The California State Railroad Museum complex is located within Old Sacramento State Historic Park — itself a portion of the Old Sacramento Historic District.
News of the 1848 discovery of gold in nearby Coloma (site of Sutter’s Mill and today home to Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park) traveled quickly around the world, drawing thousands of people to the Sierra Nevada foothills and kicking off the California Gold Rush.
Originally part of the New Helvetia land grant of Captain John Sutter, Sacramento sits at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. The commercial center of the California Gold Rush, it became a crossroads of transportation — connected by steamboats to San Francisco, by supply roads to mining regions, and to Folsom by the first railroad in the West. Despite floods, fires, and epidemics, Sacramento became California’s capital in 1854.
The center of the commercial district gradually moved east, and the Sacramento riverfront became neglected. In the mid-1960s, a redevelopment plan took shape.
Today, with 53 historic commercial structures sited on 28 acres, Old Sacramento is a National Historic Landmark. California State Parks owns and operates a number of original and reconstructed buildings, mostly accessible, as part of Old Sacramento State Historic Park.
B.F. Hastings Building
This 1853 structure housed the owner’s bank, Hastings & Company, and Wells, Fargo & Company. It also served as the western terminus for the Pony Express. California’s Supreme Court held session here between1855 and 1869. Today the building houses the Old Sacramento Visitor Center and the Wells Fargo History Museum.
From 1850 to 1851, this reconstructed Greek Revival building housed numerous business ventures.
Built in 1849, the Eagle Theatre is a reconstruction of the first theater built in California. Made with a wood frame, canvas walls, and a tin roof, it provided entertainment for only three months before the flood of January 4, 1850, destroyed it
CM&T Co. Building
This reconstructed 1849 building was originally home to the Connecticut Mining & Trading Company, an auction and commission business, and general merchandise firms.
Big Four Building
Housing the Stanford Brothers Warehouse and the Huntington & Hopkins Hardware Store from the late 1850s into the 1880s, this building was also the first headquarters of the Central Pacific Railroad.
First floor —The mid-nineteenth century Huntington & Hopkins Hardware Store has been reconstructed.
Second floor —The Railroad Museum Library, North America’s finest railroad-only reference library, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Dingley Spice Mill Building
After arriving in San Francisco in February 1850, Nathaniel Dingley settled in Sacramento to operate a coffee and spice business. Constructed following Sacramento’s disastrous 1852 fire, the Dingley Spice Mill is restored to its circa 1860 appearance.
Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station
The station is a reconstruction of the western terminus of America’s first transcontinental railroad circa 1876. It is complete with ticket office, telegraph office, main waiting room, and a separate waiting room for ladies and children only. Open daily for tours.
Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot
The museum’s steam- and diesel-powered excursion trains arrive and depart from this reconstructed late 1800s transcontinental railroad freight station. Departures are on weekends, April through September, hourly 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Special holiday “theme” trains depart on selected weekends October through December.