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California State Railroad Museum

Last revised: March 12, 2024

By: Adam Burns

Perhaps few other museums rival that of the California State Railroad Museum in terms of displays, visitors, and overall size.

The museum, situated in Sacramento, is one of the city’s top tourist destinations, seeing over a half-million visitors annually and it is a testament to just how interesting and engaging railroad museums can be.

Given the sheer size of the CSRM collection it will not be possible to cover them all here. However, listed below in this article are many of the museum's most significant and best preserved pieces.

Because of the resources available to it, like few other museums across the country, the museum is large enough to have various operating departments.

While the museum tends to spotlight and feature historic pieces related to California or the western railroads its main focus is about teaching the public not only California’s railroading history but also our country’s railroading history as well.

Virginia & Truckee 2-4-0 #21, named the "J.W. Bowker," sits on display at the replica Central Pacific station at the California State Railroad Museum, circa 1976. This locomotive was built by Baldwin in 1875. William Myers photo. American-Rails.com collection.

The history of the California State Railroad Museum predates perhaps every other related facility in the country save for the Smithsonian itself.

While the CSRM is a state founded, funded, and operated facility its roots begin in 1937 when local train enthusiasts from the San Francisco area created the Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society in an attempt to preserve and keep alive California's railroad history.

By 1976, when the state created the CSRM, the Chapter had donated more than 40 locomotives and freight/passenger cars to the Department of Parks & Recreation.

This generous gift immediately gave the new museum several display pieces (four years earlier the Chapter also helped to found the San Francisco Cable Car Museum as it had amassed a similar collection of trolley/interurban cars).

Since then, and with the backing of state funding the California State Railroad Museum has become a massive operation, similar in scale to what you will find at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Today, it features six originally constructed buildings, more than 225,000 square feet of space for visitors to enjoy, and twenty-one pieces of rolling stock that have been completely restored (they perhaps look better today than they ever did while in operation).

Additionally you can find all types of exhibits and historic artifacts located through the property including original railroad china, a replica Central Pacific Railroad freight depot, original hand tools, early signals, and much more.

Most come to the museum to see the locomotives, which range from early examples like Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 #12 built in the late 19th century to the only surviving example of Southern Pacific's legendary "Cab Forwards," 4-8-8-2 #4294 manufactured during World War II.  

There are also several notable diesels preserved on-site.  While most are of Southern Pacific and Santa Fe heritage of Electro-Motive lineage some rarer pieces include a Fairbanks Morse H-12-44 and an American Locomotive Company RSD-15 "Alligator" (so-named for its very long nose ahead of the cab).

Preserved Locomotives

Steam Locomotives

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe 0-4-0 #5, The Little Buttercup (Originally built in 1899 by Baldwin as Santa Fe Terminal 0-4-0T #1.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe 2-6-2 #1010 (Manufactured in 1901 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe 4-8-4 #2925 (Manufactured in 1944 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe 2-10-4 #5021 (Manufactured in 1944 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works.)

Central Pacific 4-4-0 #1, The Governor Stanford (Built by Richard Norris & Son in 1862.)

Central Pacific 2-6-2T #233 (Built by CP's Sacramento Shops in 1882.)

Granite Rock 0-6-0T #10 (Operational.  Originally built by the H.K. Porter Company in 1942 as U.S. Army #5001.)

Kiso Forest Railway (36-inch) 0-4-2T #6 (Operational.  Built by Baldwin in 1929.  Originally 30-inch gauge.)

Mattole Lumber Company Narrow-Gauge (36-inch) 0-4-2T #1 (Operational.  Manufactured by the Vulcan Iron Works in 1908.)

Nevada Short Line (36-inch) 2-6-0 #1 (Originally built by Baldwin in 1879 as Utah Northern #13.)

North Pacific Coast (36-inch) 4-4-0 #12, The Sonoma (Built by Baldwin in 1876.)

Northwestern Pacific 4-6-0 #112 (Built by the American Locomotive Company in 1908.  The railroad's only surviving steam locomotive.)

Southern Pacific 4-2-4T #1, The C.P. Huntington (Originally built by the Cooke Locomotive & Machine Works in 1863 as Central Pacific #3.)

Southern Pacific 2-6-0 #1771 (Built by Baldwin in 1902.)

Southern Pacific 4-8-8-2 Class AC-12 "Cab Forward" #4294 (Built by Baldwin in 1944.  Only surviving Cab Forward.)

Stockton Terminal & Eastern 2-6-2 #3 (Originally built by Baldwin in 1922 as Humboldt Northern #3.)

U.S. Army 0-6-0ST #5014 (Built by H.K. Porter in 1942.)

Union Pacific 0-6-0 #4466 (Built by the Lima Locomotive Works in 1920.)

Virginia & Truckee 4-4-0 #12, The Genoa (Built by Baldwin in 1873.)

Virginia & Truckee 2-6-0 #13, The Empire (Built by Baldwin in 1873.)

Virginia & Truckee 2-4-0 #21, The J.W. Bowker (Built by Baldwin in 1875.)

Diesel Locomotives

Amtrak F40PH #281 (Operational.  Built by Electro-Motive in 1979.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe F3B #347-B (Operational.  Manufactured Electro-Motive in 1949 as #35-A.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe F7A #347-C (Operational.  Manufactured Electro-Motive in 1949 as #39-C.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe "Doodlebug" #M-190 (Built by Electro-Motive/Pullman in 1932.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe H12-44TS #543 (Manufactured by Fairbanks-Morse in 1956 for switching Chicago's Dearborn Station.  Only example still in existence.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe DS-4-4-1000 #2260 (Built by Baldwin in 1948.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe S2 #2381 (Built by Alco in 1948.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe RS1 #2394 (Built by Baldwin in 1950.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe NW2 #2404 (Built by Electro-Motive in 1939.)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe RSD-15 "Alligator" #9320 (Originally built by Alco in 1959 as #820.)

U.S. Army 20GM-24 #2085 (Built by the Whitcomb Locomotive Works in 1941.)

Howard Tunnel 45IE-26B #8 (Originally built by the Whitcomb Locomotive Works in 1943 as U.S. Army #7504.)

Klamath Northern SH-2300 #206 (Operational.  Built by the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton in 1954.)

Sacramento Northern SW1 #402 (Built by Electro-Motive in 1939.)

Sacramento Northern 44-Ton #1240 (Originally built by General Electric in 1953 as U.S. Army #1240.)

Sacramento Northern 80-Ton #1605  (Originally built by General Electric in 1953 as U.S. Air Force #1605.)

Sacramento Northern SW8 #2008 (Originally built by Electro-Motive in 1951 as U.S. Army #2008.)

Sacramento Northern SW8 #2030 (Originally built by Electro-Motive in 1951 as U.S. Army #2030.)

Southern Pacific SW1 #1000 (Built by Electro-Motive in 1939.  Later became Holly Sugar #1.)

Southern Pacific DRS-6-6-1500 #5208 (Operational.  Built by Baldwin in 1949.)

Southern Pacific E9A #6051 (Operational.  Built by Electro-Motive in 1954.  Restored in Daylight livery.)

Southern Pacific F7A #6402 (Operational.  Built by Electro-Motive in 1952.  Preserved in Black Widow livery.)

Southern Pacific/MOW F7B #8209 (Originally built by Electro-Motive in 1949 as Southern Pacific #6151-C.)

Southern Pacific SD45T-2 #6819 (Originally built by Electro-Motive in 1972 as Southern Pacific #9193.)

Southern Pacific ML-4000 #8799 (Built by Krauss-Maffei in 1964 as #6410.  Largely restored and rebuilt to original appearance by the Pacific Locomotive Association.  It is currently not operational.)

Tubbs Cordage Company (24-inch) 5-Ton (No Number.  Originally built by the Plymouth Locomotive Works as 30-inch gauge in 1928.)

U.S. Air Force 80-Ton #1655 (Operational.  Built by General Electric in 1952.)

Western Pacific F7A #913 (Operational.  Built by Electro-Motive in 1950.)

Among the many attractions includes facilities available for rent if you are interested in having a gathering on location, there are numerous events ongoing throughout the year.

Some of these include:

  • A Day Out With Thomas

  • Music on the train

  • The story of Hollywood's relationship with trains

  • Halloween specials

  • The Polar Express

The museum offers scheduled train rides throughout the year, typically powered by 0-6-0T steam locomotive #10 and dressed up as a Central Pacific unit.

In addition, you can even volunteer and help the museum not only stay maintained but also work to restore the many pieces of equipment under they have slated to be repaired! 

Finally, the California State Railroad Museum features an additional exhibit unique to perhaps only itself and the Illinois Railway Museum, a comprehensive library full of historic information about railroads to both California as well as the country in general. 

While CSRM does not allow its books and other material to leave the building the library is open nearly year-round without charge.

If you have the opportunity to use the library I would certainly take advantage of it, you won't find many like it anywhere else.  So, if you are planning a visit to the Sacramento area a visit to the California State Railroad Museum.

Likewise, if you are perhaps interested in helping the museum in some way please do not hesitate to get in touch with them to see what type of volunteer work is available.  For more information about the museum please visit their website.


Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives. 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website. 

It is quite staggering and a must visit!