Sunday, April 30, 2017

Only Planes and Trains Today

The California State Railroad Museum was the place to be on our second tour of the day.  This really is a GREAT museum that everyone should check out if they have the chance.  With the railroad being built from both the East and the West at the same time, it was a race to the finish line.  The hardest part was crossing over the Sierra Nevada mountains. The scene here depicts just that accomplishment as they tunneled through the mountains.

It's almost unimaginable they could complete this task without heavy equipment.  Beginning with regular crew, they got a slow start when GOLD was discovered and everyone disappeared like scurrying rats.
In order to get it built, they hired a few Chinese workers, who handled the gunpowder with expertise. Why didn't they use nitroglycerin or something more powerful?  Because they didn't want the resulting rock to be blasted clear across the canyon.  They needed it easily accessible, by wheelbarrow no less, for roadbeds.    They were such good workers, they eventually came in droves to work on the railroad.
Toward the end, the supervisors were boasting about how far their crew could lay track in one day.  Finally, this crew broke the record with ten miles of track laid in one day, exactly 148 years to the day of our tour.
Although the celebration was supposed to be something like May 8, which is when Sacramento began to party hardy, the big guns didn't arrive in Promontory Utah until May 10.  Sacramento was STILL celebrating.  They had connected one side of the world to the other in their book.
There's lots of old trains in the museum ... some as tall as my house.  Here's one unique piece of equipment that just arrived for the show before it has to return to work.  It's one of four snow blowers used over Donner Pass to this day.  She's looks pretty shiny and new!!  Don't quote me, but I think he said the apparatus was built in 1920 and is still the best tool for the job today.  
Here's our crew of Golden Spike members attending this rally, including one who is an Engineer of the train ride here.
There are even exhibits you can walk through, including a replica of the old passenger train I used to ride as a kid.  When we got out of hand, we were summarily put on the train and carted off to Bakersfield to my Aunt's house.  I don't think it helped ... we STILL got in trouble.  These two passenger cars are a little fancier than what I rode in.
Look at the painting on the ceilings.  They even have a dining car you can walk through, which showcases all the different dishes used by each railroad.  There was one in particular that was blue and always came with the "special" of the day.  People didn't even need to look at the menu ... they just asked for the Blue Plate Special.
I'm sure these trains didn't look this pretty after having been on the rails a day or two, but this gives you an idea of how fascinating and awe inspiring they must have been upon first sight.  
Once through the museum, the Carnes' and I made a beeline for the ice cream store.  Old Town has revitalized itself quite a bit since I was here last.  All the empty storefronts seems to be full again with tourist T-shirts and candy shops.
Next up was the Basement Tour.  Lots of interesting facts, but my advice is to take the GHOST tour at night.  Back in the day, Sacramento was built right on the river, LEVEL with the river.  When all that snow in the Sierras melted and came downstream, Sacramento flooded badly, year after year.  

The townspeople finally got together and came up with some solutions.  Raise the streets and straighten the river.  Apparently the river had a big S curve at the end, resulting in tons of silt.  When the snow melt began, all that silt clogged the river and caused flooding.  If they straightened it, the American river would flow more easily into the Sacramento River.   

Straight ahead is the bank, with it's ceiling high windows and crown molding, all painted gold to entice people to put their money there.    We entered the back door of what is now the basement, but used to be the bank proper.
Although I expected to see wallpaper and parts of the beautiful wood interior of the bank, what we found was all brick.  By the way, there are NO pictures allowed INSIDE.  We were all given marconi devices so we could hear what the tour guide was saying.  I missed the part about no pictures because it kept going on and off.
So what the townspeople did was add dirt on top of dirt to raise the road, holding it in with brick walls and buttresses you can see on the left hand side.  It's not GREAT brick work, but it's still holding today.  In some cases, the previous first floors were then used as basements and they added a story to the top of the building.  In other cases, they lifted the building inch by inch until it was level with the road, whereupon they put pillars underneath, keeping it at the new level.  

As you walk around, you can see some open spaces that show exactly how high they raised the roads.  Some store owners used their new basements for storage of goods, some for their trash.  Many bottles, combs and pieces of china have been found to date and are displayed for you to see.  The back of this building was rented out to a nice young lady for her business of .... well you can imagine I'm sure.  Some of the items on display appear to have been hers.
Having now walked a total of eight hours, we were all pretty tired as our feet screamed in distress.  While some stayed in Old Sacramento for dinner, I had to return to let the puppies out.  Driving in this area at 5:30 isn't a good idea.  In spite of my attempts to move over to the required left turn lane, the nice Sacramentans wouldn't let me over and I ended up across the river in WEST Sacramento before finally finding a freeway entrance.  The twenty minute drive took me 75 minutes ... I should have stayed for dinner!!

Alas, there were no planes on this trip except this one skimming the trees heading to the Sacramento Airport.  
There's one more train ride before the pot luck supper that caused me a little consternation.  I should have opted for the green beans in the Instant Pot, but instead decided to temp fate with a cheesy potato recipe I've never made before.  You can't say I'm not adventuresome.  Details tomorrow.


  1. Great tours, your group always finds intresting tours.

    1. We all work very hard at having good rallies ... sometimes we have too MANY activities!! LOL