The Inside Track

Illustration by Martin O'Neill

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With May 10 marking the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad, we look back at a major moment in our city’s history and look forward to the many ways Sacramento is celebrating the important milestone throughout the year. Full steam ahead!

BY Jessica Rine

Training Days

Take a ride through history at these rail-related events and exhibits around town

Center for Sacramento History
Through Oct. 15
 The center highlights the city’s historic railyards with an exhibit titled The Sacramento Shops, which showcases 25 images dating from the late 1880s through the early 1900s. See early blueprints of rail cars and schematics of snowsheds—wooden tunnels designed to enable trains on the Transcontinental Railroad to pass over the Sierra during winter.

Museum of Medical History
Through June 30
 This micro museum hosts Rails to Health, a show covering the four buildings—including refurbished Victorian homes—that were converted into hospitals that treated railyard workers from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Through vintage photos, learn how these makeshift medical centers became harbingers of advancements like the world’s first trauma center.

California State Railroad Museum
Starts April 15
 Three exhibits will honor the Transcontinental Railroad: the presentation of a 66-foot-long map covering the railroad’s route through the Sierra by engineer Theodore Judah (through May 31); a redesigned display centered on a gold spike that never made it to the closing ceremony at Promontory, Utah; and a new permanent show chronicling the contributions of Chinese railroad laborers.

(Image courtesy of The National Park Service)

Gold Spike Lecture Series
April 18–Sept. 7
 This speaker series presented by the Sacramento History Museum will feature talks by Transcontinental Railroad experts, like renowned author Richard White (June 27), who penned the Pulitzer-nominated book Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern

Sesquicentennial Day and Gala
May 8 & 11
 Party like it’s 1869 on May 8 during Sesquicentennial Day, which will kick off with a parade through the Old Sacramento Waterfront featuring horse-drawn carriages that will bear bigwigs from the era (played by docents in period costume) like Leland Stanford. Three days later comes the Sesquicentennial Gala, a black-tie dinner benefiting the California State Railroad Museum.

Waterfront Days
May 25-26
 The new two-day fête celebrates the capital city during its nascent years with performances throughout the Old Sacramento Waterfront, including showings at the Eagle Theatre of an original play in which a young girl travels back in time to meet major Transcontinental Railroad figures like the historic rail line’s designer Theodore Judah.

Crocker Art Museum
June 23-Sept. 29
 The Crocker will host the traveling show The Race to Promontory: The Transcontinental Railroad and the American West, which features roughly 80 photographs documenting the building of the coast-to-coast line taken by Andrew Russell and Alfred Hart, including Russell’s East and West, which captured the meeting of the two railheads at Promontory, Utah.