Railfan for a Day or for a Lifetime: California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento

Get off-track for a day at the California State Railroad Museum (CSRM).

The final blog stop on our recent road trip around California culminates with our fantastic visit to the California State Railroad Museum (CSRM). Located in Old Sacramento, this museum isn’t just for railfans like T, but it also is an awesome tribute to train history, engineering, travel, and design.

A life-sized and working turntable and roundhouse play a key role at CSRM.

Actual working steam and diesel engines sit behind the roundhouse doors at CSRM. We were told that some of these engines actually go into service to pull special train rides from April through September along the Sacramento River just outside those doors. Note to self: Next time, visit sometime during April through September.

An overhead view of the interior of CSRM's roundhouse.

I don’t even know where to start with a write-up on this, so I won’t. That and I have way too many photos to bog down this post with a bunch of babble, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.

Outside CSRM sits this crane (foreground), which attracted T's interest immediately. In the background is another depot full of engines and hand-cars, also used in CSRM's special events on the tracks here alongside the Sacramento River.

A wider shot inside of CSRM. Notice the grand scale of the interior of this museum. Yes, these are actual engines that now reside inside of this place, so the place itself is HUGE. Photos just can't do it proper justice, so please make time for a visit!

But I will say this: Please, if you go to Sacramento, make time to visit CSRM. It’ll make a railfan out of you for the day if not for a lifetime.

Do you think T loved the California State Railroad Museum? Yeah... I'm pretty certain he did, too.

Enjoy the trip, and have a great weekend, RMT’ers!

T hops aboard one of the larger engines housed at CSRM.

Staffers put T to work stoking the fire of that big engine at CSRM.

As you can see, kids are welcome to climb and explore many of the exhibits and trains here at CSRM.

T runs alongside the train cars upstairs (yes, there are full-sized trains UPSTAIRS - yes, this place is HUGE!) at CSRM.

T always returned to this exhibit of signal and switch equipment at CSRM.

Just one of the many beautiful steam engines that enjoy retirement at CSRM.

A preserved mail car at CSRM. Here we learned that workers board the train for a 12-hour shift in one direction, working to sort mail at a speed of 28 letters a minute. At the end of that shift, the workers get off for an overnight in whatever city their shift ends in, only to board another train the next day for another 12-hour shift back home.

Life-size mannequin chefs are ready to serve it up in the dining car at CSRM.

T rings the dinner chimes on the dining car at CSRM.

This is just one of the 30 or so Amtrak china patterns on display at CSRM. At one time each Amtrak train line used to have its own china and flatware pattern for dedicated use, and most patterns were themed according to the region where the train traveled (the one above being a Northern US route).

Another one of the special exhibits running during our visit to CSRM was "Pick Me! Fruit Crate Art & the California Dream." From the CSRMF's website: "More than 80 iconic fruit crate art labels from the 1880s through the early 1950s will be on display as part of this visually powerful new exhibit. Chosen from the Museum's collection and from the California State Library, the striking crate labels portray vibrant hues and whimsical motifs that romanticized life in the Golden State and served as an alluring call to "Go West.""

There were lovely hands-on activities for kids and adults here in the special exhibit dedicated to fruit crate art at CSRM.

And at long last, what train museum is complete without the TOYS?! The Lionel model train and toy area at CSRM attracts kids of all ages.

With the push of a few buttons, T operates just a handful of the features inside of a very large and elaborate scale model railroad at CSRM.

Kids can get their heads inside one of the Thomas the Train displays at CSRM.

Engineers-in-training work one of about half-dozen toy train tables at CSRM. We were advised to visit this area last as it would be difficult to lure the kid away for anything else. Yep, sounds about right!

From the exhibit placard: "Joshua Lionel Cowen sold his first electric train as a store window display in 1901. The movement of the toy train was intended to attract shoppers’ attention to the store’s merchandise. Instead, it was the toy train that the customers wanted. This rare layout was in the window of the fashionable Bullock’s Wilshire department store of Los Angeles for Christmas 1956." Well, it worked... it attracted T's attention, too!

"The mission of the California State Railroad Museum is to collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and interpret selected aspects of railroads and railroading, with an emphasis on California and the West, for the education, entertainment, and enjoyment of the widest possible audience." Mission accomplished! Thank you California State Railroad Museum for such a wonderful day with my family!

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