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Dinner Train Visits Riverbank During Test Run
Sierra train
A diesel engine pulls the Sierra Railway Dinner Train cars in Riverbank, along Patterson Road on their way back to Oakdale on Tuesday, Dec. 5. The surprise visit from the train, which usually runs from Oakdale up to the Tuolumne County line, might have surprised local drivers, reminding them, possibly, of the Polar Express. Ric McGinnis/The News

What might have seemed to drivers along Patterson Road like a visit from the Polar Express was really a test run for Oakdale’s Sierra Railway Dinner Train.

According to officials, it was a non-scheduled run from repair facilities at the Riverbank Industrial Complex, on the east edge of town, through the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railyard on a recent weekday. It continued rolling across Patterson Road before it cruised down the tracks alongside it, across Claus Road near the high school, then heading east before veering off to its Oakdale home.

The regular route of the train takes it from downtown Oakdale east to the Tuolumne County line and back during its dinner excursion trips.

The company also owns and operates the Sacramento River Train between Woodland and Sacramento, and the Skunk Train that operates between Fort Bragg and Willits.

The Sierra Railway Company of California was founded in 1897 to connect the California Central Valley to the Gold Country foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Its historic western terminus has always been in Oakdale where a junction was once formed with both the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and the Southern Pacific.

The rail line between Oakdale and Jamestown, using historic equipment, has been used for commercials and films over the years, including Back to the Future III.