Then we'll move on to discuss the value of having a plan! But the time and imagination spent on our Master Plan was well invested. The plan envisioned several phases—three restored or reconstructed buildings, i. The building stood on this site from until and was, for several years, the western terminus of the first Transcontinental Railroad in the USA. The Station was fairly accurately reconstructed with main waiting room, separate waiting room for ladies and children, ticket office, agent's office, baggage room and the Silver Palace Eating Stand.
It opened in under period gas lamps with seven of the Chapter's locomotives and cars on display. Volunteers and staff periodically opened locomotives and cars for closer inspection, offered tours and track-laying demonstrations, and occasionally got a head of steam up on an steam locomotive. The Library consists of thousands of books, several hundred thousand original ink on linen drawings, more than 2 million pictorial images, and a plethora of original corporate records, correspondence, maps, timetables, trade catalogs and ephemera with an emphasis on railroads and railroading in North America.
Since opening in , the Library has become North America's largest and foremost independent research center for railroad history and technology. Equipment restoration program Planning for the Museum of Railroad History began in earnest in Several of the Museum's early pieces of equipment could most reverently be described as chicken coops that were largely being held together by termites holding hands. Not finding anyone in the business of accurately restoring 19th century locomotives and cars, the Museum prevailed upon Southern Pacific Railroad and set up shop in an old SP Unit Shop to painstakingly restore 20 locomotives and cars between and Careful research and industrial archaeology uncovered up to 40 layers of paint, lettering, striping and varnish on older pieces of equipment.
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Wood dimensions were duplicated exactly. Components were replicated in great detail. Scholarship and historical accuracy were the hallmarks of each of the restoration projects. The results have been truly miraculous! But the real story of our hands-on equipment restoration and conservation program remains to be told in the new Railroad Technology Museum.
Collection development Looking beyond the initial 30 pieces of rolling stock, it was obvious that selected acquisitions and concerted development of the collection would be prudent. Among selected acquisitions, project presentations saw the addition of the Santa Fe No. Huntington , and the famous SP cab-forward No. In the mid s, the Museum had several dozen full-size pieces of equipment but lacked the myriad of smaller three-dimensional artifacts needed to carry key interpretive exhibits—the bells, buttons, badges, tickets, tokens and other paper and hardware artifacts.
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Initially, the Museum published and distributed thousands of brochures convincing collectors, railroads, employees, dealers and railroad families why they should present cherished heirlooms to the Museum for permanent preservation and possible display. Fortunately, it is no longer necessary to publish such brochures—the Museum of Railroad History today is its own best salesman as it informs, educates and stimulates visitors to inquire about donating several hundred collections annually. Donated items range from single sheets of paper to entire truckloads of collections.
The western railroads have been generous in sharing their expertise, facilities, artifacts and even personnel—it is a close working relationship that Museum staff work diligently to cultivate and maintain. The remainder is housed off-site—awaiting funding for additional exhibit opportunities in the Museum of Railroad History and the new Railroad Technology Museum. May opening of Museum of Railroad History Ground was broken for the new Museum of Railroad History in April —just weeks before the passage of California's financially limiting Proposition Nearly a year of construction was invested driving upwards of piles some 80 ft into the ground to support the structure and anticipated displays.
The architect was very sympathetic, picking up the railroad bridge or truss motif in the design of the Museum's roof trusses. The largest wood truss spans ft, has a 7" camber and is not decorative—it actually is carrying the load of the roof. The first piece of equipment into the building was a narrow-gauge freight train. With cribbing carefully designed for the Museum's second-floor gallery window, the locomotive, tender, box car, tank car and caboose were carefully lifted in by crane and pushed into position on the narrow-gauge trestle—24 ft above the main floor.
Finally, after 3 years of actual construction, 12 years of planning by California State Parks, and more than four decades of dreaming and planning by the Pacific Coast Chapter, the third and most ambitious phase of the CSRM to date—the Museum of Railroad History—was opened to the public when California Governor Jerry Brown officiated at the opening ceremonies on 2 May Railfair Sacramento Such a grand event called for a grand celebration and the Friends of the California State Railroad Museum—the predecessor to the current Museum Foundation—was organized by the late Ed Combatalade — For nine days in May , Sacramento and the world enjoyed a three-ring circus consisting of the newly opened Museum of Railroad History, free public displays of historic railroad equipment gathered from throughout North America and including the operating replica of Stephenson's Rocket from the National Railway Museum at York in the UK, and The Song of the Iron Horse —an upbeat railroad musical review using many of the visiting locomotives and cars.
This was the first large-scale gathering of railroad equipment and an associated railroad pageant since the great Chicago Railroad Fair of — When all was said and done, nearly , visitors had toured the Museum and the Sacramento Bee newspaper estimated that more than , visitors had enjoyed the free outdoor displays. Ongoing exhibit development A great museum is truly never complete. Since , we've tried not to miss scores of opportunities to rotate and change exhibits—new reasons to bring visitors back for another visit.
Collection additions Since , we have also made selected additions to the Museum's collections. In , Santa Fe approached the Museum to accept nine first- and second-generation diesel-electric locomotives, three steam locomotives and a doodlebug motorcar.
Today, the collection totals locomotives and cars larger than 18" gauge housed at Sacramento and our ancillary facility at Railtown State Historic Park—90 miles away at Jamestown, California. Restoration program Since , the Museum has returned two steam locomotives and more than six diesel-electric locomotives to operation. Recent acquisitions Recent acquisitions include additions to the papers of legendary Transcontinental Railroad surveyor Theodore Judah —63 including his personal gold scale and Sierra Nevada paintings by his wife, Anna.
A recent major addition to the Museum Library is the photograph and negative collection of the late Lucius Beebe —66 and Charles Clegg —79 —the Museum already exhibits The Gold Coast, their unique private car and the acquisitions continue. Museum volunteers Throughout its growth and development, the Museum's primary labor force continues to be volunteers who work in both public and non-public positions throughout the Museum. Currently, there are more than volunteers, most of whom staff key interpretive areas throughout the Museum like the Railway Post Office Car, the St.
Hyacinthe sleeping car, the Cochiti diner, and who help make possible key outreach programs such as Operation Lifesaver, Interpretive Handcar Program for schoolchildren, the annual US National Handcar Races, living history program, interpretation aboard Amtrak trains and the Museum's steam excursion trains at Sacramento and Railtown.
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Others are actively involved in research, providing administrative support, maintaining the Museum's right-of-way, and much more. Sacramento Southern Railroad After two trial weekend operations in and , the Museum's Sacramento Southern Railroad was launched in The Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot was constructed in as the northern terminus for operation of excursion trains.
Today the Museum's largely volunteer steam excursion train program handles up to 80, riders annually on a 7-mile, minute round-trip ride from Sacramento south along the Sacramento River. The master plan envisions extending the operation over the full 17 miles of the line to the ports of Freeport and Hood so that passengers could travel one way by steam train and the other by riverboat or paddle-steamer.
This historic property is the closest to what Europeans call a preserved railway. The site covers 26 acres, and includes an historic roundhouse, stores dating from , six steam locomotives, six diesels and more than 40 passenger cars and freight cars. Steam excursions depart Jamestown on weekends from April through October. Museum Today. It attracts more than , visitors annually and is Sacramento's leading tourist attraction and one of the most visited railway museums in the world.
The largest single group is the some , schoolchildren who use the Museum as an extension of their classroom studies. A key partner with the Museum is the California State Railroad Museum Foundation which operates the Museum's stores and is an equal partner with the State in the daily operations. The Foundation is a vibrant partner with the Museum as we look forward to completing the last and by far the most ambitious component of the Master Plan—the Railroad Technology Museum. The Museum had long eyed the adjoining SP Shops as a site for the Railroad Technology Museum but the economics, politics and current rail operations made this vision seem impossible.
The SP Shops are indeed an historic complex where giant steam locomotives were built and diesel-electric locomotives were later rebuilt. Clearly they are the most appropriate site for the Railroad Museum's final phase—the Railroad Technology Museum. Sacramento and Transcontinental Railroad Shipment of goods in sailing ships from the east coast around Cape Horn to California took many months.
Located far from the eastern centers of industry, the strongly self-reliant California merchants decided to found a railroad and on 8 January , ground was broken on the levee next to the Sacramento River in Sacramento for the Central Pacific Railroad, a company already recognized by the US Congress as the western link in the Transcontinental Railroad. Sacramento was already a major shipping point for the region, with goods and materials coming up river in steamboats and smaller sailing vessels from the deep-sea port of San Francisco, making Sacramento the logical starting point for construction of the western leg of the Transcontinental Railroad.
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The completed railroad served San Francisco directly via a ferry from Oakland , but initial construction was eastward from Sacramento. Just north of downtown Sacramento was a marshy area where the American River joined the Sacramento River. This land was acquired by the Central Pacific Railroad as the site for its general workshops. Construction of permanent buildings started in and expanded over the years to cover more than acres of land in the heart of Sacramento.
The owners of the Central Pacific soon began acquiring ownership of other California railroads. The most significant of these was Southern Pacific. While remaining independent companies, operations of the different lines were coordinated. In , a new holding company called the Southern Pacific Company, was formed to control the various railroad holdings of the owners.
Operating companies were variously sold or leased to the new holding company, including both the Central Pacific and the Southern Pacific railroads. Stevens — Hired in , he oversaw development of the facility and many pieces of machinery and equipment were designed and constructed in the shops. Facilities included the erecting shop, boiler and tender shop including a riveting tower , blacksmith shop, brass and copper shop, foundry, rolling mill, spring shop, car shop, planing mill, paint shop, stall roundhouse, etc.
These covered the basic functions but expanded greatly in size over the years. Under Stevens, the Central Pacific Shops constructed several series of locomotives, featuring unique design characteristics developed by Stevens and his team. Stevens was an innovator, working to advance the steam technology of the day and quickly adopting important innovations from others as well. Locomotive construction at Sacramento relied on the support of the railroad owners and was always influenced by the cost and availability of locomotives from the east-coast commercial builders.
The earliest group of locomotives built under Stevens was 14 sturdy engines completed between and When the cost of locomotives from commercial builders dropped, Sacramento production was suspended temporarily. Unique locomotive designs In , Stevens designed a T locomotive specifically to haul commuter trains around Oakland and Alameda in the Bay Area.
A total of seven were constructed in Sacramento in late and early Central Pacific No. Between and , Stevens produced experimental locomotives to test some of his innovative ideas. The first was Central Pacific No.
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These were the only Stevens-designed locomotives built by a commercial builder. Several features were characteristic of Stevens' production locomotives in the s. Most notable was the Stevens patent valve gear, a variation on the Walschaerts design adapted for separate lead and cut-off motion. Stevens also used exceptionally long cylinders in relation to cylinder diameter.
For example, the cylinders had an 18" diameter with a 30" stroke. The locomotives also used radially stayed boilers instead of the almost universal crown bar boilers common in American railroading at the time. Car department competing with commercial builders Master Car Builder Benjamin Welch — directed operations in the carriage department. Welch had been one of the first workshop employees hired by the Central Pacific in the early s and continued as head of the car shops until after the turn of the 20th century. The shops built a few passenger cars in the late s, including the business car that carried the Central Pacific dignitaries to the Transcontinental Railroad Completion Ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah, on 10 May Amazingly, it survives today in the collection of the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
Another group of passenger carriages was constructed in the mids, but passenger cars were generally purchased from commercial builders. On the other hand, many head-end cars baggage and postal were built in the shops throughout the 19th century. Freight wagons were the bread and butter of car construction in both the 19th and 20th centuries.
The shops competed with commercial builders for contracts to supply Southern Pacific and there were many production runs. Organizing and Systematizing. Stevens died suddenly in early and his successor, H. Small, was a much more conservative man. Where Stevens looked for innovation and experimented with new designs, Small stuck with the tried and true designs, even returning to crown bar boilers for new constructions.
The building of new locomotives ended under Small. If Small wasn't a mechanical innovator, he was an organizer and systematizer. Under his leadership Southern Pacific developed a set of Common Standards which could be reasonably called the Huntington Standards in honor of the then railroad president for locomotives, cars, parts, structures, facilities, and almost everything needed in running the railroad. Harriman and Union Pacific gain control C. Huntington — , the last of the founders of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads, died in and E.
Harriman — gained control of Southern Pacific in Harriman was already president of the Union Pacific Railroad and he unified operations of the two railroads as Associated Lines. Harriman was very impressed by the Southern Pacific's system of Common Standards and it was soon extended and expanded to encompass both the Southern and Union Pacific systems, commonly known as the Harriman Standard designs.
Out of this emerged a set of Common Standard designs for locomotives, passenger cars and freight wagons, most of which were developed in the design offices of the SP Shops. Harriman also initiated major expansions and improvements of railroad equipment and facilities. The SP Shops got their share of these expenditures. Most significantly, a new, greatly enlarged erecting shop was added to the west side of the old erecting and machine shop, and the old erecting bays became expanded machine shop space. Nevertheless, the SP Shops continued to expand with new foundry and car shop facilities.
During the shortages of WWI, new locomotive construction returned to Sacramento with a series of thirty-two , , , and locomotives assembled between and from spares for old Harriman Standard designs. More new steam locomotives followed with 32 new switchers in — These were followed in —30 by the largest locomotives ever constructed by the SP Shops—49 modern locomotives. By this time, the Shops had developed into the largest vertically integrated industrial operations west of the Rockies.
The Shops had long been the single largest employer in the Sacramento area and few people were not touched by their operation in some way or other.
Many operations were closed never to reopen, although basic operations continued on a reduced scale. The last new steam locomotive—a large switcher—was completed in , the previous one having entered service in Love trains? Each stop gives you a chance to travel back in time — and let a conductor take over the steering for a bit. Total miles: 1, miles north through California and southeast through Nevada.
The most scenic part of the six-hour, mostly flat journey to Sacramento happens early on, when Interstate 5 winds through the rolling foothills of the Angeles National Forest north of Castaic. The highlight is a minute train ride, pulled by a vintage locomotive, aboard the Sacramento Southern Railroad. Staff dressed in s garb narrate the journey and point out historic tunnels, mining sites and, potentially, the wild mustangs known to hang out in the Virginia Range. Find sagebrush, high-desert scenery and a sense of peace and quiet as you head toward Ely on the stretch of U.
Things feel nearly as remote at Nevada Northern Railway , which was an integral route through the Central Nevada copper mining region in the early 20th century. Today, it takes visitors on minute train rides — often using original steam locomotives — through rugged high-desert terrain toward the Ruth Copper Mining District.
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After the ride, tour the engine house and rail yard at the Ely depot. Check the website for the schedule, which varies by season. The eight-hour drive back to L.