Western Railway Museum

Western Railway Museum

The Western Railway Museum, in Solano County, California is located on Highway 12 between Rio Vista and Suisun. The museum is built along the former mainline of the Sacramento Northern Railway. Their collection focuses on trolleys, as it is primarily a museum of interurban transit equipment.

The Western Railway Museum has the largest collection of Sacramento Northern Railway equipment in existence, and the museum also operates a line of the former Sacramento Northern as a heritage railway with scheduled excursions for visitors.

The museum is operated by the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association (BAERA), a non-profit organization.


The Bay Area Electric Railroad Association was started by a group of San Francisco Bay Area rail fans in 1946. The group was specifically interested in electric traction, more than main line railroads. Other groups such as the California/Nevada Historical Society usually had meetings and excursions on main line subjects. BAERA held monthly social meetings, frequently showing members slides and movies to the group. The BAERA also had excursions on the many street car lines and Interurbans in the Bay Area. As a result of an excursion over the Key System the Association purchased Key System 271 a wooden street car that had started out in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Soon other cars were given by members or purchased for the Association. These included Sacramento Northern 63, a Birney street car built in 1920. The car ran local service in Chico, California until 1947 and had the last 5-cent fare in the State of California.

A number of passenger and work cars were obtained when the Key System abandoned operation of its last rail line across the Bay Bridge in 1958. But time, money and effort needed in constantly moving the equipment from place convinced the members that a permanent location for their railway museum was needed. Property was located at Rio Vista Junction, a former station stop along the Sacramento Northern Railway near Suisun, California in 1960. BAERA became a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational corporation in the 1960s, and created as its major project the California Railway Museum, later renamed to the Western Railway Museum (to avoid confusion with the California State Railroad Museum). Significant events at the Western Railway Museum include: purchase of 22 miles of Sacramento Northern in 1994, dedication of a Visitors Center in 2001, and starting in 2002, construction of the Loring Jensen Memorial Car House with attendant fire suppression system - officially opening May 2008.

The Association volunteers have restored a number of the museum's steetcars and Interurbans. They include Petaluma and Santa Rosa 62, Peninsular Railway 52, Salt Lake and Utah 751 and most recently the crown jewel in the collection, Sacramento Northern 1005 originally Oakland, Antioch and Eastern 1005. There are many more cars awaiting restoration and operation.

The Association also publishes a newsletter called the Review.

The museum today

A visitor or a family can ride a street car or Interurban, picnic at the shaded grounds, browse in the Bookstore and view small exhibits in the Visitor center. Also in the Visitor center is the F. M. Smith Library and Archives which are open two days a month for research and browsing.

The museum is open on weekends through out the year and extended hours in the summer.

External links

* [http://www.wrm.org/ Official Western Railway Museum website]

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