All Aboard the Hooterville Cannonball! Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of “Petticoat Junction” (Part 3 of 5)

After CBS canceled Petticoat Junction in 1970, the Hoyt Hotel took the Emma Sweeny for permanent display.  Its tenure in Portland was short-lived, however.  The Hoyt Hotel went bankrupt in 1972, prompting a sale to businessman Sam Gordon.  Gordon used the Emma Sweeny as a visual allure for Sam’s Town, his tourist and truck stop located on Highway 50 near Placerville, California.  Placerville is the county seat of El Dorado County, which sits in the central-east part of California adjacent to the Nevada Border.

In 1978, Gordon sold the Emma Sweeny to Rick Stevenson of Sacramento and John Queirolo of Fiddletown, California.  Stevenson and Quierolo flipped their purchase.  Quickly.  They sold the locomotive, either in 1978 or 1979 according to the DRHS, to Ray and Cecil Finegold of Sacramento, who then donated it to Amador County.

With a new paint job and repair tweaks, the Emma Sweeny debuted as the Amador Cannonball on October 25, 1980.  It stayed under the aegis of Amador County for thirty years till the Durango Railroad Historical Society expressed its interest.

On October 30, 2010, the DRHS asked Amador County to donate the Emma Sweeny.

On April 26, 2011, the Amador County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the donation with a demand attached – a donation of $5,000 to the Amador County Museum.

On November 4, 2011, the DRHS transported the Emma Sweeny to Durango’s Santa Rita Park where it sits in the park’s locomotive pavilion awaiting visitors who will be awed by the locomotive, then doubly awed by its history.

For the exterior scenes of Petticoat Junction, including those in the iconic opening scene, Sierra Railroad #3 portrayed the Hooterville Cannonball.  Its Hollywood lineage boasts appearances in High Noon, The Great Race, Finian’s Rainbow, The Great Bank Robbery, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, Back to the Future – Part III, and Unforgiven.  And that’s just a sampling of Sierra #3’s movie resumé.

It has also appeared in television series beyond Petticoat Junction, including Little House on the Prairie, Death Valley Days, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Big Valley, Rawhide, and The A-Team.

Today, Sierra #3 is housed by Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, California.  “The Sierra Railroad operated its Jamestown facility as a tourist attraction under the name Rail Town 1897 from 1971 through 1979 with no concessionaire,” states Jensen.   “It closed and sat idle until the State of California bought it in the summer of 1982 and named it Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.  Until the state put the operation out for bid in 1983, the park did not have a concessionaire.”

As Railtown 1897’s Museum Curator, Lisa DeLacy has become familiar with the Sierra Railway #3’s legacy.  Consequently, she sees her efforts rewarded in the delight of Railtown 1897 visitors when they learn of the Sierra #3’s importance in the entertainment industry.  “Our mission is to perpetuate the enjoyment, inspiration, and enlightenment concerning the Sierra Railroad – its historic structures, equipment, and environs accurately reflecting the steam railroading era in the region from 1897 to 1955.”  DeLacy explains.

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