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Railroad Technology Museum
at the Southern Pacific Sacramento Shops
Behind The Scenes Tour
Invitation-Only Membership Event
Saturday, May 14, 2005

The below information below is from the printed guide provided for the "Behind the Scenes Tour" of the Southern Pacific Sacramento Shop on May 14, 2005 by the California State Railroad Museum. The photographs were added by the TrainWeb staff.

Click on below links to view each set of photos:
Set #1 / Set #2 / Set #3 / Set #4 / Set #5
Movie clip of a short ride on the new Transfer Table


Begun in 1867 - as construction of the Transcontinental Railroad was under way - the Southern Pacific Sacramento Shops were, for a time, the West's largest industrial complex. The facility eventually grew to encompass 240 acres, all of which were reclaimed from the marshy, swampy land just north of downtown Sacramento

For some 80 years, the Sacramento Shops (also known as the "Central Shops" because they were the railroad's main repair facility) were the Central Valley's largest employer. The City of Sacramento's neighborhood's, its housing stock, and even its public spaces have been influenced by the Southern Pacific Railroad and its thousands of employees.

Steam locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, bridges, buildings, and all sorts of smaller items -- even engines and machinery for the railroad's fleet of San Francisco Bay ferryboats -- were engineered, manufactured and repaired at the Sacramento Shops. The Shops' long legacy of industrial innovation came to an end in 1999.

The complex in which you are now standing includes the only remaining structures standing at the time of the 1869 Gold Spike Ceremony, which commemorated the completion of America's first transcontinental railroad. These shops, along with the current Amtrak (former Southern Pacific) passenger station to the south, are the only original railroad structures, standing in the vicinity of Old Sacramento.



The Boiler Shop was the location for heavy maintenance and repair of locomotive boilers. The work of the boiler shop ranged from resetting flues and caulking leaks, to installing new fireboxes and totally rebuilding the boilers. A portion of this shop was used as the Tank Shop for fabrication and heavy maintenance of locomotive tenders. This building was completed in June of 1888, replacing the old wooden boiler shop which was slightly to the east (where the transfer table is today).

As with most of the buildings at the Sacramento Shops complex, the Boiler Shop was expanded over time as more space was required. Originally, it was 90 feet wide and 282 feet long. Extensions of 110 feet and 50 feet were completed by 1892, bringing the total length to 442 feet. During the 1905 enlargement of the Machine Shop, the Boiler Shop was also expanded, to its current width of 152 feet.

By 1917, the entire center of the Boiler Shop was torn out and rebuilt to allow for installation of overhead cranes. Over the years, parts of the shop were used as a Carpenter's Shop, Locomotive Paint Shop, and in the diesel area, for locomotive truck fabrication and repair. Today the Boiler Shop serves as the California State Railroad Museum's Restoration Shop.


A transfer table permits the lateral movement of locomotives or cars onto parallel tracks. These were typically used only in the largest of railroad shops, where they replaced what otherwise would have been a space-consuming and often bewildering array of tracks and switches. Transfer tables permitted simplified track plans and allowed for closer spacing of buildings. Here at the Sacramento Shops, two different transfer tables once were in operation, connecting the Boiler Shop with the Erecting Shop and the Car Shop with the Paint Shop.

Unlike a turntable, transfer tables do not permit the reversing of directions for railroad equipment. This transfer table allows the movement of cars between the Boiler Shop and the Erecting Shop, and provides a connection with tracks leading to other tracks. The original transfer table at this location was sold by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the mid 1990s, and subsequently removed. The current transfer table was constructed by the California State Railroad Museum. It was completed and placed in service in May 2003.


This is one of the few remaining, original Central Pacific Railroad buildings. Construction began in 1867, and the first portion of the structure was completed in 1869. Here, heavy repairs were performed on locomotives that were taken out of service. Finish machining was also performed here on iron parts that came from the Rolling Mill, Foundry, and Blacksmith Shop. (This structure ws originally referred to as the Locomotive Machine Shop, as heavy machine work was performed herein.)

In the Erecting Shop, steam locomotives would be disassembled as far as necessary, including down to the future. The various components were then either sent to other shops for work, or repaired using the many machine tools set up within this structure. Once this work was completed, the locomotives were reassembled and sent back into service. Following the changeover to diesel locomotives from steam, the Erecting Shop continued to be used for major locomotive rebuilding.

Over the years, the Erecting Shop was expanded from its original dimensions of 98 feet by 204 feet, to its current, massive size of 182 feet wide by 516 feet long. The exterior appearance of this structure has changed little since its last expansion in 1905. The Erecting Shop will become the primary display and exhibit gallery space for the planned Railroad Technology Museum.


A turntable is usually associated with a roundhouse or an engine house. The turntable is used to position the locomotives coming off a single lead track onto one of several tracks radiating out from the turntable into the circular roundhouse. The primary function of the roundhouse is to provide storage and to serve as a place for cleaning and performing light running repairs to locomotives. As such, the roundhouse is the basic maintenance building for locomotives while they are in daily service.

The original 1869 brick roundhouse -- which was located here -- was removed in 1959, although today you can still make out the "footprint" of the structure. An architectual rendition evoking the theme of a roundhouse is planned to serve as part of the entry area to the future Railroad Technology Museum.


The Boiler Shop, Erecting Shop, Transfer Table, Turntable and former Roundhouse site comprise the facilities that are currently slated for inclusion in the planned Railroad Technology Museum. However, several additional structures also remain at the site, all of them slated for preservation and re-use as part of the overall Sacramento Downtown Railyards Redevelopment.

Just to the east of the roundhouse and turntable is the Car Machine Shop, which was used to make up car wheelsets. This involves the pressing of the individual wheels onto the axles and attaching the axles to the trucks. In addition, the outer, machined bands of a locomotive's driving wheels, referred to as the "tires," were expanded over the inner cast portion of the wheels here, and then trued on giant wheel lathes in the lower floor of this building. The upper floor served as the Upholstery Shop, making and repairing textiles used in the passenger car fleet of the railroad. These included seats, bedding, carpeting, and curtains. In addition, the Car Machine Shop also saw use for a variety of woodworking and carpentry activities over the years.

Beginning in 1870, the General Master Mechanic of the shops was A.J. Stevens. He held this position until his death in 1888. Stevens designed and developed new inventions and innovative components for locomotives in the early days of railroads in the West. Plans call for an "A.J. Stevens Plaza" to be created in the area between the Erecting Shop, Car Shop, and Blacksmith Shop, as part of the entry area for the planned Railroad Technology Museum. This area was once the location of the Power Plant for the Shops complex. This steam-operated plant drove an overhead lineshaft extending through the various shops, providing power via mechanical transfer to the various tools by way of leather connecting belts. A highlight of the future A.J. Stevens Plaza area is the Three Story Brick Privy, built exclusively for the use of men.

The Car Shop was used for the construction, repair and heavy renovation of passenger and freight cars that were taken out of service. Cars would be disassembled down to the frame, and iron and wood components repaired, replaced, and reassembled. To the east of the Car Shop was a small transfer table for the movement of cars between the Car Shop and the Paint Shop. Newly completed cars were often photographed on this transfer table, whereas locomotives were generally photographed on the turntable after their tenders were attached.

The Blacksmith Shop, recognized for its concrete walls, was built in two portions circa 1869 and 1872, with each portion being a different width. The original brick walls were replaced with concrete, in the late 1920s for the south half of the building, and in the late 1930s for the northern half. At this time the building was modified to become the same width throughout its entire length. The original roof trusses were retained during this process, therefore portions of the structure are believed to date from the transcontinental railroad's completion.



The Railroad Technology Museum (RTM) was envisioned in the very first planning documents created to guide development of the California State Railroad Museum. Planning for the RTM began in the mid-1980s, following completion of the 100,000 square-foot Railroad History Museum in Old Sacramento (opened in 1981).

Intended to complement that facility, this adaptive yet historic re-use project would benefit the Museum's commercial and residential neighbors -- including Old Sacramento, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the City and County of Sacramento -- and help spur redevelopment of the Downtown Sacramento Railyards in a positive, historically appropriate manner.

The Railroad Technology Museum will occupy the two largest structures at the site, and benefit the community in numerous ways. It will create an urban museum complex contiguous with the Old Sacramento Historic District, itself internationally known, and its location and appeal will help foster surrounding transit-oriented development.


As the region's largest employer for many decades, the Southern Pacific Sacramento Shops fundamentally influenced the development, concentration, and growth of many ethnic groups in Sacramento and the Central Valley. Cultural diversity and community pride will be highlighted with engaging exhibits at the Railroad Technology Museum.

The spacious railroad shop buildings will house CSRM's collection of historic locomotives and railroad cars, with formal museum exhibit galleries included to interpret railroad engineering and technology. Children will have the opportunity to explore fundamental physics and engineering principles through hands-on, interactive exhibits.

Guests will have the opportunity to view ongoing restoration work at the Railroad Technology Museum. To date, this important and unique aspect of the California State Railroad Museum's work has been publicly inaccessible. The facility could support curriculum-based educational or vocational training programs for teenagers and young adults.


A part of California State Parks, the California State Railroad Museum is uniquely equipped to foster the preservation and appreciation of California's rich railroading heritage. The Museum's primary mission is to preserve key railroad heritage resources, and make them available to the widest possible audience. Assisting the Museum in its mission is the CSRM Foundation, a non-profit "cooperating association" chartered to raise and manage funds on behalf of the Museum.

Currently showing at the Museum is "Cathedrals of Labor: The Industry Legacy of the Southern Pacific Railroad's Sacramento Shops." This exhibit includes a variety of artifacts, photographs, drawings, and maps that together help to illustrate the architectural legacy, unique heritage, and multi-faceted operations and products of the Southern Pacific Sacramento Shops complex.

Additional information is available from the CSRM Library about the Southern Pacific Railroad Sacramento Shops. Information and photos about the history of transportation in the Sacramento region is available online at




railroad museums in the world, the California State Railroad
Museum is actually a complex of historic structures and
attractions. Located at Old Sacramento State Historic Park, the
first Museum facility -- the reconstructed Central Pacific Railroad
Passenger Station -- opened in 1976. Just five years later, the
Museum's flagship exhibit facility opened: the 100,000-square foot
Railroad History Museum.

Attracting over one-half million guests annually, the Museum
has gained international fame through innovative exhibits,
community outreach, and its highly acclaimed "Railfairs," held in
1981, 1991, and 1999. Today, the Museum also looks to its future,
with plans well along for the new Railroad Technology Museum
at the historic Southern Pacific Railroad Sacramento Shops.

Operated by California State Parks with financial assistance from
the nonprofit California State Railroad Museum Foundation, the
California State Railroad Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5
p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Widely
regarded as North America's finest and most-visited interpretive
railroad museum, the complex of facilities includes the 100,000-
square foot Railroad History Museum plus the reconstructed
Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station and Freight Depot,
1849 Eagle Theatre, and Big Four and Dingley Spice Mill
buildings in Old Sacramento.

Behind the Scenes Tour 2005
11:00 a.m.

Registration & Breakfast ... 10:30 a.m. At registration, all attendees will be given a name tag for a guided tour of the S.P. Shops which must be worn at all times for identification and safety. Your group designation is denoted by the colored dot on your name tag. Please stay with your group!

Group Leaders Russ O'Day / Bernie Brown ... Blue Brian Kanegawa / Bob Orr ... Yellow

Presentation ... 11:00 a.m. Welcome by Paul Hammond, Director of Public Programming and Pam Horan, Foundation Director. Learn about the future of the Southern Pacific Railroad Sacramento Shops and the Museum's plans for the new Railroad Technology Museum.

Walk to Shops ... 11:30 a.m.

Tour the S.P. Shops ... 11:45 a.m.

Return to Old Sacramento ... 12:45 a.m.

Event Concludes ... 1:00 p.m. Consider taking a steam train ride on the Museum's Sacramento Southern Railroad today.

Safety -- Please keep in mind that we are visiting a railroad yard and safety at all times is of the utmost importance. You must pay attention to your group leaders!

California State Railroad Museum

Click on below links to view each set of photos:
Set #1 / Set #2 / Set #3 / Set #4 / Set #5
Movie clip of a short ride on the new Transfer Table

Click here to see photos of the Sacramento Shops, inside and out, from the 2003 "Behind The Scenes Tour"! Further information about the shops can also be found by following the link to the 2003 tour.

Click below for pages in the directory of TrainWeb sties:
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