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California State Railroad Museum February 6, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
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I recently visited the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. This museum showcases the history of railroads in California.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis Huntington and Leland Stanford comprised the “Big Four” – a group of railroad barons who founded the Central Pacific Railroad. They made their fortunes during the California Gold Rush by selling supplies to miners; for example, Huntington ran a dry goods store, and Hopkins ran a grocery. Later, they successfully lobbied for Representative Aaron Sargent’s Pacific Railway Act; it became law in 1862.

2. Construction of the Central Pacific’s section of the transcontinental railroad was a thorny task. The route for that section was planned by engineer Theodore Judah, and included a stretch from Dutch Flat to Donner Pass. Workers had to adhere to the following standard: the elevation of the tracks could change by at most two feet for every 100 feet of laid track. At one point, Thomas Durant of the Union Pacific bet Crocker that his team could not exceed the Union Pacific record of seven miles of track laid in one day; Crocker then spurred them to lay ten miles of track in one day.

3. During the middle of the last century, railroads competed fiercely to offer top-quality service to their passengers. For example, railroads strove to provide a first-class dining experience, featuring ornate silverware and attentive porters. Certain railroads were acclaimed for their signature dishes, including:

It should be noted that railroads regularly lost money in their efforts in this regard, yet they viewed a first-class dining experience as a means of burnishing their brand.

I enjoyed walking through a sleeper car and a dining car, as that (briefly) helped me feel like a railroad passenger during the last century. The museum also features an excellent exhibit on toy trains that attracted many children.

I should note that one of the cash registers was not working during my visit – leading to the formation of a long snaking queue near the entrance to the museum. Hopefully this does not occur regularly…

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to those who happen to be in Sacramento.

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