Image courtesy of Center for Sacramento History, Ralph Shaw Collection
The famed locomotive C.P. Huntington in front of the Sacramento Railyard Shops.
For many years, California Department of Parks and Recreation Parks has worked to acquire two historic buildings in the Sacramento Railyards. On September 8th, 2017 the Public Works Board approved this no cost acquisition. This is the last piece of a larger agreement between the State Lands Commission, California State Parks, the City of Sacramento, and the developer, Downtown Railyard Venture. These buildings are part of a project to revitalize the larger 240-acre Sacramento Downtown Railyards.
The Southern Pacific’s Sacramento Shops, a railroad maintenance and repair facility built by the Central Pacific Railway beginning in the 1860s and which remained in operation until 1999, were once Sacramento's biggest employer. The shops were located on the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed on May 10, 1869. With a need to be self-reliant in the far West, Sacramento long maintained the capability to build any and every piece of equipment needed on the railroad. Construction began on this site, 20 acres of filled-in slough donated by the City of Sacramento, in 1863. By the 1930s, the site had grown to their current size of approximately 240 acres.
The two historic buildings that California State Parks are acquiring were constructed beginning in the late 1800s and are currently used by California State Parks staff under a long-term lease. The shops provide space for the indoor storage of dozens of locomotives, railroad cars, and related equipment. In addition to storage, railroad restoration workers, employed by the State of California, continue the long tradition of locomotive repair and maintenance in these important spaces. These employees not only restore equipment for display in the museum, but they also maintain working railroad equipment necessary for the operation of a heritage rail line that starts in Old Sacramento State Historic Park and extends south along the Sacramento River. The Railyards shops currently serve as an essential component of the operation of the California State Railroad Museum.
Ownership of these two historic buildings will allow for the ongoing storage and maintenance of some of the most important artifacts related to United States railroad history. It will also allow for exciting future opportunities such as extending programming and exhibits from the existing museum to the shops buildings. This could include the long-term vision of creating a California Railroad Technology Museum that would complement the current Museum to create a truly unique, engaging and memorable experience that brings to life the past, present and future of railroading. There, museum visitors could have the unique opportunity to participate in on-site tours and watch ongoing and time-honored restoration work underway in the boiler and erecting shops. These buildings could also serve as the perfect venue for exhibits and hands-on activities that actively demonstrate how transportation, industry, technology, agriculture, business, and diversity shaped our past and continue to be a part of our vibrant future.
A rainbow arcs over the Sacramento Railyard shops.