Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Visiting the library, California State Railroad Museum

I have from time to time in my blog posts alluded to the California State Railroad Museum, or CSRM, located in Sacramento, and in particular to the excellent library which is part of CSRM. Most recently, I mentioned its resources in my blog about the Mutual Oil Company (you can read it at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-mutual-oil-company-and-its-tank-cars.html ).
     I am fortunate to live not terribly far from Sacramento, and perhaps equally important, I can easily travel there via train, specifically the Amtrak California service on the Capital Corridor route (of which more later). In this post, I want to offer a brief description about the library itself.
     CSRM is located in the historic area called Old Sacramento, and when you approach the main museum building at I Street (a couple of minutes’ walk from the Amtrak station), you see an imposing structure. Beyond it, at left near the flagpole, are some much older historic buildings.

     Those historic buildings (below) are actually the ones in which the origins of the Central Pacific Railroad were planned; the Huntington & Hopkins hardware store, restored to its historic lettering, clearly identifies the two members of the Big Four who were in business there.

The CSRM library is housed on the second floor above the hardware store, the yellow building in the photo above, No. 54 I Street.
     The library is open to the public from 1 to 5 PM, Tuesday through Saturday, and when you enter at the top of the stairs, you first see, straight ahead of you, the collection of railroad books (this is only the reading-room part of the collection; there is much more in the basement, material which staff furnishes on request).

Incidentally, this is a research library, not a circulating library, and materials are used only in this reading room. For more about the library collections and how to use them, you can visit: http://www.csrmf.org/library-and-collections/using-the-library .
     Turning to the right slightly, you see a vast array of bound and unbound issues of the Official Railway Equipment Register or ORER. Shown here are the years 1918 to 1997. The many red bound volumes are the earlier years, the yellow ones lower down are the newer, unbound issues. At work in this photo is librarian Cara Randall.

Anyone not familiar with the ORER might wish to read my introductory essay on this publication. It is in four parts, with the last part at this link ( http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-equipment-register-part-4.html ) and a link to the entire document is also available in that post, via Google Drive.
     In an adjoining room, are more shelves, holding ORER issues from 1898 to 1917. There are a few missing issues out of all these years, but not many. It is a superb resource for the freight car researcher or historian.

Here the normally locked doors of these cases have been opened for access. The newer yellow issues are spares.
     I cannot say enough about this library. In addition to the rather small fraction of the holdings shown in these photos, there is a massive amount of original railroad material, not just SP, in the collection, all available on request: photos, physical artifacts, drawings and maps, papers, and records of all kinds. To a researcher it is truly a gold mine. I can say that the core of my research findings about SP freight cars have been accomplished here.
     Of course, we shouldn’t leave the library without mentioning that downstairs and in the adjoining building is one of the best railroad museums in the world. Just one of its superb locomotives is this one, familiar to every SP fan as the last cab-forward, no. 4294, so large it’s hard to photograph indoors.

     So that’s a glimpse of the library at CSRM. The museum is worth a visit for any railroad enthusiast, but the library is a special place if you are really interested in history from original sources.
Tony Thompson

1 comment:

  1. I spent a day at the library a few months ago. The staff is very helpful and I was able to photograph some of the material for my personal use.