|The Wells Fargo Museum|
Last week, in our history of Sacramento, we visited the home
of the California Gold Rush. The gold rush of 1849 changed the face of the
state. Over 300,000 people moved to California in the five years between 1848
and 1853, most of whom moved to the Sacramento area and the nearby mountains. The
Sacramento area became the center of trade in the central valley, and the key
supply point for prospectors. Goods were barged up the Sacramento River from
San Francisco, and then distributed out to the mining towns.
In 1850 the new state of California was trying to find a
permanent place for its capital. In 1849 the territorial government had named
San Jose as it home, and then the town of Vallejo, but when funding to build a
capital building wasn’t found, they kept on looking. In 1852 the government
moved to Sacramento temporarily, and in 1854 they named it the permanent
capital of California. However it wasn’t until 1874 that capital building was
completed. Why Sacramento? Two reasons, gold and the railroad.
|Theodore Judah by Carleton Watkins [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
By 1855 Charles L. Wilson and Theodore Judah had begun work on the Sacramento Valley Railroad, the first line chartered west of
the Mississippi River. The railroad traveled from the Sacramento River levee on
Front Street to the town of Granite City, which is now Folsom. In 1862, Judah
chartered the Central Pacific Railroad, which originally went from
Sacramento to Oakland. It became part of the Transcontinental Railroad by
continuing from Folsom to Promontory Summit, Utah where, in 1869, it met up
with the Union Pacific Railroad.
|CPRR advertisement from 1869 - By Central Pacific Railroad of California; Union Pacific Railroad Co. (The Cooper Collection of US Railroad History) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
Today, the center of all of this history is the California
State Historic Park at Old Town Sacramento. The buildings in this part of the
city date back to the 1850’s. They have been restored to their original
appearance. The sidewalks were raised over a foot to deal with the flooding
from the Sacramento River. These buildings are similar to many other Spanish
Colonial cities. They feature balconies that stretch the length of the house
with floor to ceiling window/doors. Today the businesses are mostly stores and
restaurants that cater to the many visitors. There are also several museums –
The Wells Fargo Museum, The Sacramento History Museum, the California Military
Museum, and my favorite, the California State Railroad Museum.
|Honoring the Pony Express|
Opened in 1976, the California State Railroad Museum houses 19 steam locomotives and
dozens of other rolling stock – the various cars pulled by the engines, in a
225,000 square foot exhibition space. I have been to several rail museums, and
this is the best organized, with plenty of space around the trains, giving you
the chance to get a great look at the engines. The museum also has excellent
signage providing visitors with the history of each piece. On the third floor
there is a large collection of Lionel model trains and a play area for young
visitors. The museum also includes a recreation of the old passenger station
and freight depot.
|SPRR #1 - Col. Huntington|
|North Pacific Coast RR #12 - Sonoma|
|CPRR #1 - Gov. Stanford|
Many people speed through the Central Valley of California,
as they travel from San Francisco to Yosemite and Tahoe. If you are planning on
driving this route, slow down. Take some time to explore the history of
Sacramento, the Gold Rush and railroad.
Getting There: Old Town Sacramento is located
between Interstate 5 and the Sacramento River between I Street and L Street.
There is a large parking garage under the highway at I street.
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