The Cool Cars at the Golden Gate Railroad Museum in Schellville

The Golden Gate Railroad Museum held its first public event on Labor Day weekend since moving to Sonoma County, which stretched all the way to Schellville.

The “Open House and Steam-Up” took place Sunday and Monday with attendance that exceeded the museum’s expectations for the heated holiday weekend.

“This is our first public event in Sonoma – I hope it will be the first of many. It exceeds expectations; we had over 200 people yesterday,” Jason Davis, board chairman, said Monday morning. administration of the museum.

The organization began in San Francisco in the 1970s when a few train enthusiasts bought and restored an old Southern Pacific 2472, a steam engine, which had been on display at the San Mateo Fairgrounds. This project was completed in 1991 and raced in Sacramento the very next day.

The museum has moved to Niles Canyon, where volunteers continue to restore old locomotives and preserve California’s “golden age of the steam railroad.”

The engines made their way to Sonoma in March 2020, where they have been in storage and restored since. The museum operates largely through donations from railroads and private owners.

“The most important thing to remember is that this organization has been around for 50 years and we have a number of dedicated volunteers who show up every Saturday, whether it’s 105 degrees, like today, or it’s raining” , Davis said.

Volunteers range in age from 17 to 80, and the love of trains among the crew extends through every generation.

New board member and volunteer Nico Dacong can give the full history of every engine and car.

“It’s straight out of the 1930s,” Dacong said as he walked through the lounge car. “This was once a tasting room for Charles Krug Winery.”

The lounge car had faded red carpets with floral patterns, windows with misted glass martini glasses and 1930s music playing softly in the background as people climbed up to the bar to enjoy free refreshments on hot monday.

The gift shop was located in the next car, and there were all kinds of themed souvenirs like mugs, patches, t-shirts and hats for people to remember each train.

The car attached to it was the mailroom car – still fully equipped with all the sorting bags, shelves and boxes it had when it was built in 1949. The wooden floors in the back were sturdy and felled by the gold that used to be transported there.

“It’s like a private jet on wheels,” Dacong said, pointing the business car across the runway. “He mentioned that the museum is working on repairing it to make it an excursion service for those looking for a flashback to the luxury of the 20th century locomotive.

Walking towards what looked like a freshly painted car, Dacong told the story of the old US Army Disel locomotive in front of him. The museum bought it for just $850 and repainted it to look like a South Pacific engine.

Dacong walked over to where most of the visitors stood in front of a large, heavy-looking black train with metallic silver accents weighing down the sides.

“This is the main attraction,” Dacong said. “It’s the focal point of the museum.”

This force of metal was the museums steam engine – one of only three P-8 class locomotives in existence and the only one that works. The daunting train is the second largest operating steam engine in California and the original train the museum was based on in the 1970s.

He whistled and honked as people watched. On an already hot Labor Day, the heat inside the control space increased dramatically when the oil fire peaked through a small hole in the control panel.

Dozens of red knobs, gold and silver levers, and loads of black iron pipes and rods seemed to be tangled together because they were so tight. The set is operational even though it was built more than a century ago in 1921.

The engines drew people from afar.

“My dad dragged us here from San Jose and it’s pretty cool,” said 18-year-old Alison Jones. “I’ve never seen a train so close, that’s cool, you know? I don’t know where I will see another.

Her 8-year-old cousin stood next to her, a red plastic train in his hand and a conductor’s hat on his head. When asked what she thought of the trains, he shouted; “Good!”

The museum is located at 22725 Eighth St. E. on Highway 121, west of the Eighth Street crossing, tucked behind the new warehouses near the green Schellville Train Depot building.

Contact journalist Rebecca Wolff at [email protected]

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