturday night and the aroma of fresh baked bread greeted us as we wandered through the full bar that opens at 4pm. Our server Susie Cross brought a basket of the warm garlic rolls and mini sourdough loaf with our menus and we enjoyed a buttery nibble as we browsed trying to decide. Ordering the calamari appetizer fried golden brown and served with a tasty cocktail sauce gave us a bit more time to mull it over. Railroad Park Pasta with Sautéed Garlic, Mushrooms & Sundried Tomatoes Topped with Heavy Cream and Goat Cheese or a 14oz. Rib-Eye Steak perhaps. With more choices like Trout Almondine sauteed with white wine and lemon juice and juicy Prime Rib we were challenged. In the end Randy opted to try the All Aboard Country Fried Chicken, 3 pieces of tender home fried chicken with just a touch of honey served with a hearty portion of the house garlic mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Southern Pacific Taco Salad in a crispy Tostada Bowl was my choice piled high with your choice of seasoned ground beef or grilled chicken breast, served in a crispy tostada bowl with chopped lettuce. Topped with tomato,
onion, black olives, cheddar cheese, jalapeno and avocado with sour cream and salsa on the side it appealed to both my desire for something a bit spicy as well something cool and crisp. Both meals were more than we could finish as chef Leo Bradley always makes sure that nobody leaves this local favorite hungry. I always enjoy a bit of a sweet treat late in the evening so we took our New York style cheesecake to go and shared it over a movie back in our cozy caboose home away from home.
Curling up on soft pillows under warm quilted covers we drifted off to dream of railway adventures in the old west to the sounds of raindrops tinkling on the roof. Treat yourself and loved ones to a trip back in time aboard the grand adventure to be found in Dunsmuir at the Railroad Park Resort.