Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Western Railway Museum

Ready for a change of scenery?  Maybe we should take a trip to California.  Tony Gura has sent us some pictures and detailed descriptions from the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista, Cal. where he is a volunteer.  This is one of the places I would really like to visit.  He says:

The Western Railway Museum is an electric railway museum roughly one hour northeast of San Francisco that operates nearly six miles of authentically restored Sacramento Northern Railway track built in 1913 that originally ran between Oakland, Sacramento, and points further north. The line was used for passenger service until 1941 and electric freight trains ran for another 15 years before being dieselized. The museum purchased 22 miles of the line roughly 20 years ago and has been gradually restoring the track to operation.

 Peninsular Railway 52 was built by American Car Co. in 1903 and ran in what is now San Jose and Silicon Valley back when it was used for orchards. This car was recently restored to operation after having its motors rebuilt and it was used as a sewing room for over thirty years after service was abandoned prior to being acquired.

Interior of 52.

I assisted the conductor on this car answering questions posed by riders and picked up the token which grants the holder permission to occupy the single track mainline.

The land along the line is mostly undeveloped and used for grazing and minimally water intensive farming due to the climate which is worse than normal due to the severe drought we are experiencing. We would have gladly taken some of the snow the Midwest suffered through but unfortunately we did not receive any rain for over half of the winter and it almost never rains this time of year.
At one point passengers can look to the west and see "ancient" history represented by the 1876 built Old Shiloh Church which is one of the oldest structures in the entire county, and which fell into disuse in the 1920s before being restored in the 1990s and used for special events.

The east side of the train is the 21st century which is represented by 250-foot tall wind turbines with blades 125-150 feet long which I have heard generate enough electricity to power a city of several hundred thousand people.

The most scenic portion of the line is on the extension opened about two years ago. This picture looks across marshland and the Delta towards Mount Diablo in the distance.

In order to construct the extension the Julie Johnson Substation was built.

Oakland streetcar 352 was built by the St. Louis Car Co. in 1912 and completely rebuilt in 1930.


Inside the shop building shown in the previous picture, Portland Traction 4001 is being rebuilt for operation. This car is a sister to Indiana Railroad 205 at IRM.


Their two newest streetcars are San Francisco Muni PCC 1016 built in 1952 as the first car in the last order of PCCs to be built in North America. The last car in the order and the last streetcar to be built in North America for over twenty years is operational in San Francisco.  On the adjacent track is San Diego Trolley 1018 which was built in 1982 and made me feel old the first time I saw it.

The prettiest time of year to ride the line is in April when the wildflowers are in bloom and the grass has not yet had a chance to turn brown but the wildflowers weren't as good this year due to the lack of rain. The museum runs three car Scenic Limited trains to view them consisting of a combine and coach that were built in the Bay Area to run on the line and an observation lounge car from Utah providing first class service complete with lemonade and cookies. They also run wine tasting trains using this consist on selected days during the month.

Tony Gura


Anonymous said...

As regular readers know, the Western Railway Museum has been my home away from home for many years.

I will add one bit to the report. The #52 was one of the first cars restored from a car body by the museum back in 1976. It was motor repairs that were done fairly recently.

Next winter when IRM is under several feet of snow; WRM will be open and operating. San Francisco Bay Area has lots of juice action to see and ride. We even have the cable cars which are indirect users of electric power.

Come one come all!

Ted Miles
WRM Member
IRM Member

David Wilkins said...


Does WRM operate in the winter months? I may make a visit to escape the cold and snow of the Salt Lake Valley.