California State Railroad Museum is a must visit for any railroad buff. During my last visit to California, I spent a whole day in the Old Sacramento Historic District documenting and surveying the beautiful waterfront, the historic Central Pacific Railroad buildings and finally ended the day with a tour at the museum.
The day started with a very informative and entertaining railroad excursion trip. The 6-mile, 45 minute round trip started from the Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot at the junction of the K St. and Front St. The trip is documented in this video:
The next stop was inside the Museum, and boy wasn’t that breathtaking! Starting from the history of the transcontinental railroad, the exhibit shows detailed, real life diorama showing how this iconic railroad was built through the treacherous Sierra-Nevada mountains. Then there were detailed displays from the 19th century American railroads displaying the classic ‘American’ 4-4-0 locomotives – true time capsules that showed the most important aspects of railroading back in the day – many from the Wild West and during the California Gold Rush. Moving on, you can find the the ‘Golden Age’ of American Railroading – the first half of the 20th century. A time when trains took the country forward, and in a way, shaped its rise in modern history – Real life models of Ice Houses, Reefers, and box cars, lavish dining cars of the luxurious streamliners to the Pullman sleeping coaches – the place truly is a crash course of American Railroading History. Of course, last but not the least the Grand and Legendary Southern Pacific Cab Forward – a futuristic steam locomotive design that that was truly ‘forward looking’ (Pun Intended).
And for me, the journey doesn’t just end there! Moving on to the mezzanine floor, I found the exhibit displaying a detailed history of Model Trains – decade by decade. Describing how when they started by making mainly novelty toys for rich kids back in 19th century, and now, how much this passion driven hobby has squarely become a niche lifestyle for hundreds of thousands of people around the world and turned into a multi billion dollar industry. Focusing on the American side of the story, the museum shows early Lionel Trains that evolved to become electrical novelty, then the refinement of immense craftsmanship in large and medium modelling scales in the 3rd quarter of the last century and finally rising to today’s ultra modern, technologically advanced ‘toys for grown-up boys.’ The video compilation below tries to capture a glimpse of the experience: