California State Railroad Museum Complex

The Sacramento Railroad Museum, located on the corner of 2nd and “I” Streets in Old Sacramento, is the largest and most popular visitor destinations in Sacramento. The complex was first opened to the public in 1976 and has an average of 500,000 visitors from all over the world every year. The entire complex cost about $30 million to build and has 6 original, reconstructed and new buildings.

The complex, which has over 225,000 square feet of exhibit space, is comprised of the museum itself, the Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station, the Freight Depot, the 1849 Eagle Theatre, the Big Four Building and the Nathaniel Dingley Steam Coffee and Spice Mill.

The Sacramento Railroad Museum

The Sacramento Railroad Museum is the main exhibit building and totals 100,000 square feet. It opened in May 1981 and cost $16.1 million to build. Housed in a 3-story brick building, it contains 21 restored locomotives, cars, and other railroad exhibits.

Some favorite full size locomotives and cars that are featured are the Central Pacific Railroad No. 1 Gov. Stanford, the Southern Pacific No. 1 CP Huntington, the Virginia and Truckee No.12 Genoa, the North Pacific Coast No. 13 Empire and the Southern Pacific Cab Forward No. 4294.

In addition to the fill size locomotives there are what is called rolling stock trains, these are the trains that people can actually climb aboard. They have included the movement of the cars and the sights and sounds of each car. Examples would be place settings in the dining car and snoring sounds in the sleeping car. The favorites of the rolling stock cars are the AT&SF Dining Car No. 1474 Cochiti, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Combination Car No. 16, the Nevada Central Railway Coach No. 3 Silver State, the Fruit Growers Express Company Refrigeration Car No. 35832, the Great Northern Railway Post Office Car No. 42, the Canadian National Railways Sleeping Car No. 1683 St. Hyacinthe and the Union Pacific Railroad Caboose No. 25256.

Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station

The Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Stations, located at Front and “I” Streets is a reconstruction of the original building. It was the Western terminus of America’s first transcontinental railroad. The original building opened in 1876 and contained a telegraph office, a baggage room, and a separate waiting for ladies and children only.

Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot

The original was built along the Sacramento River between “J” and “K” Streets in the mid-1860’s. in 1876, it was a major freight station on the transcontinental railroad and was a focal point for the interchange of all freight arriving in or departing Sacramento daily by railroad, riverboat and wagon.

There are text panels place all over the depot, detailing the importance in history to Sacramento Valley and the story of railroad freight in Sacramento Valley during the nineteenth century. To the south of the depot, about where the tracks cross the Delta King Hotel landing, groundbreaking for the Central Pacific Railroad took place in 1863.

The depot was reconstructed in 1986, as a part of the historic redevelopment of Old Sacramento, to look like the original building.

The 1849 Eagle Theatre was originally built of a wood frame and canvas with a tin roof. It provided Gold Rush Sacramentans with entertainment, but for only 3 months. It became the victim of the flood of January 4, 1850 and had to be closed down.

Today, the reconstructed theatre, provides docent and video programs on the history of Old Sacramento to school age children.

The Big Four Building

In 1856, two businessmen from upstate New York, joined forces in a Sacramento hardware business. Colis P. Huntington and Mark Hopkins became involved in building America’s first transcontinental railroad by supplying all the hardware, lumber and equipment needed to build it. Huntington, Hopkins and Company Hardware Store and Stanford Warehouse originally stood on completely different city blocks. But, because of the historic redevelopment in Old Sacramento are standing next to each other. The Big Four Building also served as the first railroad headquarters.

Nathaniel Dingley Steam Coffee and Spice Mill

Nathaniel Dingley arrived in San Francisco in February 1850 and settled in Sacramento within a matter of months.

The Spice Mill, located next door to the Big Four Building on “I” Street, was originally believed to be across the street and was destroyed by a fire in 1852. There were no surviving photographs of the building to base the restoration, so the parks and recreation department had to go by design of the other historic buildings of the time.