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Train Tracks Across the Sierra

Sacramento to Reno and Return

10/16//11 - 10/21/11

A Road Scholar Program

This travel adventure began with flights to Sacramento from Seattle via Salt lake City.  I had spent the previous week in Redmond, Washington visiting my grandson and his family. 

Upon arriving at the Sacramento airport, I was greeted with the following display at the baggage claim area.  Very Clever!

This was the first time I had ever seen a display in the baggage area on any of my many travels.

Our program was located at the Vagabon Inn near the Old Town area of Sacramento. 

One of the first sights on Monday morning, when we had our usual city bus tour of Sacramento, was the statute noting point the start of the Pony Express.

Our first stop was at the California State Capitol where we had a tour of the building.

Marilyn Schiveley served as our local tour guide for this day long visit to Sacramento.  She was can excellent tour guide.

We were greeting by a statue of Columbus and Queen Isabella in the main lobby of the Capitol.

During our tour, we visited the various rooms in the building.  Above is the State Senate Chambers.  The legislature was in recess during the time of our visit.

During our visit we had a chance to view several rooms that had historical displays of the offices from earlier years.  This bear was guarding the governor's office.  He was the most unique guard we saw on our trip.  

Outside of the Capitol building was a statue dedicated to the Sisters of Mercy.

At noon time, we had lunch at the Casa Garden Restaurant. The restaurant was a unique volunteer operated business to raise funds to support the Sacramento's Children's Home.  The food was delicious!

This statue was in the garden area of the Casa Gardens.

Our afternoon drive started with a brief stop at Sutter's Fort.  Unfortunately, our schedule did not provide time for a visit to the Fort.

Our main stop of the afternoon was at the California State Railroad Museum.  The museum was located in the Old Town area of Sacramento.  It was also within easy walking distance from our motel. 

We were greeted by this steam locomotive as we entered the museum.

After viewing a movie about the Museum and Railroads of California, we started a self guided tour of the museum.  This was the first locomotive of the Central Pacific Railroad.  It was named the Governor Stanford.  The above locomotive is representative of the early trains that operated in California and was sent around Cape Horn by sailing ship, arriving on the Sacramento waterfront in late 1863.

Above is the depiction of an early snow shed used to protect the railroad track in winter.

A life sized depiction of Chinese workers moving equipment from the road bed where trains were to travel.

A vintage Virginia and Truckee R.R. Locomotive No. 12 Genoa.  It pulled passenger trains between Carson City, Reno and the Comstock Lode from 1873 to 1902.

A miniature locomotive next to its life size big brother.

Another colorful locomotive on display.  It was a Mallet-type freight locomotive capable of moving large loads of box cars.

The museum was great and had many excellent displays of railroad locomotives and rolling stock.  The various railroad depictions in the museum made the  many displays of the history of California railroading come alive.

One million pounds of steam and steel, No. 4294 is the last steam locomotive purchased new by the Southern Pacific.  It is the sole survivor of 256 cab-forward engines developed for use in the Sierra Nevada region.  The train retired in 1956.

After my visit to the Railroad museum, I walked around the nearby Old Town area of Sacramento.  Above are the CM&T Company, Eagle Theatre and Tehama buildings.

The Old Town area was the home to several weekend train excursions. 

Coaches waiting for weekend riders.

The Sacramento River flows behind the Old Town area of the city.

The Delta King which is moored in the Sacramento River behind the Old Town area.  It no longer sails on the river.  It now serves as a restaurant where we had our last evening farewell dinner.

Just down stream from the Delta King is the famous Sacramento Lift Bridge.  It lifted up to allow large ships to navigate the river.  The two towers are painted bright yellow and can be seen form the Capital building.

The Old Town School House.

On Monday evening after dinner, we had Old Sacramento Living History Program.  The Widow Chambers shared both fact and fiction aspects of the life in Sacramento's Gold Rush era.  It was a most enjoyable event.

Tuesday morning found our group preparing to travel to Reno.  We had some free time, so I wandered about the area of our motel.  Nearby to our motel was the Chinese area of Sacramento.  There were apartment buildings that were the home to many Chinese citizens.  The architecture of the buildings in the area reflects the pagoda look.  The above statue honors Sun Yat Sen, who was a Chinese revolutionary and political leader often referred to as the Father of Modern China.  The Statue is located in the Chinese area.

At 9:30 am we walked over to the nearby Amtrak Station to board the train that will take us to Reno, Nevada.  We had to handle our own luggage for this part of the trip.

Our train is scheduled to depart for Reno at 11:09 am.  The trip will take about 5 hours and we are scheduled to arrive at Reno at 4:16 pm.  We will have a chance to dine on the train as we travel along.

The traditional mural found in many train stations.  This one depicted the early history of California.

The station waiting room.  Our group tickets were purchased in the station.  It was interesting to note that Amtrak also ran a regularly scheduled bus service out to the station.

An Amtrak train waiting to head out for its next stop.

We left on time.  Our seats were on the upper level of the coach car we were assigned to.  It was a short walk to the near by dining car and/or snack car.

Scenery along to way to Reno.

A stop along the way to unload and load passengers.  There were two stops as we traveled to Reno.

More scenery as we travel along.

What a great day for a train ride!

Our passenger car.

Following a stream!

A pretty picture!

An unused water flume was visible as we rode along toward Reno.

The scenery changed as we left the mountains and neared Reno.

Our train arrived in Reno as scheduled.  We had a short walk to our nearby hotel.

The train station in Reno is below street level.  It is designed as a way to prevent the trains for disrupting travel in the city. 

Downtown Reno form my hotel room.

Wednesday morning found our group on a bus tour of nearby historic sites.  We are heading to Carson City.

The scenery along the way was very picturesque.

Carson City is the Capital of the State of Nevada.  Above is the Capitol building where our tour began.

We were greeting my a life size bronze statue of Nevada Native American activist and teacher, Sarah Winnemucca as we entered the Capitol building.

On our tour, we visited several interesting rooms that were used in earlier times when the building was an active Capitol.  Above are the seats used by the Nevada State Supreme Court Judges. There were only three judges in the beginning.

The original Assembly Chamber.

After our Capitol tour, we walked three blocks to the Nevada State Museum.

Along the way to the Museum we passed a mile post  marker for the Lincoln Highway (Route 50).

This is the original coin pressing machine that was used to mint coins in years gone by.  It is still used to mint commemorative coins today.  The museum has many interesting exhibits on display. 

The gun room had a gatling gun on display.  These guns were used in fighting the Indians of the state.

Beautiful Fall colors on display in the Museum Courtyard.

After lunch in Carson City, we boarded the bus for our next stop at Virginia City, Nevada.

Scenery on the way to Virginia City.

Getting closer to Virginia City!

The ticket car for the Virginia and Truckee Railroad.

Here comes our train!  We took a 35 minute train ride out to Gold Hill, Nevada and back.

There were a locomotive and two cars available for our ride today.  Sights of note are, F Street Depot Car – Virginia City station, three blocks from downtown’s fascinating C Street.  Tunnel No. 4 – the last tunnel before Virginia City, one of five built for the 1600-ft. descent to the valley floor.   Comstock mines – transporting silver and gold from the mother lode to the mills was the original purpose of the V&T Railroad. During the ride, you’ll pass by eight mines including Hale & Norcross, Savage, Potosi, Chollar, Julia, Yellow Jacket, Crown Point and the Ward Bullion.  Gold Hill, rich in history, where the Comstock era gold strikes began and the train depot was built at one of the few flat places in town.

The other form of transportation was also available!

Scenery along the route to Gold Hill!

Tunnel No 4

What a great day for a train ride!

An old locomotive on a siding at Gold Hill.

A long ago gold mine structure.

An old Comstock mine at Gold Hill.

The Gold Hill Station.


Looking back at Gold Hills mines.

Nevada scenery on the way back to Virginia City.

Virginia City train yards waiting for the call to take passengers over the Virginia & Truckee Railroad tracks.

The fourth Ward School.  The oldest four story school building in the United States.  We had a great visit to the school including a lecture about the preservation of the building.

Downtown Virginia City.

Our last stop in Virginia City was at the Virginia City Opera House.

The interior of the Opera House.  It is still in use today with a wide variety of performance scheduled.

After our visit to Virginia City we bussed back to Reno for a delightful dinner in the Washoe Room at our hotel.  After dinner, we were treated to an illustrated talk about the Donner party by Frank Mullen a local newspaperman and author.

Reno at night from my room at Harrah's Hotel.

We are on our way back to Sacramento.  The scenery was beautiful as we motored along.

There was snow on the ground at the higher elevations as we drove along.

Just before lunch we stopped at a scenic outlook to see Lake Tahoe in the background. 

Lake Tahoe

A monument that commerates the tragedy of the Donner Party.  This is located at Emigrant Trail Museum in Donner State Park.

The museum was small but very interesting as it told the story of the tragic Donner Party.

A depiction of one of the wagons that the Donner Party used in their trip west.

The rock that served as part of one of the cabins that was built to survive the winter of 1846–47.

Part of the Emigrant Trail today.

Donner lake

The historic route of U.S. 40 follows the northern shoreline, then climbs to Donner Pass from where the entire lake may be viewed.

A last look at the rugged scenery we enjoyed during our trip to Reno and back to Sacramento.

This Road Scholar program was excellent.  Great group members!  Many great scenes and sights to be seen.  Great group leadership by Don McLaurin!