Inspiration Colored by Sacramento Scenes
Game Boosts Mental Abilities in Older Folks
Some Employers See Perks
of Hiring Older Workers
Estrogen May Play a Role in ‘Male Menopause’
Vitality, Longevity Aren’t Kept in Pill Bottles
Corner: Does Time Fly or Is it More Like Smoke in the Sky?
Ride Through History at the Western Railway Museum
My husband and I boarded the old interurban car at Rio Vista Junction,
an actual railroad stop on the Sacramento Northern from 1923 to 1940. Today
it is the home to the Western Railway Museum near Fairfield in Northern
Our ride, “to experience California as it was 100 years ago on an electrically
powered train trip,” would last an hour and carry us south 10 miles past
Garfield Station, an important stop for ranchers and farmers, and the Shiloh
Church, built in 1876 after a devastating fire destroyed the original structure.
Farther south we would pass a ranching site at Gum Grove and end at Pantano (Spanish
for “marsh”), where everyone would climb out, stretch their legs
and read the local signs displaying information about the surrounding country.
We would then reboard, flip our seats over and settle in for the 30-minute ride
back to the museum site and car barns.
This is a busy place when school is out, but coming in midweek and in the spring
or fall means attendance will be light. We were able to spread out and move side
to side to view the passing scenery of Black Angus cattle grazing among 800 or
so wind turbines. It seemed an incredible juxtaposition of the old and new, traditional
agriculture mixed in with cutting-edge energy production in what are called the
The interurban car itself is a magnificent example of how restoration can bring
back a more graceful era. Our bright-red single car was built in St. Louis in
1903 by the American Car Co. for the Peninsular Railway Co. It has an all-wood
interior that looks like polished oak, restored green Naugahyde seats that accommodate
two people on each side of a center aisle (or four seats across) and beveled,
etched glass windows on top.
The lower windows can be opened and slid down into a compact compartment constructed
just for that purpose. Brightly polished brass handles attached to each seat
along the aisle sides help passengers keep their balance when the car is moving
and aid them in flipping the seats back and forth so they can always ride facing
Glittering light bulbs hang down from the ceiling. These were manufactured in
the Soviet Union because they are no longer made in the United States.
When we rolled out at 12:30 p.m., our conductor, Fred Codoni, a volunteer from
Fairfax, Calif., informed us that we would be stopping at all railroad crossings.
Even though the law says trains have the right of way, the Western Railway prefers
to stop for the sake of safety.
Shake, rattle and roll, chug, chug, chug, we moved slowly down the standard-gauge
rails. Our car contained two sections, one of which was on old smoking area for
gentlemen of a bygone era. A whistle blew with two medium-long blasts, a short
one and then a long one. Everyone in the vicinity would be aware we were on our
The conductor and motorman on board were dressed in spiffy black suits with gold
buttons, white shirts, black ties and official black railroad caps decorated
with gold braid. They kept us entertained with stories about places we were seeing
and other local lore.
Our trip lasted from Rio Vista Junction to Garfield Station, past the Shiloh
Church and Gum Grove to Pantano. On the return trip we passed South Park Junction
and a collection of old railroad equipment parked on an adjoining track. We arrived
back exactly one hour after we left the car barn.
Our fun ride was now followed by a tour of car barns filled with old electric
cars in a variety of conditions, some waiting for repairs and restoration. The
majority of the stock had run in California, but we also saw some cars from Melbourne,
Australia (Hop aboard “Mate!”) and Indiana.
There was a car that had been used in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa, and one
from Blackpool, England, a resort on the Irish Sea. One car operated in Utah
to bring people from Salt Lake City to the Saltair Pavilion on the Great Salt
A stapled 24-page booklet called “Self-Guiding Car Barn Tour: A Project
of the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association” can be borrowed or purchased
at the gift shop. It contains photos, drawings and descriptions of most all the
rolling stock, around 30 to 35 cars on exhibit.
A membership flyer describes how the Western Railway Museum happened to be founded:
“In 1946, a group of individuals learned that the old Oakland streetcar
they had chartered for a day’s outing was to be scrapped within a week.
They immediately dug into their wallets and gathered enough money to buy the
car right there on the spot. In this spirit of philanthropy and historic preservation
the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, or BAERA, was formed to foster interest
in streetcar, interurban and electric railroad operations, and to preserve these
rapidly vanishing pieces of electric railway equipment.
“In the years that followed, dozens of trains were collected, and the need
for a permanent site grew. Rio Vista Junction in Solano County, an actual stop
on the Sacramento Northern main line, was selected as the museum site in 1960,
and we slowly began to transform 22 vacant acres into a living history museum.”
A few years ago a member of the organization died and left a substantial sum
to build a new car barn. The Charlie Johnson Memorial Carhouse is now full of
fascinating rolling stock that can be viewed by the public.
Besides the museum’s 22 acres, there are 22 miles of railroad lines. Currently
5.5 miles of the line are in operation.
The museum also contains extensive railroad exhibits that include transportation
in Solano County, the Key System in the East Bay (San Francisco Bay Area) and
a large model railroad on loan from the Rio Vista Model Club. Visitors will also
find a well-stocked museum store, archives and the F.M. Smith Memorial Library.
WHEN YOU GO
The Western Railway Museum is located at 5848 State Highway 12, (between Fairfield
and Rio Vista), Suisun City, CA 94585-9641. Call 707-374-2978 or visit www.wrm.org.
Annual events include a Pumpkin Patch Festival, this year from Oct.12-27, with
trains running every 30 minutes beginning at 10 a.m. The last train departs at
4 p.m. Special runs are also conducted in the spring to view colorful native
The museum is open year-round, Saturday and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Summer hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday
and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 adults, $9 seniors (65-plus)
and $7 for ages 2 to 14. Children under 2 are free.
TOP | HOME
This page and its contents ©2013
Metropolitan News Company, Inc.