On Wednesday May 30, we drove from LA to Sacramento so that Sandy could attend SAA. She is on Spring Break anyway. The trip was so Sandy could attend SAA, but this blog is mostly about trains as the hotel we picked was near the California State Railroad Museum.
The drive was uneventful, except for a near rear ender on the San Diego freeway. We got to Sacramento in time for Sandy to register for the conference at the Sacramento Convention Center. Then we drove a couple of miles further to our hotel, a Day's Inn, near the Sacramento River. We picked this one because it was 1/4 the cost of the downtown hotels and was within easy walking distance of Old Town Sacramento and the California Railroad Museum.
Since the weather was really nice in the hour before sunset, I took a walk south to find the way to the museum. We had stayed at a hotel, the Best Western Sandman, before. It is next door to this one. They had a gate on their property that led to the bike trail along the Sacramento River. This hotel doesn't have direct access so I walked south on Jibboom street to find a place that I could pick up the trail. It wasn't far. However, I walked all the way down to the museum to check the opening time for the next day. I walked back to the hotel and we made a dinner from sandwich stuff that we had brought along. By the time we were fully settled in, it was time for bed as Sandy wanted to be at the convention at 0800.
I drove Sandy over to the convention center early on Thursday and dropped Sandy off, she planned to be there all day. I came back and waited until about 0930 to walk back to the museum. I got there just before they opened.
However, outside near the turntable, this 0-6-0 tank engine was steaming up. There was a crew crawling all over it. I asked if it was going to run that day and they said yes. It had just been taken out of an over-winter overhaul and was being steamed up for a test run. The museum's excursion season opens tomorrow, Saturday, and this was the check out.
This industrial switcher, I don't know the make but it might be a GE, was sitting on the turntable. It was used to haul the steamer out of the carbarn to the steamup track.
After the museum opened, I bought a ticket and started my tour. The place is not very brightly lit (to protect the artifacts) so photography was iffy at best. This is Virginia and Truckee #12, an American type 4-4-0.
About 15 minutes after they opened, they showed a 20 minute film on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. When the film was over, a guided tour was to start. I was the only one that wanted the tour so I got a private tour.
The museum's focus is the early days of railroading in California, particularly the opening of the Central Pacific and the first Transcontinental Railway. Many of the artifacts date from that period. CP #1 is also on display but the lighting was not so good there.
The North Pacific Coast Railroad ran from the north San Francisco bay to the north. This is one of their early locos.
In later years, the steam engines that ran on the Donner Pass line got a little larger. This is a Southern Pacific cab forward type, one of the largest types of steam locos built. There were larger ones on other railroads, but not a lit larger. The cab forward design was unique to SP due to the tunnels and snowsheds on the Donner Pass line. The smoke and ash from a more conventional large loco tended to suffocate the engine crew so that the engines were turned around so that the crew could breath. These were oil fired as SP had access to oil and it would have been very difficult to bring coal forward from the tender to the firebox in the front.
I toured the museum for a couple of hours and then headed back to the hotel for lunch. Sandy called and wanted a ride back as she had the early afternoon free. I picked her up and she promptly crashed until 1500 when I had to wake her up for her afternoon sessions. I took her back and then came back to the hotel. Sandy was going to be in meetings until late, so I decided to walk back to the museum to see what was going on. It was good that I did.
As I got there, #10 was down by the station. It had just dropped off the excursion consist after a test run to the end of the line, about 3 miles south. The test was successful. The engine was brought back to the turntable for water (the standpipe is next to the turntable) and for final tests. One of the crew is using an oil soaked rag wrapped on the end of a wire to check for leaks around the smokebox cover. They are looking for signs of the flames being drawn into the seal as there is a partial vacuum inside as a result of gas flow up the stack. It didn't leak.
The museum's annual excursion season starts tomorrow at 1100. I plan to be there to ride the first train. This engine will be pulling it.
The moved #10 onto the turntable and coupled to the switcher which was not running at the time and used the steamer to drag it back to the carbarn. They stopped right at the gate to the carbarn and proceeded to shut the steamer down. The fire was turned off (oil burner) and the loco coughed a few times, flared up and spit out volumes of black smoke. The oil burned is reclaimed and cleaned recycled motor oil. The engine was backed into the carbarn on the residual steam pressure and shut down. They did not let the steam pressure out. It will be allowed to cool slowly overnight. The fireman said that there would still be 50 psi in the boiler in the morning when another crew comes in to do further inspections. On Saturday, they will use the diesel switcher to haul it out of the carbarn to the steam up track.
On the way out, I noticed that there was a 3 way stub switch leading to the car barn. This has probably been there for maybe 150 years. The location of the carbarn is about where the very first rails were laid in California.
Today is an off day for the conference. Sandy's father and sister drove up from Vallejo to meet us for lunch. We went south into the Sacramento River delta following a road along the east levee of the river to the town of Locke. The town is billed as the last rural Chinese town left in the US. The town was established in 1915 by the families of the Chinese immigrants who originally built the Central Pacific Railroad. When they were done there, the Chinese moved south to build the levees that allowed the delta to be reclaimed as farmland. We had lunch at a place called Giesti's near Walnut Grove, CA. The food was very good. Then we came back to the hotel to crash for a nap.
After the nap, Sandy wanted to go for a walk so we walked down to Old Town Sacramento. At the south end of Old Town is Capitol Mall, a street that leads directly to the capitol building to the east.
To the west is the Tower Bridge, built in 1935, that spans the Sacramento River just south of the I Street bridge. The Tower Bridge is a lift section bridge that carries automobile traffic only. The last time we were here, it was painted a faded black. Sometime since then it got a golden paint job.
Early this morning, I took Sandy back to the conference and the returned to the hotel to await the opening of the museum's train excursions for the season.
I elected to get there early to observe the preparations for the day's train rides. I found Granite Iron #10 taking on water.
The first ride was scheduled for 1100 and I had over an hour to burn. The ticket office wouldn't even open until 1030 so I walked around the outside exhibits and listened to the crew briefing. There were 28 people there to work the train ride including the engine crew, conductors, car attendants, station attendants, mechanics and station staff.
The last time we were here and rode the train, this engine was pulling it. This is SP 4466, an 0-6-0 coal burning switcher. It is out of service awaiting funding (not forthcoming anytime soon) to get it's FRA 15 year boiler inspection. They would basically have to tear the engine down and ship the boiler to a facility that can do ultrasound inspections to detect any cracking. In the meantime, it sits.
They had moved GR 10 down next to a tank car where they store the fuel oil. They hooked an air line for a pump on the car (next to the guy standing near the car center) to the engine and then pumped oil into the engine until it was full. They have to do this a couple of times a day but the tank car lasts them maybe 3 months.
At 1030, the ticket office opened and I got the first ticket sold this year. The ride is 3 miles south and back and takes about 40 min. The trains leave every hour.
The train trundled at about 10 mph down the levee from the museum, across the Capitol Mall, under I80 and south to a placename of Bath where there is a passing siding. The route is between the river and I-5 freeway
At Bath, the engine, which was running in reverse on the way south, was run around the train and connected to the north end for the trip back. At the station, the engine will run around again for the next trip south.
I got off the train after my ride and got lunch at a fish and chips place. I had two very good fish tacos. Then I made my way back to the hotel. The I street swing bridge had been opened to allow some river traffic to pass and just barely got closed when a westbound Amtrak roared across the bridge.
Sandy's sister, Betty, drove up in the afternoon to visit with us. We had dinner in Old Town Sacramento and then drove up to a bookstore north of town to hang out. Then it was back to the room to rest up for tomorrow.
Sandy had another SAA session Sunday morning but she was tired so we just packed up and left. The trip south on I-5 was pretty ordinary, we made good time and got home earlier than expected. Charlie had borrowed her car for the weekend. He and Sara arrived shortly after we did and after dinner, Sandy drove them back to school.
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© 2011 George Schreyer
Created April 1, 2011
Last Updated April 3, 2011