California State Railway Museum

trainYesterday afternoon I took the train from Berkeley to Sacramento. Wifi, plenty of room, no distractions: the train makes a good office. My destination was the California Railroad Museum.

Sacramento

The Railroad Museum is captivating for the same reason as the Monterey Bay Aquarium: it’s the real stuff and it comes from right here. Most of the fish, otters, and sea creatures in the Aquarium are native to Monterey Bay. Most of the trains in the Railroad Museum are tied to California history.

Sacramento Sacramento
This is the first locomotive in California, shipped in pieces around the tip of South America and named for railroad mogul and governor of California Leland Stanford. Here, it’s heading into a snow shed in the high Sierra.

Sacramento Sacramento
The Golden Spike that tied together the transcontinental railway was a big, big deal for California, providing an overland alternative to long-range shipping. Giant locomotives hauled goods through long tunnels in the Sierra. The cab is at the head of the train to keep engineers from suffocating. You’re allowed to tour the cab.

Sacramento
The wonderful mining locomotives of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad are on display.

Sacramento Sacramento

Sacramento Sacramento

You can wander through an RPO (railway post office), dining car (place settings from many rail lines), sleeping car (which jostles as if it were real), and kitchen (only to look; it’s too small to walk through). Hundreds of school children were having a ball on the cars.

Sacramento
The railroads lured millions of people to California. How else do you promote a railroad? Some of the come-ons are lovely.

Sacramento Sacramento
I’ve taken up model railroading again. The museum has acquired a great collection of “toy trains.”

Sacramento Sacramento

Sacramento
Mannequins and people dressed in conductor’s uniforms bring the scenes to life.

Sacramento
Visiting the Railroad Museum is a whole lot more fun than reading history books. I’m confident the lessons are more lasting.

I’ve proposed that every corporation needs a history museum even if it’s just a single room or online. Artifacts reinforce values. Tales of past mistakes remind us of what not to repeat. Success stories make us proud of accomplishments. Surely, our organizations have important things to show than bowling trophies and little lucite blocks from investment bankers.