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All Aboard California State Railroad Museum merges past and present

Although housed in a solid brick building that leaves much to the imagination, the California State Railroad Museum is a stop that is sure not to disappoint the masses.

Whether it be a 4-year-old Thomas the Tank Engine enthusiast, a 14-year-old, 44- or 84-year-old, the museum situated in Old Sac (aka Old Sacramento State Park) houses 225,000 square feet of wow and wonder.

Located just steps from coffee, ice cream and candy shops, as well as eateries and boutiques, the 125 I St., Sacramento, location lends itself to a day well spent in the state’s capital city.

Known as one of North America’s most popular railroad museums, the California State Railroad Museum holds more than 20 restored locomotives and railroad cars. Visitors are able to ‘climb aboard’ a great number of the cars, many of which have been restored to their original interior complete with replica kitchens and staff to recreate the setting of days gone by.

Just a short walk from the museum is the Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station, which was first opened in 1976. Adjacent to the station is the Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot, which operates steam powered excursion trains. Trains are operated during the weekends at varying times throughout the year, offering visitors an opportunity for a 40-minute ride through scenic history.

The railroad museum itself was first opened in 1981. It houses two floors, as well as a mezzanine level committed to history and trains. The main floor is complete with the trains as well as artifacts and a mass of information regarding how the country was shaped by the railroads.

For the model enthusiast the second floor is not to be missed. The Toy Train Gallery hosts an abundance of glass cases showcasing varying model train cars from varying decades. Model train working displays are also included on this floor, as is a children’s play area. Adding to the wonderment and fun of the second floor is a bridge complete with train tracks and locomotive for enthusiasts to walk across. From this vantage point one can take in the magnitude of the lower level Roundhouse and get a birds-eye view of the trains below.

In addition to the hands on experiences offered to visitors, the California State Railroad Museum also offers guided tours, as well as a Museum Theater. The theater features “Evidence of a Dream,” a 20-minute documentary on the railroad’s importance in developing California.

Embracing the modern day, a fast track exhibit was recently added to the mezzanine level. A high-speed train simulator offers train enthusiasts the opportunity to sit at the controls and test their skills at piloting the high speed train. Guests pilot the train with a staff assistant at their side, guiding them through as they experience the simulation via a large projector screen in front of the rail.

The California State Railroad Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is: Adults $10; Youths (6-17) $5 and children age 5 and under are admitted free. Public parking is offered within walking distance of the museum.

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