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Who knew? Sacramento is home to North America's largest railroad museum!
By Carol LeBeau
2/13/2012 9:26:46 AM


On a recent trip to Sacramento, I connected with an old college pal. I was in the State capital for a speaking engagement, after which Julie and I enjoyed a couple of “girl’s” days – shopping, lunching and re-living some of the escapades that defined our time at the University of Northern Iowa and cemented our friendship for a lifetime. 

These days Julie lives in the Denver area, but she lived much of the 90’s in the Sacramento area and was eager to show me around her old “stomping grounds.”   The State capital building, Vietnam War Memorial and Sacramento River front were all on our itinerary, but Julie is a big history buff, so she wasn’t going to let me out of town without also stopping at Old Sacramento State Historic Park.   

Following a brief walking tour of quaint, Old Sacramento, Julie gushed, “Now I want to show you the California State Railroad Museum!” I looked at her, dumfounded. A railroad museum? You’ve got to be kidding?! On my Top 10 list of “un-fun” things to do, I would probably rank a trip to a railroad museum right up there with a monster truck competition! Not really my cup of tea. But Julie was insistent. 

Good thing. Had I not listened to my friend, I would have missed something special!  I had no idea the historic site is widely regarded as North America’s finest and most popular railroad museum - attracting more 50,000 tourists annually!  An eye-popping 20 restored locomotives and railroad cars are on display…many of which we climbed aboard ourselves.  

The museum is massive. In addition to the beautifully restored trains, we viewed thousands of smaller artifacts and a variety of interesting exhibits in the 100,000- square-foot main exhibition facility. 

It was a step back in time as we walked through railroading’s Golden Age…when the idea of building a transcontinental railroad…linking California with the US was yet a dream. The realization of that dream resulted in California’s meteoric growth and contributed to the mobility and modernization of America’s free society. 

Julie and I “traveled” back to the 1800’s where we learned about railroad work, railroad life and the human enterprise that changed America. We experienced   travel by train…peering into cozy sleeping berths, elegant sitting areas and an original, beautifully appointed dining car with tables set with the era’s most exquisite silver, crystal and china. 

Our final stop was the museum theater where a nicely produced 20-minute documentary tied everything together for us.  The award-winning “Evidence of a Dream” tells the story of the critically important role of the Transcontinental Railroad in developing our great country.  

“That was great,” I gushed as we left the museum.  “You were right,” I admitted to Julie. My old friend gave me her familiar, “I told you so” look as we climbed into the car.    

If you’re planning a trip to Sacramento in the near future, I highly recommend you check it out. The California State Railroad Museum, that is.  When it comes to monster trucks, I’m sticking to my guns!

For more information, call 800.777.0369 or go to www.californiastaterailroadmuseum.org

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.



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