A Fun Experience Awaits at the California Railroad Museum

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Visiting California’s capital is a lot of fun, especially for those who wish to explore the history and get an up-close look at the cool days of the Old West. Sacramento even boasts the district of Old Sacramento that harkens back to the city’s Gold Rush era, with wooden sidewalks and wagon rides, in order for tourists to really delve into the past.

Many museums can also be found in this lovely capital. Still, one extraordinary one happens to sit in Old Sacramento and is featured on all the “best things to do” lists produced by every travel guide, magazine, and blog out there when speaking of Sacramento. The California State Railroad Museum depicts the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, one of the country’s earliest technological features. It plays home to a whopping 225,000 square feet of exhibits and beautifully restored railroad cars and locomotives that illustrate railroad history in California and the American West.

There are so many exhibitions, trains, and events to get in on during your visit that it’s impossible to name them all. But just to give you a sneak peek at the experiences awaiting you there, here’s a shortened list of ‘not to be missed’ attractions.

The Georgia Northern No. 100: The Gold Coast allows you and yours to explore the inside of this private railcar. Owned by pioneers of railroad photography, Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg, this virtual exhibit gives all guests the opportunity to “sit inside” and imagine what life on the rails might have been like way back when. Partnering up with the Smithsonian’s Digital Services, this virtual exhibit feels like a real-life journey.

The Gold Spike Exhibit Gallery takes visitors back to find out what really happened at the Gold Spike ceremony on May 10, 1869. The event was held to honor the completion of the nation’s very first transcontinental railroad and allows you to learn the big names who attended and see if that “last spike” driven into the railroad was actually made of pure gold or simply a legend.

For a smaller version of those mighty trains, head to the Small Wonders: The Magic of Toy Trains exhibit featuring 1,000-plus vintage toy trains, six interactive displays, and a magnificent operating toy train layout. Collectors will be in awe as they see the 3,300 square-foot exhibit featuring priceless examples of Lionel, Buddy L, and Märklin trains.

The permanent Locomotive Collection of the California State Railroad Museum is inspiring. Containing 19 steam locomotives dating from 1862 to 1944, the collection shows every detail of how train development occurred; from the early years of steam technology in the mid-nineteenth century to its climax in the 1940s, no stone is left unturned.

Engines that you can view range in size from the small Southern Pacific No. 1, “C.P. Huntington,” to the million-pound (no kidding) giant, Southern Pacific articulated cab-forward No. 4294. Fewer than forty-five full-size steam locomotives built prior to 1880 exist in the United States, and the museum claims eight of these, including Central Pacific Railroad locomotive No. 1, “Gov. Stanford.” While the locomotive collection of the California State Railroad Museum is extensive, only a portion is on public exhibition at any one time, so visiting the website before making a stop will allow you to know what models you’ll be setting your eyes on during your tour.

The Rolling Stock collection, which includes everything from the short, wooden cabooses bringing up the rear of the train to sleeping cars, high-profile dining cars, lavish private cars, and more, is extensive and shows unmatched views of railroading spanning the period between 1874 and 1950.

When it comes to dining and lodging in the area, the amount of choices available makes it easy to turn your weekend trip into a much longer one. The Old Sacramento Waterfront and the surrounding streets of the museum offer countless dining options – from casual to formal, there is quality and a variety to satisfy every palate and meet any budget. When it comes to lodging after a day of railroading fun, there are numerous hotels within walking distance of the museum to choose from.

Make Sacramento the next family excursion and enjoy the incredible “ride” into a world filled with color, history, and a whole lot of fun.

In regards to the reopening of the museum, there are health and safety measures to keep in mind for visitors. Certain exhibits, including enclosed cars and hands-on experiences, will remain closed to the public, and museum capacity will be limited to 125 guests at any given time. Per State and County health orders, all guests over the age of 2 must wear a face covering at all times while in the museum. The museum thanks you in advance for your understanding and cooperation with these measures and looks forward to seeing you and sharing the history of railroading in California and the American West. For further updates, visit www. California railroad.museum.

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