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Western Railway Museum 11/29/2014

by Chris Guenzler

Chris Parker and I pulled into the parking lot of the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista, and it was not raining. We are having a fantastic day in Northern California.

Museum History

In 1946, a group of like-minded individuals learned that an old Oakland streetcar that they had chartered for a day's outing was to be scrapped within a week. They immediately dug into their pockets and gathered together enough money to buy the car right there on the spot. In this spirit of philanthropy and historic preservation, the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association was created to foster interest in streetcar, interurban, and mainline electric railroad operations, and to preserve these rapidly vanishing pieces of history.

In the following years, many interurbans and streetcars were collected, as well as smaller artifacts such as photographs, corporate records, books, fare boxes, and signage. By 1960, the need for a permanent site was clear. Rio Vista Junction, an actual stop on the electrically powered Sacramento Northern main line in Solano County, was selected as the museum site, and the task of transforming 22 vacant acres into a living history museum began. In 1985, the name "Western Railway Museum" was officially adopted.

During 1993, the Union Pacific Railroad made a gift of 22 miles of right-of-way to our museum. Donations from museum members and friends enabled us to purchase the rails, ties, and associated hardware. This donation was significant, not only because we can now recreate an authentic interurban trip, but also because the right-of-way was originally built as an electric interurban line: the Oakland, Antioch, and Eastern (later known as the Sacramento Northern). To date, five miles have been rehabilitated to the original standards, using drawings and schematics preserved in our own archives.

In 2001, the Museum's new 12,000 sq ft Visitors and Archives Center opened. The new facility, designed in the mission revival style, radically changes the visitors' experience at the Museum. Visitors now park in a large paved parking lot with plenty of space for buses and RV's.

In 2004, work began on the Loring C. Jensen Memorial Car House, a fully enclosed, publicly accessible artifact storage and display facility. The $2.5 million facility is the biggest and most-expensive project in our history to-date. It was completed and officially opened to the public on May 3, 2008. Once daily public guided tours are now given every day the Museum is open.

San Francisco Municipal Railway PCC Streetcar 1016 made its inaugural run at the Museum on Saturday July 10, 2010. It is the first car in the last streetcar order San Francisco's Municipal Railway placed with the St. Louis Car Company in 1951. It was purchased by the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association in October 1982 when it came out of service, and has been preserved at the Western Railway Museum ever since.

A team of volunteers led by Museum board member David Buechler spent 4 years restoring the MUNI 1016 to its "as-built" condition. When originally purchased by MUNI, it cost just $34,940. The Museum's restoration project cost nearly as much: over $30,500 in parts and materials, with all of the labor being donated by volunteers. To make the car operable again, volunteers restored the roof, flooring, interior light fixtures, and seats; refurbished the body; painted the interior and exterior of the car; and replaced all eight wheels.

After a decade in the Western Railway Museum restoration shop, Sacramento Northern interurban 1005 made its debut on Saturday, September 18, 2010. SN 1005 is a true Bay Area native. It was built by the Holman Car Company of San Francisco in 1912 for the Oakland, Antioch and Eastern Railroad which ran from Oakland to Sacramento on the very tracks the Museum now owns and operates. The O, A & E was merged with the Northern Electric Railway to eventually form the Sacramento Northern Railway.

The car was first acquired by the parent organization of the Western Railway Museum, the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, in May 1951 when it came out of service. It was used on many excursion trips around California before the Western Railway Museum was founded in 1960. It has been preserved at the Western Railway Museum ever since.

With the investment of over $175,000 from concerned historic preservationists and 10,000 hours of donated volunteer labor (valued at $450,000) led by Museum Electric Car Superintendent David Johnston with assistance from professional restoration expert Glenn Guerra, the car has been restored to its 1934 condition.

On June 30, 2012 the Western Railway Museum opened a new segment of track for our interpretive ride on the historic Sacramento Northern right-of-way. Visitors can now take a 10-mile round trip ride all the way from the Museum, past the historic Shiloh Church and Gum Grove (site of our annual Pumpkin Festival), over Shiloh Road and all the way to Birds Landing Road.

The museum is supported by 1200 members, 125 volunteers, admission receipts, museum store sales, and tax-deductible donations from organizations, friends, visitors, and members of the museum.

Our visit

The Museum building of the Western Railway Museum. I got a guest pass for the day since I was writing the story then headed out to Car Barn 1.

Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramway Board 648 built in 1930 in its own shop.

Key System 352 built by the St Louis Car Company in 1911.

Key System 187 built by Bethlehem Steel in Wilmington, Delaware in 1936.

San Francisco Municipal Railroad PCC Car 1003 built by St Louis Car Company in 1939.

San Francisco Municipal Railroad 178 built by Bethlehem Ship Building in San Francisco in 1923.

San Francisco Municipal Railroad 1258 built by Boeing-Vertol between 1977 and 1980.

Cedar Rapids and Iowa City {Crandic} 111 built by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1930 for the Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad.

Key System 987 built in the Emeryville Shop in 1927.

Sacramento Northern 62 built in 1920 by the American Car Company in St Louis for the San Diego Electric Railway Company.

Blackpool Boat Car 226 built in 1934 by the English Electric Preston Works.

San Francisco Municipal Railroad 1153 built by the St Louis Car Company for the St Louis Public Service Company in 1946.

Western Pacific Tank Car 1025.

Central California Traction Company GE 70 Toner 30.

Napa Valley Box Motor 100.

Central California Traction Company Flat Car 1017.

Southern Pacific 2093 and 2113 built by the Pullman Car Company in 1924.

Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad 63 built by the Holman Car Company in San Francisco in 1904.

Sacramento Northern 1019.

Sacramento Northern Box Car 2314.

SCCX Tank Car 662.

Sacramento Northern 1130.

Key System 187 built by Bethlehem Steel in Wilmington, Delaware in 1936.

Salt Lake and Garfield Open Trailer was assembled by the railroad in 1922 from steel framework built by the American Bridge Company of Chicago.

Key System Railroad Shop Switcher 1215 built in 1899.

The Insley Building. Next they gave me a tour of the Restoration Shop.

Indiana Railroad 202 built by the G.C. Kuhlham Csr Company of Cleveland in 1926 for the Interstate Public Service Company of Indiana.

This car is in for wreck repair.

Sacramento Northern Steeple Cab 654 built by GE in 1930.

Power unit truck.

Sacrmento Northern GE 44 Toner 146 built in 1946 in for some heavy work. I went outside.

Spokane, Seattle & Seattle baggage cart.

Museum view.

Muni Motor Car 0305.

CN Motor Car 194-17.

US Navy 65-00404.

Muni Cable Car 20.

Kennecott Main Line Electric 407.

Two views of Car Barn 1.

Museum Scene. Next we walked to Car Barn 3 for a tour of it.

Key System 1001 built in 1910 by the Oakland Terminal Railroad.

East Bay Transit Company Oakland Transit Company Wrecker 1011 built in 1906.

Central California Traction Company electric box motor 7 built in 1936 for the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis Electric Railroad 1.

San Diego MTA 1018.

San Francisco Municipal Railroad PCC Car 1016 built in 1951 by the St Louis Car Company.

Key System 1201.

Southern Pacific 457.

Sacramento Northern 1005 built by Holman in 1905.

Oakland Antioch & Eastern 1020 built by Hall Scott in 1913.

Interuban Electric Railroad Coach 303.

Salt Lake & Utah Railroad 751 built in 1914 by Niles Car Company.

Interuban Electric Railroad Coach 358.

CCT Box Car 1001.

Southern Pacific 602.

D&RGW Box Car 63383.

Kennecott GE 85 ton electric 700 built in 1927.

Oregon Electric Railroad Champoeg built in 1910 by Niles.

Sacramento Northern 602.

Napa Valley Route 63.

CCT Caboose 19.

PFE Reefer 74583.

Key System 182.

Sacramento Northern Steeple Cab 652 built by GE in 1928.

Shipyard Railway 563 was operated by the Key System during World War II using these Ancient New York transit cars bought and paid for by the United States Maritime Commission to shuttle workers to the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond. Built by the Manhattan Railway in 1887.

Shipyard Railway 561. {See above}

Key System 1001 built in 1910 by the Oakland Terminal Railroad.

Circumnavigators Club built by the Pullman Company in 1917.

Sacramento Northern Caboose 1632.

Central California Traction Box Car 2001 built in 1910 by the Holman Company.

Western Pacific Lounge Car 653 built in 1913 by the Pullman Company.

Oakland Eastern & Antioch Railway Flat Car built in 1913 by the Holman Company.

Southern Pacific Sugar Beet Hooper Car 540.

Western Pacific Baggage Car 128.

Sacramento Northern wooden box car built in 1920 by the Mt Vernon Car Manufacturing Company.

Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac outside braced box car 2289 built in 1916 by the Pressed Steel Company.

Saltair DS-2 built by GE in 1941.

Western Pacific 4-6-0 94 built in 1909 by Alco-Brooks.

Another view of Western Pacific 4-6-0 94.

Trolley Model.

Our tour group in Car Barn 3.

View of the ground map of the Western Railway Museum.

Museum scene. Now we would go ride the train.

Click here for Part 2 of this story