The city of Sacramento was built as a river town, along the Sacramento River. It was founded in 1848 near the junction of the Sacramento and American Rivers. Sacramento was a place that boats could easily reach from San Francisco, and became the gateway to California’s Gold Rush. The area along the river became the center of town, with stores and warehouses doing brisk business. When the Southern Pacific Railway was built it passed right through the city. Today you can visit both aspects of the history in Old Sacramento.
The Yellow Bridge over the Sacramento River
Old Sacramento is a five block long stretch along the river. Thanks to “urban planning” is has been cut off from the rest of the city by highways and bridges. But the twelve square blocks of the historic district have been maintained in their original condition. The buildings date back to the late 1800’s, and streets are paved with cobblestones. The stores in the neighborhood no longer are set up to equip miners. Instead they cater to California’s new gold, tourists. T-shirts and souvenirs are available in many places, as are candy stores and restaurants.
There are also several museums in the area. There is the Sacramento History Museum, the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, and even a Wells Fargo Museum. My favorite is the California State Railroad Museum. It is built at the site of the Southern Pacific’s Round House. On the main floor there are several classic engines and rolling stock. Their history is presented and many of them offer the opportunity to explore inside the cars.
V&TRR No. 13 Engine
The third floor of the building is dedicated to model railroading. There is an extensive collection of Lionel trains.
There is also an exhibit of scale model dioramas, presenting the model railroads with towns and harbors presenting how the railroads were integrated into them.
Old Sacramento is definitely a touristy place to visit. But its museums are interesting, there is good food, and who doesn’t need a tee-short to tchotchke to bring home, so enjoy an afternoon visiting California’s history.
Nuts and Bolts:
The California Railroad Museum is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Its entrance fee is $12 for Adults and $6 for youth.
There is a large covered parking lot underneath I-5 as you drive towards Old Sac. for $10/day