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Cali State Railroad Museum

A train exhibit at the Railroad Museum

Not far from the some of the most luxurious Sacramento apartments for rent, there exists an institution quite unlike most others you’ve experienced before — the California State Railroad Museum. Located on I Street in Old Sacramento, this museum, also part of California’s State Park System, takes a close look at one of the more important aspects of America’s ascendancy in the West — the train — and how trains have been instrumental in keeping California connected to the rest of the country. What awaits at this one-of-a-kind museum, and why should you bother checking it out? That’s exactly what we plan on exploring today, as we take a peek at everything that makes the California State Railroad Museum great!

Some Background on the Museum

Like the name suggests, railroads and trains are the focal point for this museum:

“The California State Railroad Museum (CSRM) in Old Sacramento is the world-class tribute to the role of the "iron horse" in connecting California to the rest of the nation. [The] museum features 21 lavishly restored locomotives and cars, some dating back to 1862. There is a full-scale diorama of an 1860s construction site high in the Sierra Nevada as well as a bridge elevated 24 feet above the museum floor.”

Indeed, if you’re a fan of the railway, then you’re going to love the State Railroad Museum. The 225,000 square-foot exhibit space features all manner of steam locomotives on display for your viewing pleasure, including:

  • Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 2925
  • Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 1010
  • Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 5021
  • Central Pacific No. 1
  • Central Pacific No. 3
  • Central Pacific No. 233
  • Granite Rock No. 10
  • Northwestern Pacific 112
  • North Pacific Coast 12 Sonoma
  • Nevada Short Line No. 1
  • Overfair Railway #1915
  • Southern Pacific No. 1
  • Southern Pacific 2467
  • Southern Pacific 4294
  • Union Pacific 4466
  • Virginia & Truckee 12 Genoa
  • Virginia & Truckee 13 Empire
  • Virginia & Truckee 21 J.W. Bowker

They’ve even got some diesel models thrown into the mix:

  • Amtrak 281
  • Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 347C
  • Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 608
  • Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 2260
  • Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 9820
  • Sacramento Northern 402
  • Southern Pacific 1000
  • Southern Pacific 5208
  • Southern Pacific 6051
  • Southern Pacific 6402
  • Southern Pacific 6819
  • Western Pacific 913

But there’s more to do at this museum than just gawk at all the fancy trains. You can even hop aboard for one of their “Excursion Train Rides” from April to September. These rides give you an opportunity to experience what it’s like on the railroad, through a “relaxing 45-minute, 6-mile round trip ride along the levees of the Sacramento River.” Cars are pulled by either Granite Rock No. 10 steam locomotive or one of the vintage diesel locomotives from the Museum’s collection.

While the locomotive chugs along, you’ll trail behind on one of the museum’s classy lounge cars — the El Dorado, the French Quarter, or the Audubon Dining Car — each offering a slightly different take on the luxuries of the railroad. In and of itself, this is plenty of reason to want to check out the museum, but there’s even more to experience for die-hard train fanatics, like the rotating exhibits.

The rotating exhibits include interactive displays like the high-speed train simulator, which puts you in the virtual conductor’s chair of a high-speed train, allowing you to experience what it’s like to be behind the controls. Then there are historical displays, like “A City Divided and the Pullman Strike of 1894,” which delves into the history behind the legendary nationwide strike, where Sacramento was a significant focal point. There are even “learning experiences” at the museum where younger guests can learn about various STEM topics and engage their brains.

Even more learning opportunities await at the Kid’s Corner. Bring your youngling along, and they’ll have a chance to experience the joy of being a Junior Engineer. This museum program challenges kids to learn more about locomotives and railroad cars by touring the museum and completing an associated activity guide. Meanwhile, Story Time at the museum helps bolster the love of reading through various tales, read on the first Monday of every month in the East Theater.

All told, there are plenty of opportunities for fun and exploration at the California State Railroad Museum, regardless of your age, and irrespective of your interest in trains. It’s a fun time that the whole family can enjoy, so maybe plan a trip for some point in the near future? Next, we’ll fill you in on some general details you’ll want to stay aware of ahead of your visit.

Visiting the California State Railroad Museum

The California State Railroad Museum is open from 10:00AM to 5:00PM, every day (with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Admission to the museum is just a few dollars (and free for children under five), so heading over there on a whim shouldn’t be too big of a deal. What might be more challenging, though, is parking. Parking at the museum can fill up quickly on busy days, and street parking near the museum is only good for 90-minute blocks. Therefore, you might want to plan on using the nearby public garage, where spaces are more numerous.

As for photography within the museum, it’s permissible, provided you’re taking the photos for personal use. Commercial photography has to be approved by the museum administration. While there are restrictions on the use of tripods and free-standing flashes, the museum does host a photographer’s event where rules are bit more relaxed. So, if photography is your main goal at the museum, you’ll want to check that out, and, even if it isn’t you’ll still have a great time just heading down to see the exhibits!

Even More Reasons to Give the Sacramento Apartments for Rent a Close Look

History like this lies all around the Capital of California, and plenty more to explore and experience awaits in neighborhoods like The Arbors. Shopping, dining, and more are at your fingertips, and you can top that off with the lovely, family-oriented residences and superb community amenities The Arbors are so well-known for. If you’ve always wanted a lifestyle that was city close but out-of-the-way quiet, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more perfect. Check out what The Arbors has in store for you, and welcome to your new California home.