Support this website by joining the Silver Rails TrainWeb Club for as little as $1 per month. Click here for info.

13th Annual
Behind the Scenes Tour
Southern Pacific Sacramento Shop Tours
California State Railroad Museum
Saturday, October 6, 2001

The below information below is from the printed guide provided for the "13th Annual Behind the Scenes Tour" of the Southern Pacific Sacramento Shop on October 6, 2001 by the California State Railroad Museum. The photographs were added by the TrainWeb staff.

Click on each link below to view each set of photos:
Set #01 / Set #02 / Set #03 / Set #04 / Set #05
Set #06 / Set #07 / Set #08 / Set #09 / Set #10

Click here for the travelogue and photos of the rail trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight to this event!

    Tour Rules
  • Wear proper shoes, no high heels or open toed sandals
  • Stay with the group and adhere to Tour Monitor's requests
  • Wear your hard hat
  • Watch your step, this is an industrial site
  • Do not pick up items to take as souvenirs
  • Sign release form
  • Minimum age 18

About Your Tour Guides

Walter P. Gray III

Walter Gray's association with the California State Railroad Museum began in 1977, working in many of the Museum's core programs. For several years, he was the only archivist in California State service ouside of the State Archives. In 1990 he was appointed Director of the California State Railroad Museum. In 1998, he was appointed State Archivist for California, and Chief of the Archives and Museum Division. In this capacity, he heads the division within the Office of the Secretary of State which includes the California State Archives and the new Golden State Museum.

Kyle Williams Wyatt

Kyle Williams Wyatt began his career with the California State Railroad Museum in 1977. His initial assignment with CSRM was Historical and Restoration Researcher. In 1990, Kyle took a position as Curator of History at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City. In 1999, he returned to CSRM as Curator of Railroad Operations. He has completed post-graduate studies in Western American History and the History of Technology.


The complex before you began to emerge as the Central Pacific Railroad Shops in 1867. It includes the only remaining structures standing at the time of the 1869 Golden Spike Ceremony. During the 1880s the Central Pacific Railroad was leased to the Southern Pacific Railroad, and the Sacramento Shops became the SP's general shops for the next century and a quarter. The shops were gradually enlarged until they became the largest railroad shops, and, in fact, the largest metal and woodworking plant west of St. Louis. The shops, covering almost 200 acres, made the Southern Pacific system nearly self-sufficient, building and maintaining everything from locomotives and rolling stock to office and station furniture. For 80 years, the shops were the largest employer in California's Central Valley, and for a time, the largest industrial complex in the West. These shops, along with the current Amtrak passenger station to the south, are the only original railroad structures standing in the vicinity of Old Sacramento.


You are now standing in the "Boiler Shop." It was here that the heavy maintenance and repair of locomotive boilers took place. The work of the boiler shop ranged from resetting the 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 on 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 (see Stop #3). As with most of the shops, the Boiler Shop was expanded as more space was required. Originally, it was 90 feet wide and 282 feet long. with extensions of 110 feet and 50 feet being 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 the current width of 152 feet. Over the years, parts of the shop were also used as a Tank Shop, Carpenters Shop, Locomotive Paint Shop, and - in the diesel error - for locomotive truck fabrication and repair. Today the Boiler Shop is used as the California State Railroad Museum Restoration Shop facility.


A transfer table permits the lateral movement of locomotives or cars onto parallel tracks. These were typically used only in the largest of shopos. Transfer tables permitted simplified track plans and allowed for closer spacing of buildings. Here at the Sacramento Shops, transfer tables connected the Boiler Shop with the Machine Shop and the Car Shop with the Paint Shop. Unlike a turntable, transfer tables do not permit the reversing of direction for railroad equipment. You are standing on the large transfer table's track area. This table allowed the movement of cars between the Boiler Shop and the Erecting Shop, and provided a connection with tracks leading to the Southern Pacific Railroad system. Together with the smaller Car Shop transfer table, you could transit the entire shop complex by rail, going right through the shops. This transit setup was primarily used for bringing coal into the powerhouse. The original transfer table was sold by the Southern Pacific Railroad, and was subsequently removed. The California State Railroad Museum Foundation is currently raising the funds required to build a new transfer table to be used as a part of the new Railroad Technology Museum (see the inside back cover of this pamphlet for information on how you can help meet this goal).


This is one of the original Central Pacific Railroad buildings. Construction began on this building in 1867, and was completed in 1869. Over the years, the building was expanded from its original dimensions of 98 feed by 204 feet, to its current size of 182 feet wide by 516 feet long. It was in this building that the locomotives were assembled (erected) and repaired. Each locomotive would then be moved out onto the transfer table, and would transit north to the turntable where it would be attached to its tender. Following the changeover to diesel locomotives from steam, the Erecting Shop was used to strip locomotives down to the frame. After their individual components and parts were repaired, the locomotives were reassembled. The exterior appearance of the Erecting Shop has changed little since its last expansion in 1905. This will become the Orientation and Exhibit Gallery for the new Railroad Technology Museum.


The Erecting Shop was originally known as the Machine Shop. The area is now referred to as the Erecting Shop, thereby distinguishing it from the Car Machine Shop (see #6). The Locomotive Machine Shop carried out heavy repairs on locomotives that were taken out of service. Each locomotive would be disassembled as far as necessary, including down to the frame, with the various components either sent to other shops for work, or repaired in the Machine Shop itself. Once this work was completed, the engines were reassembled and sent back into service. The Machine Shop also finished iron parts that came from the Rolling Mill, Foundry, and Blacksmith Shop.


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 onto one of several tracks radiating out from it into a 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 the locomotives while they are in daily service. The roundhouse, which was located here, was removed in 1959 - although today you can still make out the "footprint" of the structure. An architectural rendition invoking the theme of a roundhouse will be constructed here to serve as part of the entry area to the future Railroad Technology Museum. Just to the east of the roundhouse and turntable was the Car Machine Shop. This is distinct from the Locomotive Machine Shop, in that it 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" (complete wheelset assembly consisting of wheels, axles, bearings, springs, etc.). In addition, the outer, machined band of a locomotive's driving wheels, referred to as the "tire," were expanded over the inner cast portion of 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 all forms of 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.


The Central Pacific Railroad opened the Sacramento Shops in 1864. At the time about a dozen men were employed in them. These original shops consisted of a roundhouse with a Machine Shop, Blacksmith Shop, and small Car Shop. Beginning in 1870, the General Master Mechanic of the shops was A. J. Stevens. He held this position until his death in 1888. Stevens was a sort of practical engineer, designing and developing new inventions and innovative parts for locomotives in the early days of railroads in the west. Some of these innovations bear his name to this day, such as the Stevens Valve Gear. The Plaza area was once the location of the power plant for the Shops which extended through the various shops and provided power through a mechanical transfer to the various tools by way of leather connecting belts. The centerpiece of this area is the "three story brick privy."


The Car Shop is used for the construction, repair, and heavy renovation of passenger and freight cars that have been taken out of service. Cars would be disassembled down to the frame, and iron and wood components repaired, replaced, and reassembled. Cars might also be steam cleaned at the Car Shop. 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. This small transfer table could be used in conjunction wit the aforementioned larger one to create an "escape track" through the middle of the shops in the event that either end of the shops feeder tracks were blocked. Newly completed cars were often photographed on this transfer table, whereas locomotives were generally photographed on the turntable after their tenders were attached. The small transfer table was an area of park-like landscaping, as may be seen in a variety of photographs from the era. In fact, much of the shop area was landscaped, in keeping with the 19th century ideal of blending man's inventiveness with nature. The stark, hard surfaces of the shops grounds did not sit well with this ideal, therefore grass and trees were planted in an effort to create the desired harmonious effect. Eucalyptus trees were also planted, but were removed as a fire safety precaution after a fire in 1898 destroyed many of the shop buildings.

WIDELY REGARDED AS NORTH AMERICA'S finest and most-visited railroad museum, the California State Railroad Museum is actually a complex of historic structures and attractions. Located in Old Sacramento, 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 Museum of Railroad History.

Attracting over 500,000 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 Sacramento Shops. Thank you for your support of the California State Railroad Museum, and its efforts to preserve and interpret the fascinating heritage of western railroads. Your support as a member of the California State Railroad Museum Foundation helps Keep the Trains Rolling!

We appreicate your support!

Click on each link below to view each set of photos:
Set #01 / Set #02 / Set #03 / Set #04 / Set #05
Set #06 / Set #07 / Set #08 / Set #09 / Set #10

Click here for the travelogue and photos of the rail trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight to this event!

Click below for pages in the directory of TrainWeb sties:
0-9 A B C D E

ad pos61 ad pos63
ad pos62 ad pos64

Support this website by joining the Silver Rails TrainWeb Club for as little as $1 per month. Click here for info.