TRUCKEE, Calif. — With steam unfurling from the base of a model steam train, the locomotive inched forward, a rhythmic “chug, chug” sound issuing as it moved along metal tracks, taking children and adults for a ride.
The train ride, courtesy of the Sacramento Valley Live Steamers Railroad Museum, was part of a Saturday event at the Truckee River Regional Park to celebrate the community’s railroad history.
“We’ve never been to Truckee, so we really had no idea about any of the history of Truckee. It’s been fun to learn about that and expose the kids to something different,” said Jenn Rowe, of Burlingame, Calif., after finishing a ride on the model train with her children.
While Truckee was a fledgling community supplying goods and services to those crossing the Sierra in 1863, it was the railroad that transformed it into a boomtown.
“The history of the railroad is the history of Truckee and the whole economic development of the area,” said Jim Hood, president of the Truckee Donner Railroad Society, who took part in Saturday’s Truckee Railroad History Day.
In the 1860s, Truckee served as the eastern staging point during the Central Pacific Railroad’s construction of the transcontinental railroad eastward from Sacramento, according to historical accounts. In addition, Central Pacific used Truckee to support laying track across Nevada and tunneling efforts at Donner Summit.
By Dec. 13, 1867, a train from Truckee traveled to Nevada, and by May 4, 1868, trains could run from Sacramento to Reno. On May 10, 1869, the westward portion of the first transcontinental railroad met the eastward portion at Promontory Point, Utah, completing the link across the United States.
“Most little towns after the railroad was finished … went away also, but Truckee’s still here — 150 years later,” Hood said.
According to the town, the railroad allowed the lumber and ice export industry to expand, with Truckee serving as an important stop in the Sierra Nevada. Truckee’s lumber and ice harvesting industries made it possible for the railroad to ship fresh fruits and vegetables from the Central Valley to national markets.
Further, Truckee became a division point and “helper” district by its yards providing extra locomotives needed to run trains longer than 100 cars over Donner Summit. The Truckee Railroad District was also responsible for maintaining fire trains in the summer and clearing snow from the tracks in winter.
“The whole objective is to make sure that history doesn’t get forgotten,” Hood said.
Helping ensure that were representatives with the Truckee Donner Railroad Society, Truckee Donner Historical Society and town of Truckee, who attended Truckee Railroad History Day.
To learn more about Truckee’s railroad history, click here.