Restored engines, rolling stock, railroad artwork, and interactive exhibits are sure to delight both rail enthusiasts and first time visitors alike.

Current Exhibits

Chinese Railroad Workers’ Experience

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The Chinese Railroad Workers’ Experience offers visitors a view of the Chinese workers who built the western portion of the nation’s first Transcontinental Railroad. Marginalized by history, the Chinese workers were more than a nameless group of laborers.

The Central Pacific Railroad needed a large workforce to meet the challenge of building a railroad over the Sierra Nevada. Using only hand tools, Chinese workers comprised ninety percent of the labor force that achieved this impossible task.

Chinese immigrants experienced extreme prejudice from white workers who felt threatened by them dating back to their arrival in California for the Gold Rush. Their experience culminates with the first congressional act designed to restrict the immigration of an entire race of people—The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

The Solano Train Ferry

Solano Model closeup

View an intricate scale model of the Solano Train Ferry. It was a gigantic ferry boat that helped complete the last few miles of the Transcontinental Railroad, allowing trains to reach the Bay Area. Come check out this fascinating new addition to our collection. Learn about this impressive part of railroad history and the people who made it possible!

View the Digital Version of the exhibit

Painting a Legacy: The Search for Anna Judah

Anna Judah Donner Lake courtesy CSRM

Explore the life of Anna Judah through the research and journey of Guest Curator Christine Pifer-Foote. The exhibit includes four paintings by Anna and enlargements of her flower pressings, in addition to photographs and images from Anna’s life. The oil and watercolor paintings of the Sierra Nevada mountains were created in the mid-1800s when Anna accompanied her husband Theodore D. Judah as he surveyed for the Transcontinental Railroad.

The search for Anna Judah's artwork became a personal journey which revealed Anna Judah as a woman who lived in her own right. Anna was a talented artist and she made a significant contribution to the Transcontinental Railroad through her art. We continue to tell her story.

“When I started my research journey, I had no idea where it would lead. My original search was to find the watercolors and sketches that Anna Judah created in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her husband, Theodore, invited her to accompany him as he surveyed for the Transcontinental Railroad. But I have discovered so much more!”

-Christine Pifer-Foote, Guest Curator & CSRM Volunteer

Chinese Railroad Workers Photos and Painting Exhibition

US China RR Friendship Art Show

On display May 1 through August 31, 2024

Celebrate and honor the legacy of Chinese railroad workers in the 155th Anniversary Exhibition of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Witness the experiences of Chinese railroad workers by looking through paintings and historical photographs that tell their stories.

This display is organized by the US-China Railroad Friendship Association.

Georgia Northern No. 100 The Gold Coast

Gold Coast Button

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. As a Smithsonian Affiliate, the California State Railroad Museum partnered with Smithsonian Digital Services to produce this virtual exhibit.

Click Here to View the Exhibit

Farm-to-Fork: A Public History

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Farm-to-Fork: A Public History is a new exhibit located in the Fruit Growers Express (Refrigerated) Car in the Museum Roundhouse. Graduate students of the Public History Program at California State University, Sacramento, created the exhibit.

After the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, many Californians turned to farming the fertile Delta. Ice-cooled railroad cars transported locally grown fruit and produce. The exhibit examines the critical role the railroad played in transporting the Central Valley’s agricultural bounty to the surrounding region, state and nation. The railroad helped to create the foundation for the movement known today as farm-to-fork.

Golden Spike Exhibit Gallery

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What really happened at the Golden Spike ceremony on May 10, 1869? The event celebrated the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Who attended? How many participated? Was the last spike really made of gold? Learn the answers to these questions (and more) at the Golden Spike Exhibit Gallery.

See the original 8x10-foot Thomas Hill painting depicting the ceremony and compare his version of the day to actual photographs. Our visually impaired visitors can personally experience the painting with our three-dimensional depiction of the painting. The California State Railroad Museum is the first museum to offer 3-dimensional artwork west of the Mississippi.

The highlight of the gallery is the 1869 golden spike! It was hidden from public view until 2005, when the California State Railroad Museum acquired it. And don’t miss the golden locket given to Leland Stanford’s sister-in-law, Anna Marie Lathrop. It features a golden spike souvenir made from the original golden spike.

Small Wonders: The Magic of Toy Trains

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Small Wonders: The Magic of Toy Trains exhibit features some 1,000 vintage toy trains, six interactive displays, and a magnificent operating toy train layout. Named after the esteemed collector and donor, Thomas W. Sefton, the 3,300 square-foot exhibit features priceless examples of Lionel, Buddy L, and Märklin.

Sefton collected thousands of toy trains during his lifetime, and his family donated his prized collection to the Museum in 2001. Learn how early toy trains evolved from pull and push toys to wind-ups, friction-powered, and live steam and electric toy trains. Whether expert or novice, visitors of all ages will appreciate these remarkable toy trains.

The Magic of Scale Model Railroading


In partnership with the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA), "The Magic of Scale Model Railroading” features a superb collection of model layouts and scale trains. The exhibit is organized into an interpretive experience that inspires visitors to discover more about the history and significance of model railroading. It celebrates the world of model railroading, the joy it provides as a hobby, and how anyone can participate.

The exhibition also features historic trains and model kits, illustrating the popularity and innovation of the hobby throughout the 20th-century and into the 21st with exciting new technology.

The National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) is the oldest and largest scale model railroad organization in the world. Since 1935, the not-for-profit organization has set the standards for the model railroading industry to ensure a smooth operating experience for hobbyists.

Photo courtesy of NMRA.


The locomotive collection of the California State Railroad Museum contains 19 steam locomotives dating from 1862 to 1944. The Museum’s locomotives illustrate the development of steam technology from its early years in the mid-nineteenth century through its apogee and climax in the 1940s.

The engines range in size from the diminutive Southern Pacific No. 1, “C.P. Huntington,” to the million-pound giant, Southern Pacific articulated cab-forward No. 4294. Fewer than 45 full-size steam locomotives built prior to 1880 exist in the United States. The Museum has 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. The remaining engines are either undergoing restoration or awaiting restoration in the Museum’s shop facilities.

Central Pacific Railroad No. 1 Gov. Stanford

Gov Stanford Locomotive

This forty-ton wood-burning steam locomotive was the pioneer engine of the Central Pacific Railroad. The Gov. Stanford was built in 1862 in Philadelphia, then shipped disassembled in crates around Cape Horn from Boston to San Francisco on board the sailing vessel Herald of the Morning. It arrived in Sacramento on October 6, 1863, by the river schooner Artful Dodger, and was unloaded the next day and reassembled at “K” and Front Streets. It began its long career in Sacramento on November 6, 1863, when the boiler was successfully fired.

The Gov. Stanford had the distinction of pulling the Central Pacific’s first excursion train, first revenue freight train (March 25, 1864), and first scheduled passenger train (April 15, 1864). The locomotive also hauled materials for the construction of the Central Pacific over the Sierra Nevada. It was later downgraded from mainline service. From 1873 until its retirement in 1895, the locomotive served as a switcher and fire engine (outfitted with a water pump and hose to extinguish small fires along the track) in the Sacramento area.

The Southern Pacific saved the historic engine from being scrapped in 1895. The Gov. Stanford was refurbished and in 1899 presented to Jane Lathrop Stanford (1828-1905), widow of former California Governor Leland Stanford (1824-1893). She, in turn, donated the engine to Leland Stanford Junior University, where it was placed on display until 1963.

In May, 1963, the locomotive was loaned to the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society for inclusion in its historic railroad equipment collection. Those pieces, including the Gov. Stanford, form the nucleus of the California State Railroad Museum collection.

As the Gov. Stanford aged, parts were replaced or exchanged among similar Central Pacific or Southern Pacific locomotives. The locomotive was also painted numerous times. Reconstruction to its 1860s appearance would literally have destroyed the existing locomotive and resulted in a replica. After careful research, it was therefore decided to refinish the locomotive to its 1899 appearance, the year it was presented to Stanford University.

Today, the Gov. Stanford occupies a prominent place in the Museum’s Sierra Scene diorama, a short distance from where it began its life under steam on the banks of the Sacramento River.

Southern Pacific Railroad No. 1 C.P. Huntington

Huntington by Jess Newcomb

This diminutive steam locomotive was built for the Central Pacific Railroad by Danforth, Cooke & Company of Paterson, New Jersey in 1863. Shipped from New York around Cape Horn, it arrived in San Francisco, March 19, 1864, on board the “Mary Robinson.” The railroad wanted to purchase a larger engine but because of the Civil War, the C. P. Huntington and its sister engine, the “T. D. Judah” were the only ones available.

The C. P. Huntington (No. 3 of the Central Pacific) was used in the construction of the transcontinental railroad. In February 1871 it was transferred to the newly reorganized Southern Pacific Railroad and renumbered No. 1. It pulled local passenger trains on the Southern Pacific line between San Francisco, San Jose and Hollister, and was also used on maintenance and construction trains. The locomotive was involved in a head-on collision in 1872 that nearly destroyed it, but was rebuilt in 1875 at the Southern Pacific San Francisco Shops. The C.P. Huntington finished its working career as a weed burner, clearing the track in the 1890s, and was officially retired in 1900.

From 1894 on, the C. P. Huntington became a symbol of Southern Pacific and was widely known from its many appearances in station openings and other railroad-related celebrations. Among its more notable appearances were:

  • 1892 California State Fair display by Southern Pacific
  • 1894 California Mid-Winter International Exposition
  • 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition
  • 1922 Days of ’49 Exhibition
  • 1922 California State Fair
  • 1924 Filming the movie The Iron Horse by Director John Ford
  • 1926 Dedication of the new Sacramento depot
  • 1930 Opening of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge
  • 1934 Chicago Railroad Fair
  • 1936 Opening of the Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans
  • 1939 Opening of the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (last time it was steamed up and operated under its own power); and New York World's Fair
  • 1955 Southern Pacific Centennial Celebration
  • 1958 Salute to Steam Age
  • 1969 Gold Spike Centennial Celebration

In 1964, Southern Pacific donated the engine to the State of California. The C. P. Huntington was placed on display at the old state fairgrounds on Stockton Boulevard, in Sacramento, where it remained until a 1970 refurbishing at Southern Pacific’s Sacramento Shops. In 1979, it was placed in the reconstructed Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station in Old Sacramento.

The locomotive entered the Museum’s restoration facility in 1980. The Museum decided to restore the locomotive to its appearance when it was refurbished for display at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The complex, artistic gold leaf striping on the C. P. Huntington is similar to that seen on other nineteenth-century steam locomotives.

The C.P. Huntington is significant nationally as a rare single-drivered locomotive, and the sole surviving standard-gauge 4-2-4 in the U.S. The unique engine is the second oldest locomotive owned by the California State Railroad Museum.

North Pacific Coast Railroad No. 12 Sonoma

Locomotives North Pacific Coast Railroad No 12 Sonoma

The Sonoma is one of three locomotives built in 1876 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia for the narrow-gauge North Pacific Coast Railroad. Although documentation of its early service-life is scarce (there are no photographs showing the Sonoma in service on the North Pacific Coast, for example), the engine is believed to have initially pulled both passenger and freight trains along NPC’s eighty-mile line between Sausalito and Duncans Mills.

The railroad always faced financial difficulties and by the end of 1879, for reasons unknown, the Sonoma was sold to the Nevada Central Railroad. The Nevada Central ran a narrow-gauge line connecting Austin, then Nevada’s second largest city, with the Central Pacific Railroad at Battle Mountain.

Nevada Central renamed the locomotive General J. H. Ledlie and renumbered it NC No. 5. It performed mixed duty as a yard, construction, and road engine. When the bankrupt company was abandoned in 1938, the engine was still in service. Acquired by Nevada Central General Manager J. M. Hiskey, the 4-4-0 was loaned to the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society’s Pacific Coast Chapter.

On December 15, 1938, the Sonoma was taken to the Southern Pacific shops in Berkeley, where it was extensively repaired and restored to an “old-time” appearance. By February 18, 1939, the Sonoma had been outfitted to resemble Central Pacific’s No. 60 Jupiter for its appearance in the re-enactment of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, part of the daily performance of Cavalcade of the Golden West at the Golden Gate International Exposition, on San Francisco’s Treasure Island. The following year the Sonoma participated in the Exposition’s revised presentation “America! Cavalcade of a Nation.”

In October, 1940, the Sonoma completed its service on Treasure Island and was placed in storage in the San Francisco Bay Area where it remained until moved to the California State Railroad Museum in 1977. The engine was donated to the Museum in 1978 by the J. M. Hiskey family.

The Sonoma has been restored to its as-built appearance, utilizing Baldwin drawings and specifications. It pulls a narrow-gauge passenger train in the Museum’s Great Hall.

Virginia & Truckee Railroad No. 13 Empire

Locomotives Virginia Truckee Railroad No 13 Empire

Virginia & Truckee Railroad General Superintendent Henry M. Yerington ordered steam locomotive No. 13 early in October 1872, soon after the Nevada short line had completed its connection with the transcontinental Central Pacific at Reno. The V&T had become taxed beyond capacity with freight and passenger traffic. Carloads of freight destined for the Comstock crammed nearly all of the sidings and yards on the 52-mile line.

Deluged with business, the V&T found itself without an adequate number of steam locomotives and passenger cars to handle the increase in traffic. Superintendent Yerington solicited the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads for surplus engines and was able to rent several CP American-type locomotives on a monthly basis. This solution was only temporary however, and Yerington reluctantly concluded that the railroad needed additional motive power.

Locomotive No. 13 was delivered to the V&T in February of 1873. Empire was an appropriate namesake: Empire City, located three miles east of Carson City, was an important territorial town and station on the Overland Route, and site of several cord wood yards and ore reduction mills. The engine quickly entered freight service on the line from Virginia City to Carson City and Reno. From the late 1880s to 1902, as frantic traffic conditions abated, the V&T held No. 13 in reserve. With an upswing in the economy, the No. 13 received a major overhaul and was once again placed in regular freight service. In 1910, the Carson City shops converted the Empire from wood to fuel oil. Because V&T engine crews considered No. 13 an unlucky number, the number was changed to V&T second No. 15 at this time.

The locomotive was placed in storage and retired in 1918 because of declining business on the V&T. It was sold in 1924 to the Pacific Portland Cement Company of Gerlach, Nevada, where it saw service as PPC Co. switcher No. 501 until 1931. In 1938, the Empire was donated to the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. There it remained until 1966 when it underwent a cosmetic restoration at Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s San Francisco shipbuilding yards.

In 1976, the locomotive moved into the newly-reconstructed Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station in Old Sacramento. A total restoration effort by the Museum began two years later. The tender was stripped, rust and holes filled, and it was repainted in original V&T colors. The trucks were cleaned and repainted, and new brake beams of oak were added. Except for a single end timber, the tender frame was replaced.

The locomotive was stripped to its driving wheels, frame and boiler. A new brass steam dome wrapper and simulated Russian iron boiler jacket was fabricated and installed, as was a new Baldwin Yankee-style smokestack. A new cab made of ash, as on the original engine, and numerous small fittings reconstructed from period photographs and drawings brought the locomotive close to completion. In a final step, craftsmen repainted the locomotive in the original V&T colors, complete with gold-leaf striping.

Since 1981, the Empire has been displayed surrounded by mirrors where visitors can appreciate all aspects of 1870s locomotive construction.

Southern Pacific Railroad Cab Forward No. 4294

Cab Forward

The first California cab-ahead design (also known as a cab-forward) was built in 1901 by William J. Thomas, master mechanic of the North Pacific Coast Railroad. Its unique design was possibly influenced by an Italian cab-ahead which had received much publicity in the trade press. The configuration provided the best visibility for locomotive engineers on sharp curves. Southern Pacific officials also recognized the value of the cab-forward as a design that would save engineers from being asphyxiated by smokestack fumes in SP’s numerous long mountain tunnels and snowsheds. The first cab-forwards were delivered to SP by Baldwin in February, 1910. Engine 4294 was part of SP’s AC-12 class of locomotives, the last new steam locomotives acquired by the company.

The cab-forward design worked well on these large articulated locomotives. An articulated is equipped with two independent sets of driving wheels, able to follow the rails flexibly. SP No. 4294 is often incorrectly called a Mallet. Named for its French designer, Anatole Mallet, the Mallet is not only articulated, but it is also compounded, meaning the steam is used more than once. The steam goes first to high pressure cylinders, then to low pressure cylinders. Early cab-aheads on the SP were Mallets. SP 4294 is articulated, but not compounded, and thus is not a true Mallet.

In total, Baldwin built 256 cab-forward locomotives for SP, the only American railroad to make extensive use of this design. Wheel arrangements for these oil-burning behemoths were 2-6-6-2 (changed to 4-6-6-2 after a serious derailment), 2-8-8-2, and 4-8-8-2. Although they were identified mainly with the Sierra Nevada, these locomotives also saw service on the Tehachapi Mountains, the Shasta Division, the Modoc route and other parts of the SP system.

SP 4294 was in service from March 19, 1944 to March 5, 1956, hauling both freight and passenger trains in California and Oregon. The 4294 occasionally pulled the famous Overland Limited (Train Nos. 27 and 28) over the arduous Donner Pass route between Sacramento and Sparks, Nevada.

In September, 1958, the now dieselized SP wrote-off its twenty-nine remaining cab-forwards. The Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society organized a campaign to save No. 4294 from the scrap heap. SP responded by putting the engine “on hold” while the rest of the cab-forwards were scrapped.

SP 4294 was placed on outdoor display in front of SP’s Sacramento station and dedicated to the City of Sacramento on October 19, 1958 in a celebration that also featured the C. P. Huntington. Both locomotives were moved in 1967 to make way for an Interstate 5 approach ramp. They temporarily appeared at the Sacramento station in May 1969 for the Gold Spike Centennial Celebrations.

For eleven years, No. 4294 was stored in SP’s Sacramento yards, awaiting restoration and display in the California State Railroad Museum. In early 1981, the monstrous locomotive received a cosmetic restoration in the Museum’s restoration facility. It has been completely repainted and refurbished, and many of the missing parts have been replaced. Mechanically, the engine is in remarkably good condition; during the Museum’s cosmetic restoration, nothing was found that would preclude the possible restoration of the locomotive to operable condition at a later date.

Southern Pacific No. 4294, the last one of its kind in the world, occupies a place of prominence on the main floor of the Museum of Railroad History.

Virginia & Truckee Railroad No. 12 Genoa

Locomotives Virginia Truckee Railroad No 12 Genoa

Currently on loan to the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Virginia & Truckee Railroad No. 12 Genoa is a classic example of the conventional 4-4-0 American-type steam locomotive, the standard engine of most railroads in the United States for nearly three decades. By 1870 over half the locomotives in the nation were of this type. The 4-4-0 wheel arrangement was designed for maximum traction, power and speed. The light-weight and compact nature of the engine made it very flexible for all types of track conditions and train operations.

By 1873, the year the Genoa was completed, the 4-4-0 had reached a mature design with calculated proportions, improved details, a graceful appearance, and an elegance and effectiveness which remained unchanged for nearly a quarter of a century.

The Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company was organized in Nevada on March 5, 1868, to connect the Comstock ore-producing mines with quartz-reduction mills located along the Carson River, approximately three miles east of Carson City. The twenty-one mile standard-gauge line between Carson City and Virginia City was completed on January 29, 1870. A thirty-one mile extension south from Reno to Carson City through Franktown, Washoe City, and Steamboat Springs connected the Comstock with the Central Pacific Railroad in August 1872. An extension from Carson City to Minden was completed in August 1906.

The wood-burning Genoa was outshopped in January of 1873 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. For nearly thirty years No. 12 hauled passenger, mixed and freight trains for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad between Carson City, Virginia City, Minden and Reno, Nevada.

Early Virginia & Truckee engineers liked to operate the Genoa, believing her to be one of the fastest of the railroad’s original twenty-four steam locomotives. For this reason, it saw considerable duty on special and excursion trains. When requisitioned for freight service, the Genoa easily handled up to seven of the Virginia & Truckee’s fully loaded wooden freight cars.

Shop wipers worked at 25 cents per hour for ten-hour days to polish brass fittings and keep V&T locomotives sparkling. The Virginia & Truckee took great pride in its maintenance procedures, and the passenger locomotives in particular received special attention. By 1902, the paint scheme of locomotives on the Virginia & Truckee and most other railroads, had been simplified considerably with black replacing the bright colors of earlier years. Even then, the Genoa retained most of her brass trim and V&T crews continued to provide careful maintenance and cleaning.

By 1908, passenger service had declined to a point where the locomotive was no longer needed for revenue service. On December 31, 1908, No. 12 was retired to a stall in the Carson City engine house. As she had run only 3,246 miles since her last overhaul, she was stored in prime operating condition.

The locomotive remained in storage until 1939 when, after sale to the Eastern Railroads Presidents’ Conference, it left for the East Coast to begin a two-year career in excursion and display service. The Genoa was modified to represent Central Pacific’s No. 60 Jupiter for performances in the Golden Spike scene at the pageant “Railroads on Parade” during the New York World’s Fair (1939-1940). It also operated at the Chicago Railroad Fair in 1948. After the Chicago fair, ownership was transferred to the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society which in turn presented the locomotive to the State of California in 1969.

The Genoa, painted as the Central Pacific Jupiter, operated under steam at the 1969 ceremony at Promontory, Utah, marking the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Facing the Genoa/Jupiter was Virginia & Truckee locomotive No. 11 Reno dressed up as Union Pacific No. 119. After the ceremony these locomotives were replaced with Virginia & Truckee No. 22 Inyo as the Jupiter, and No. 18 Dayton as Union Pacific No. 119 on static display.

After its last wood-fired operation under steam in May 1979 at the California State Railroad Museum, the Genoa was restored to its 1902 appearance. It is displayed in the Great Hall of the Museum of Railroad History, pulling Virginia & Truckee combination car No. 16 across an 1884 Phoenix Bridge Company cast-iron railroad bridge.

Rolling Stock

Whether it is a short wooden caboose bringing up the rear of a narrow-gauge Pacific Coast Railway freight train high above the Museum’s Roundhouse gallery, or a gently rocking sleeping car “rolling” through the night, the rolling stock on exhibit at the California State Railroad Museum offers unmatched views of railroading. State of the art restoration and engaging interpretive exhibits that place the cars in their historical and social context make these particular pieces of equipment favorites with the visiting public.

Spanning the period between 1874 and 1950, the rolling stock collection ranges from the prosaic caboose to the lavish private car, and includes freight as well as passenger equipment. The rolling stock collection illustrates key facets of railroad history such as the transportation of the U.S. mail by rail, the role of refrigerator cars in revolutionizing the American diet, the romance of long-distance train travel, and dining onboard.

In addition to its passenger and freight roster, the Museum maintains a fleet of 17 maintenance-of-way cars dating from 1905 to 1974. These include cranes, scale test cars, tool and outfit cars, flangers, snowplows, dynamometer cars, and a fire truck on rails.

AT&SF Dining Car No. 1474 Cochiti

Rolling Stock Atsf Dining Car No 1474 Cochiti

“Dinner in the Diner.” For many, this phrase conjures up images of fine china, sparkling crystal, freshly pressed linen and delectable food served aboard a spotless dining car traversing the countryside. June 17, 1994, marked the opening of the California State Railroad Museum’s walk-through interpretive exhibit featuring the classic 1930s Santa Fe dining car Cochiti.

During the late 1970s when the Museum staff was researching and assembling artifacts for the Museum of Railroad History, the full-size equipment collection lacked a dining car or other food-service car to interpret one of the most memorable images of classic long-distance passenger train travel. The Museum staff were delighted to find former Santa Fe diner No. 1474 named Cochiti for sale at $7,500 in Tea, South Dakota. The car was built for the Santa Fe Super Chief, judged by many to offer the ultimate in fine dining. The Cochiti was the first in a long line of lightweight Santa Fe dining cars which were the pride of the line, noted for custom menus and fine quality meals prepared by trained chefs.

The 36-seat Cochiti was ordered by Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in April 1936, one in a set of eight cars for a new streamlined stainless steel train – the once a week first class Super Chief running between Chicago and Los Angeles. One year earlier, Santa Fe had introduced a new Super Chief schedule of only 39 hours, 45 minutes between Los Angeles and Chicago using diesel-electric locomotives and heavyweight steel passenger cars. Santa Fe’s first lightweight stainless steel coach received in January 1936 was followed three months later by an order for a completely lightweight Super Chief from the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia. Received in April 1937, the eight-car Super Chief began regular service a month later and quickly became the premier train in the system.

All of the cars for this new Santa Fe train were named for Southwest Indian pueblos or tribes: Isleta, Laguna, Acoma. The Cochiti was named for an old Indian-Spanish pueblo which surrounded the mission San Buenaventura de Cochiti, located on the Rio Grande river about 30 miles southwest of Santa Fe and north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The pueblo dates back more than 700 years. Even today, its population remains largely Native American.

Santa Fe spared no expense on its new train. A team of designers and architects carefully decorated each car. Most interior walls were covered with “Flexwood” panels – a 1/85th-inch thick wood veneer applied to Masonite panels. Exotic woods were used throughout the train as were custom woven Indian-design carpets, upholstery, Art Deco ceiling lighting fixtures and other special touches. The Cochiti originally featured Bubinga wood and chocolate brown moldings with a flesh-colored ceiling. The chairs were burnt-orange leather; the carpet was brick-red and ebony. The railroad commissioned Mary Coulter to design new china for the Cochiti with distinctive designs inspired by ancient pottery makers of the Rio Mimbres Valley in New Mexico. Named Mimbreno, this china remained a trademark of the Super Chief for more than 30 years.

A meal in the Cochiti was a gourmet experience. Presiding over the Cochiti cuisine was 51-year old Peter Tausch, a trusted steward trained in the tradition of Fred Harvey to provide fine dining service aboard Santa Fe dining cars. On the Super Chief’s maiden run on May 18, 1937, the Cochiti’s menu included sirloin steak for two for $2.75, Swordfish Steak Saute for 75 cents, Poached Tranche of Salmon for 70 cents, and Old Fashion Boneless Chicken Pie for 85 cents.

As years went by, newer dining cars ultimately replaced the Cochiti and the car lost its initial special assignment and decor. By the fall of 1946, the Cochiti was in dining car service on the first section of Santa Fe’s California Limited between Chicago and Los Angeles. During the mid 50s, the car was in operation during the summer months for special Chicago-Grand Canyon-Los Angeles tours. The Cochiti’s original “Flexwood” veneer was replaced early on by more easily maintained painted color schemes favoring the southwest. Still, Santa Fe’s standards were high and the AT&SF dining car pool was well maintained throughout its life. Not until its final years in service was the Cochiti’s seating capacity expanded from its original comfortable 36 to a more crowded 46. In 1968, the Cochiti was finally retired and sent to join hundreds of other out-of-service Santa Fe passenger cars stored in Marceline, Missouri. Having easily served more than a million meals over the course of its 31 years of service, the Cochiti’s Santa Fe career had finally ended.

In the summer of 1968, Wayne Kerslake and his father canvassed the Santa Fe’s cars at Marceline to identify equipment for possible use in a stationary railroad-themed restaurant in South Dakota. Two years later the Kerslakes selected the Cochiti for its good condition from among more than two dozen AT&SF diners along with several other pieces at Marceline. Years of preparation ensued. The car was relocated to Tea, South Dakota. Most of the diner’s underframe equipment was removed and the heating and air conditioning system re-plumbed. Unfortunately the restaurant was not successful. After six months of operation in 1977, the venture closed and the equipment was placed on sale. Invoiced to the California State Railroad Museum effective September 21, 1978 for $7,000, the Cochiti was moved west by Burlington Northern along with recently donated Great Northern Railway Post Office Car No. 42. For the next decade, the dining car would remain among the Museum’s stored full-size equipment.

With a generous gift from William R. and Barbara C. Breuner, the Museum began research on the Cochiti in 1989. Over the next several years, miracles were worked as rust, corrosion and fatigue were discovered and painstakingly removed. In the hands of artisans, many of the adverse effects of Santa Fe modifications and a decade of storage in South Dakota were removed. After considerable consultation, Museum staff selected a mid-1940s restoration period for the car which was consistent with the Cochiti’s condition and general arrangement. Archeological evidence confirmed a basic salmon interior color which was carefully masked and reapplied late in 1993.

Today the Cochiti sparkles as it did in the 1940s while in service on the Santa Fe’s Super Chief. One table for four is replete in appropriate Mimbreno-pattern china while the other tables offer an opportunity to examine china settings from the Museum’s collections.

Nevada Central Railway Coach No. 3 Silver State

Nevada Central Railway Coach No.3 Silver State

This narrow-gauge passenger car was completed in December of 1881 in the shops of the Nevada Central Railway at Battle Mountain, Nevada. It may have been constructed using the trucks and the underframe of a former passenger coach originally manufactured (circa 1870s) in Monterey, California. It was the only passenger car built by the Nevada Central Railway, which ran between Austin and a Central Pacific connection at Battle Mountain. Among the features of the bright yellow car are a “saloon” (toilet) and a marble washstand.

Christened the Silver State for the Nevada state motto, the coach saw irregular service as a first-class car on the Nevada Central until the early 1900s when it was placed in storage at Battle Mountain. When the railroad was abandoned in early 1938, the car was donated to the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. It appeared at the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939 and 1940 lettered as Central Pacific for the daily pageants depicting the 1869 Gold Spike ceremony. From 1940 until 1977, No. 3 remained in storage in the Bay Area.

In 1969, the Silver State was donated to the State of California for future display in the Railroad Museum. Restoration efforts began in February 1977. The coach was examined and thoroughly documented for restoration to its 1881 appearance. New exterior wood was applied, worn parts replaced, and all colors matched to the original paint. The oil-painted headlining cloths, brittle with age, were fully replicated by hand on fine linen canvas. The original ceiling cloths have been removed and preserved by the Museum. The interior walls proved particularly interesting: they are embellished with an intricate pattern of birds and flowers. Remnants of the designs appeared while the walls were being sanded and were restored to their period appearance. Elaborate multi-color floral brocade seat upholstery replaced the worn floral mohair plush material. All hardware in the car was re-plated with silver to match the original finish which is typical of an 1870s/1880s passenger car.

The Silver State appears on the main floor of the Railroad Museum as part of a typical 1880s narrow-gauge passenger train pulled by North Pacific Coast steam locomotive No. 12, the Sonoma.

Fruit Growers Express Company Refrigerator Car No. 35832

Rolling Stock Fruit Growers Express Company Refrigerator Car No 35832

Refrigerator cars, or “reefers,” had an enormous impact on California’s agricultural history. Before refrigerator cars were perfected, most of California’s perishable produce could only be sold locally, thereby limiting the state’s agricultural potential. Experiments with refrigerator cars began in the 1860s and by 1872 meat was being shipped successfully within the Eastern states. By 1887 wholesale meat shipping was reliable enough to allow Midwestern cities such as Chicago and Kansas City to become national meat packing centers.

The idea of shipping fruit and vegetables as well, quickly caught on. In 1887, there were 2,200 shipments of citrus from California and, by 1893, that number had more than doubled. California growers were no longer restricted to local markets and, as a result, the agricultural industry expanded until California became the number one farm state in America. In 1924, when this refrigerator car was built, more than 150,000 similar cars were in service.

Refrigerator cars could not operate efficiently without an elaborate support system. Icing stations had to be located at regular intervals, railroad scheduling had to be reliable so that trains would reach the icing stations before the ice melted, and a dependable marketing system had to be in operation so that the most perishable produce would not rot on the loading docks. Most railroads were slow to recognize the significant profit to be made with refrigerator cars. Initially, private companies owned the reefers and contracted with the railroads to haul them, operating “fruit blocks,” special trains consisting entirely of refrigerator cars carrying perishables. These trains were given priority over most other traffic. Eventually most railroads purchased their own refrigerator cars or formed refrigerator car subsidiaries with other railroads.

The most successful private refrigerator car company was the Armour Car Lines, including its subsidiary, the Fruit Growers Express. Though their success led to their downfall as, in 1919, the Federal Trade Commission ordered the sale of the produce hauling subsidiary for antitrust reasons. A group of eastern and southern railroads formed a new Fruit Growers Express Company in 1920 to take over the operations. By 1926, FGE had expanded service into the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest through its partly owned cooperating subsidiaries, Western Fruit Express and Burlington Fruit Express. FGE refrigerator car No. 35832 was built in the Company’s Indiana Harbor shops in 1924. It was designated a type RS car which is the Association of American Railroads’ abbreviation for a refrigerator car using ice, or ice and salt in combination to cool the load space. The steel-framed wood-sheathed car operated for thirty-eight years in general railroad service until its retirement in 1962.

The car was sold to the Rainier Ice and Cold Storage Company of Seattle, Washington and subsequently purchased by the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society for $1,500 in 1973. The Chapter reconditioned the car at a cost of $14,367.51 and donated it to the California State Railroad Museum in 1974. The Museum restored the reefer to its 1938 appearance to represent a typical refrigerator car of the 1920s to 1940s.

Fruit Growers Express Company refrigerator car No. 35832 is displayed in the Museum’s Great Hall beside an icing platform. Museum visitors may enter the car, where an audio-visual program tells the story of refrigerator cars and their influence on the development of California’s agriculture.

Canadian National Railways Sleeping Car No. 1683 St. Hyacinthe

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The railroad sleeping car once offered the ultimate in long-distance travel comfort. The St. Hyacinthe is typical of all-steel Pullman type sleeping cars of the heavyweight era, the period between 1907 and the mid-1930s. Canadian National Railways Sleeping Car No. 1683 was delivered in 1929 by Canadian Car & Foundry Company of Montreal. It was one of fifteen sleepers built to a standard Pullman design with ten open sections, one drawing room, and one compartment. These cars received CN road numbers between 1674 and 1688 and were named for Canadian cities beginning with the letter “S.”

The St. Hyacinthe was assigned to trains in central Canada during its early years of service. In 1936 an ice-activated air conditioning system was installed. Fortunately for the Museum, the car escaped the Canadian National’s modernization of the early 1950s. During its last fifteen years of service, the sleeper was generally assigned to trains running through the cooler region between Montreal and the Atlantic Coast because of its older cooling system. Open section sleepers with aisle-curtained upper and lower berths became less popular with passengers who preferred the privacy of roomettes and bedrooms.

After retirement in 1971, the sleeping car was purchased for scrap value by the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. It was presented to the California State Railroad Museum in 1980. The exterior of the St. Hyacinthe has been restored by the Museum to its appearance during the late 1940s. Because it was not possible to completely replicate the interior decor of that period, the interior reflects a somewhat later era: the early 1950s.

The St. Hyacinthe is displayed in the Museum as a typical sleeping car traveling at night: a mechanical device built by the Museum rocks the car to simulate motion, berths are made-up, a lone passenger is sound asleep in his compartment, and lights of passing towns and grade crossings flash by the windows. A soundtrack simulates the typical night sounds of a fast-traveling heavyweight passenger train: the rhythmic clicking of the wheels, the distant whistle of the locomotive, and the descending Doppler effect of passing crossing bells.

Union Pacific Railroad Caboose No. 25256

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The humble caboose was a fixture on the end of freight trains for more than a century. The name may have originated with a French or Dutch word describing a deck cabin on a sailing ship, but railroaders, always inventive, called it by dozens of slang names: cabin car, crummy, shack, way car, bobber, brainbox, shanty, hack and many others. The purpose was to provide a sheltered vantage point from which trainmen could watch the cars ahead, cook and eat their meals, and where the conductor could do paperwork.

The typical caboose featured a raised cupola with seats for a brakeman, a heating and cooking stove, bunks for the crew to use on long runs, and a conductor’s desk. Each railroad had its own approach to design, with some cars being quite elaborate and others very simple. In the early days the color was almost invariably red or yellow, creating the durable image of “the little red caboose.”

As the railroads changed, the caboose was adapted as well. They began to be built of steel in the late 1920s, and some railroads replaced the cupola design with bay windows on the sides. Longer, faster runs with no switching made the caboose less important on some routes, and trackside equipment capable of detecting hot wheel bearings and dragging brake gear could do much the same job as a watchful brakeman. Labor contracts requiring fewer train crew members allowed conductors and brakemen to ride the locomotives, and it was evident by the mid-1980s that the caboose would become extinct. Today the caboose is nearly gone, having been replaced by electronic boxes attached to the last car of a train which transmit information to the engineer.