After 1850, the surface gold in California largely disappeared, even as miners continued to arrive. Mining had always been difficult and dangerous labor, and striking it rich required good luck as much as skill and hard work. Moreover, the average daily take for an independent miner working with his pick and shovel had by then sharply decreased from what it had been in 1848. As gold became more and more difficult to reach, the growing industrialization of mining drove more and more miners from independence into wage labor. The new technique of hydraulic mining, developed in 1853, brought enormous profits but destroyed much of the region’s landscape.
A few miles southwest of Sonora, Jamestown is another gold-era landmark with a couple of blocks of historic buildings strung along a main street. To boot, it boasts a train attraction for fanatics, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park . The undisputed star of the park is Sierra No. 3 , a circa 1891 steam locomotive that made appearances in Back to the Future Part III and High Noon , among other films. On weekends, April through October, visitors can ride behind an “iron horse” for a 45-minute trip through the scenic hills of California’s Mother Lode country.