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Transcontinental Railroad Commemorative Events

April 14, 2019 @ 11:00 pm May 14, 2019 @ 10:59 pm

Sacramento Railroad Museum

Exciting Events, Activities & Exhibits that Culminate in Spring

SACRAMENTO – This year, the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation are proud to present a series of exciting events, activities and exhibits to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. As history can attest, the completion of the 1,912-mile continuous railroad line was arguably the single greatest technological feat of the 19th century. It helped to connect the country, shape the nation, and put the United States on a path to economic prosperity.

Sacramento played a pivotal role in the remarkable feat that ultimately took thousands of laborers – largely Chinese railroad workers – and multiple private railroad companies to complete. On January 8, 1863, then-governor Leland Stanford officially broke ground in Sacramento to begin construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. Approximately six years later, the first Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10, 1869, when Stanford drove a ceremonial Gold Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah to officially connect the country.

To commemorate the important milestone in our nation’s history, the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation are proud to present and/or support the following events, activities and exhibits that culminate in May 2019 (while some have already begun, and others extend throughout the year).

HeritageRail Conference in Sacramento – April 25-27

Working in collaboration with the HeritageRail Alliance, the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation are helping to coordinate a prestigious gathering of railroad operators, historians and supporters from throughout North America to visit Sacramento for an annual conference that is timed to help kick off the sesquicentennial celebration. Information on events that are open to the public will follow at a later date.

Judah Map inside Railroad Museum

For six weeks in Spring 2019, visitors to the California State Railroad will have the unique opportunity to see the 66′ Judah Map in person – on loan from the California State Archives – that has never been on public display in its entirety. Theodore Judah was the first engineer to systematically explore the western Sierra Nevada mountains and map the route of the Central Pacific Railroad. The map will debut on April 15, 2019 and will remain on public display through May 31, 2019.

Gold Spike Exhibit inside Railroad Museum

The California State Railroad Museum is home to both the priceless “lost” Gold Spike and the famous “Last Spike” painting by Thomas Hill. The spike was cast at the same time as the gold spike used at the Promontory Summit ceremony. Thomas Hill’s painting illustrates the scene of the famous joining of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads. The California State Railroad Museum will redesign the Gold Spike exhibit areas so museum guests can enjoy a more interpretive and interactive exhibit experience. Plus, the Museum will debut a new acquisition as part of the exhibit redesign – an engraved gold oval locket made from the excess gold sprue left over after the casting of the gold spikes in 1870. The gold locket includes historic engravings, imagery and elements significant to the Transcontinental Railroad, including a depiction of the golden spike being driven between the two meeting tracks and a small golden spike dangling from a link in the chain. A specially-created display case – made to rotate and magnify the locket – is being designed for this newly acquired treasure that was recently secured by the California State Railroad Museum Foundation and gifted to the people of the state of California.

The Chinese Workers’ Experience Exhibit

The California State Railroad Museum plans to debut an enhanced exhibit that will showcase and share stories of the of Chinese railroad workers who were essential in the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. To help personalize and bring their experiences to life, the Railroad Museum convened members of a Chinese Community Advisory Committee to obtain personal histories and stories from descendants of Chinese railroad workers. Many of their shared recollections – that have been passed down for generations – will be incorporated into the exhibit. Once completed, the emotionally powerful exhibit will allow visitors to immerse themselves in the toil and experiences of Chinese railroad workers who endured and persevered through severe weather and treacherous terrain.

Free Community Sesquicentennial Event – May 8, 2019

To gain a better understanding and experience the commemorative events (as closely as possible) to those that took place 150 years prior, the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation invite the community-at-large to visit the Old Sacramento Waterfront for a free outdoor Sesquicentennial event beginning at 10 a.m. on May 8, 2019. Planned free activities will include (but are not limited to) the following:

* Historic re-creation of the procession that took place on May 8, 1869 complete with flags, music, historic fire brigade, horse-drawn carriages, and more;
* Official public unveiling of a new bronze plaque at “mile marker zero” at the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad;
* Complimentary historic and authentic excursion train rides aboard the Sacramento Southern Railroad throughout the day;
* Entertaining and interpretive Transcontinental Railroad melodrama performances playing in the historic Eagle Theatre;
* Community Picnic where guests can bring a sack lunch to enjoy on 1849 Scene (big grassy area in front of the Railroad Museum) that will feature entertaining live music along with docents and historians telling stories of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Sesquicentennial VIP Gala at the Railroad Museum – May 11, 2019

The California State Railroad Museum Foundation is proud and excited to offer a memorable evening of dinner, dancing and a private walk-through of one of the most influential and far-reaching moments in our nation’s history during a special Sesquicentennial VIP gala inside the impressive Railroad Museum. Event and sponsorship information is available on the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation’s website.

For more details and updated information about events, activities and exhibits presented by the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation, please visit


April 14 @ 11:00 pm
May 14 @ 10:59 pm
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Sacramento Railroad Museum

125 I St
Sacramento, CA 95814 United States
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