Digital Exhibits

A Museum Without Walls

Most people point to this big brick building located in Old Sacramento State Historic Park and say, "There is the California State Railroad Museum!" This building houses a vast collection of artifacts, great and small, that provide a tangible connection to the stories of the past. The building is also the hub that connects people to our shared railroad heritage, which is all around us. Our lives are made of railroad stories.

Whether you are down the street or on the other side of the world, explore the stories of the railroad with our digital exhibits and virtual education.

The Many Lives of the Central Pacific Commissioners Car

This is the car where history happened and it stands as a physical connection to the past. This car has seen it all! As this car joins the displays at the California State Railroad Museum on loan from the Nevada State Railroad Museum, we are delighted to share the stories of this car in this digital exhibit.

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The Chinese Workers' Experience

Building the Transcontinental Railroad

The Chinese rail workers were vital to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and more than 10,000 Chinese men were hired to build a railroad over the difficult terrain of the Sierra Nevada. Explore the history of the difficult and dangerous work these men completed, as well as the discriminiation and racism the Chinese faced in California since the time of the Gold Rush.

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V&T Locomotive No. 18 " Dayton"

Starlet of the Rails

This locomotive was a workhouse for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. After 65 years of service, the No. 18 finally retired. But when Hollywood called, the Dayton commenced a 20-year career in movies and television. Restored by the Nevada State Railroad Museum in 1982, the Dayton is currently on temporary loan to the California State Railroad Museum. Learn its story of the Dayton, from plowing snow to starring in Westerns.

Crossing Lines

The Women of the American Railroad

This exhibit highlights a group whose stories have remained in the shadows for far too long – women. Women crossed lines and blazed a trail for future generations. They championed change not only for the railroad industry but for society as well. These are some of their stories.

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The Georgia Northern No. 100

Look Inside The "Gold Coast" Railcar

Explore the inside of this private railcar once owned by the pioneers of railroad photography, Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg. While the interior of The Gold Coast is not open to the public, this virtual exhibit gives guests the opportunity to “go inside” the railcar and imagine what life on the rails might have been like for the photographers. Smithsonian Digital Services partnered with the museum to produce this virtual exhibit.

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Union Pacific No. 4466

The Smiling Giant

You are looking at the former star of our very own Sacramento Southern Railroad. This was the engine that pulled our excursion train ride until it was retired in 1999. But before its glory days here at the California State Railroad Museum, it had a much more industrial past. Read its tale here.

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Descendants Stories

The Chinese Railroad Workers' Experience

Sometimes, scholarly research can tell only so much about history. In cases like the Chinese railroad workers, the stories from their descendents bring unique perspectives and experiences to light that may not have been available otherwise. In this exhibit, read the stories of multiple workers that were passed down over the generations.

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The Rotary Snowplow Southern Pacific MW No. 205

A Fearsome Frigid Fighter

Major snowstorms in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range can jeopardize California's connection to the rest of the country. Railroads use all available means to clear the route. When these fail, they call upon the snowplow to battle the forces of nature. Learn about this snowplow and watch a video to see a rotary snowplow in action!

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A Mysterious Past

Central Pacific No. 12

We often lament that our trains cannot talk. The stories they would tell if they could. Although trains do not talk in a manner you would expect, they do communicate with us. When we put on our detective hats, you might be surprised how much these cars and locomotives reveal. Join us as we present a story of intrigue, mistaken identity, and mystery. And it all takes place in the yellow passenger car currently labeled “Central Pacific No. 12.”

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Southern Pacific No.5208

A Tiger-Striped Tank

This striking diesel engine was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1949 as a road switcher. Learn what a "switcher" engine is, the history of Baldwin and this engine, and other fun facts! For example, did you know that the distinct tiger-stripes are based on the engine's original pattern? It's true!

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V&T No. 21 J.W. Bowker

The Starlet Workhorse

The J.W. Bowker was the first engine of its class (2-4-0) built to Virginia & Truckee Railroad specifications by Baldwin Locomotive Works. Not only a reliable workhorse for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, it was also gained some fame on the silver screen. This locomotive is currently on loan to the Nevada State Railroad Museum, but you can still get an inside look at it here.

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Virginia & Truckee No. 12 "Genoa"

A Celebratory Goodbye

The Genoa is the perfect example of a typical "American" style locomotive from the 1870's: small, sturdy, and strong. Like many of the locomotives in our museum, the Genoa has lived a great many lives. The Genoa is currently on loan to the Nevada State Railroad Museum, but you can still see this locomotive and take a look at its journey here!

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