Hollywood’s most famous steam locomotive is in Tuolumne County

If you’ve seen a steam train in a western, this is probably the one.

JAMESTOWN, Calif. – She’s one of the oldest icons in movie history. Cast in over 200 movies, TV shows and commercials. She shared the big screen with actors like Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood and Michael J Fox. Her name is “Movie Queen” and she is Tuolumne County’s biggest celebrity.

Contrary to popular belief, you won’t find “Movie Queen” in Hollywood, her home is at the 1897 Railtown State Historic Park in Jamestown, where visitors can view several iconic railroad relics. Movie Queen is her stage name, but engine number 3 is what Supervising Park Ranger Jackie Olavarria knows her.

“Chances are if you’ve seen an old western it’s this locomotive in it,” Olavarria said.

The Rogers 10-wheel locomotive was built in 1891 and if not for Hollywood, this steamer would have been scrapped. “We were close enough to Hollywood that our steam engines survived for cinematic purposes,” Olavarria explained.

Like most actors, the “Movie Queen” has a team of people who make her look good. Warren Smith is the engineer and bringing this locomotive to the set takes hours of preparation. Just getting the Movie Queen in the right direction takes a team of staff. The 1920s locomotive turntable rotates the steam engine 360 ​​degrees directing it on a number of tracks.

It’s not until the Movie Queen’s boilers are fired that her familiar traits begin to emerge. Moviegoers might recognize her from the 1990 film Back to the Future Part III. Despite what Doc and Marty were able to accomplish in the movie, Engine Number 3 cannot accelerate anywhere near time travel speed. “We could only do it up to 10 miles per hour,” engineer Warren Smith said.

I guess that’s movie magic for you.

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Jose P. Rogers