When Grandpa visited our new home, we wanted to do something fun for the kids and for Grandpa. Grandpa is a history buff and a long time railroad man (working for the commuter rail in New Jersey his whole career). My kids are avid Thomas fans, the trains still come out to play on a regular basis. What a better place to go than the Sacramento Train Museum.
In the heart of Old Sacramento, The Sacramento Train Museum is a state run non-profit museum that is dedicated to preserving and educating the public about the history of trains here in California. With several full sized trains and train cars in the building, to a full exhibit on the history of toy trains, there is everything for the whole family in this museum.
Being a family of history lovers (and given the fact that I took my kids out of school for the day), our first stop was the front desk to get a Junior Engineer kit. This is a booklet that asks the user to look for various things in the museum, answer questions about it, and generally engage with the exhibits and the volunteers.
We started downstairs to see all the grand full-scale trains. The front has an amazing full sized black steam engine from the 1860s. It also contains a significant amount of information about the history of the first Trans-Continental Railroad. My son, who is now a reader, surprised me by reading an entire informational placard. Later we saw a full scale exhibit of a train station. It explained that in the 1940s, those who ran the train station usually lived above the station with their family, and the whole family got involved maintaining the station. This was of great interest to my son.
Further back, there were some beautiful rail cars. There were examples of freight cars, and a luxury car, which you could see inside. There was a Pullman Sleeper, where the kids ran down and tried to get behind the velvet ropes to try out the beds. And in the dining car, my son did his workbook while my daughter tried to figure out how to move the chairs out so she could sit on them. (Hint, chairs were bolted to the ground. She got nowhere)
After much “searching” we “found” the Lost Golden Spike. Apparently, when David Hewes ordered the Golden Spike to complete the Trans-Continental Railroad, he had the wrong day inscribed since it was made ahead of time and they didn’t know exactly when it would be finished. He later had a duplicate made with the correct day, but kept it for himself. It was passed down within the family for generations until recently when a relative who inherited it, brought it to consignment when the museum foundation found it. A receipt that matched the order for two spikes proved its authenticity. It now sits in a case in the museum and was part of the Junior Engineer treasure hunt (hence the searching and finding… not that we actually searched and found the lost spike 🙂 )
On the second floor was a simulator, that allows the user to experience driving a high-speed train. Both the kids got a turn (though my daughter had to sit on my lap because she couldn’t reach the pedals). But the amazing part was at the end, you had to try and stop at the right place on the platform. Most people are off by several to hundreds of feet. My son was the only person all day who parked perfectly. Maybe there is career for him in the railroad after all.
The 3rd floor will keep the kids with you all day. It has the train tables. There are several Thomas and Chuggington train tables with set up tracks and plenty of trains for all the kiddos who are visiting that day. My kids know this is the reward for enduring all the “educational” stuff, and they went to town playing on the train tables for at least 30 minutes.
The 3rd floor also has a great exhibit of toy trains. However, the kids were so hungry and over the museum we were not able to explore the area in depth.
After a morning of history, trains, and play everyone was ready for some food. We headed out of the museum and went into Old Sacramento looking for some lunch and souvenirs. The kids had a fantastic time, and still talk about the amazing day they had with Grandpa and the trains.