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Sheila Rogstad, of Walnut Creek, front left, takes her seat in a 1903 Peninsular Railroad car that ran from San Jose to Palo Alto during a tour for the Conference of California Historical Societies at the Western Railway Museum, Saturday. The Conference of California Historical Societies meet three times a year and members are spending the weekend in Napa. Saturday they visited the Western Railway Museum and Mare Island. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

Solano County

Statewide history group visits railway museum

By From page A3 | March 02, 2014

SUISUN CITY — A group of history buffs from around the state got relief from the rain Saturday as they explored some of the region’s points of interest.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Conference of California Historical Societies targeted Solano and Napa counties for its 2014 Spring Symposium. One day after touring a wet downtown Napa, the 54-member group left its American Canyon hotel for sunny Suisun City to explore the Western Railway Museum’s old electric trains.

“I used to ride these as a kid,” said Ron Finely, regional vice president of the Arroyo Seco area of the Associated Historical Societies of Los Angeles County. “I lived in Oakland and used to take the Key System over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.”

The museum houses a couple of antiquated Key System cars at its 22-acre site, but visitors instead rode a 111-year-old car from the Peninsular Railroad. The interurban train used to take passengers from San Jose to Los Gatos to Palo Alto when they were “distinct communities separated by walnut trees,” said docent John Krauskopf, secretary of the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association.

Now the car transports visitors from Rio Vista Junction toward the Montezuma Hills on original Sacramento Northern tracks, which helped carry passengers from Bay Point to Sacramento from 1913-40.

Track maintenance Saturday forced the interurban car to stop short as it took the visiting group past the museum grounds. Krauskopf directed passengers to reverse the seats, which could slide into the opposite position when the train changed direction. He said the seats were a hassle for the old railroads but necessary in the United States.

“They are expensive to buy and a maintainance headache,” he said. “But you can’t get Americans to ride backwards.”

Krauskopf continued to share railroad history at the Loring C. Jensen Memorial Car House while the group prepared to have lunch in a 100-year-old parlor car from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Todd Shulman, president of the Napa Police Historical Society, planned the venture that also included a trip to the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and Mare Island Historic Park. He said the railway museum was on his “short list” of places to go.

“They have a really great collection and do a good job displaying it,” said the Dixon resident.

“Most people drive by and don’t even realize it’s here . . . it’s really kind of a hidden treasure,” he said.

Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.

Adrienne Harris

Adrienne Harris

Adrienne joined the Daily Republic in September 2009. She earned her journalism degree at the University of Florida in 2005 and has worked at newspapers in Fort Pierce, Fla.; Las Cruces, N.M.; and El Paso, Texas.

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  • rlfinelyrlfinelyRon FinelyMarch 05, 2014 - 10:50 am

    This is a very interesting and accurate account of the Conference of California Historical Society's recent trip.. Congratulations to Adrienne Harris for an excellently written article!

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