Friday, August 16, 2013

Rio Vista Junction Railway Experience

A ride through history at the Western Railway Museum


Photo courtesy of Patricia Arrigoni

Visitors to Northern California enjoy traveling by an interurban railway car built in St. Louis in 1903 by the American Car Co. for the Peninsular Railway.


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By Patricia Arrigoni
Posted Aug 15, 2013 @ 12:55 PM
My husband and I boarded the old interurban car at Rio Vista Junction, an actual railroad stop on the Sacramento Northern from 1923 to 1940. Today it is the home to the Western Railway Museum near Fairfield in Northern California.
Our ride, "to experience California as it was 100 years ago on an electrically powered train trip," would last an hour and carry us south 10 miles past Garfield Station, an important stop for ranchers and farmers, and the Shiloh Church, built in 1876 after a devastating fire destroyed the original structure. Farther south we would pass a ranching site at Gum Grove and end at Pantano (Spanish for "marsh"), where everyone would climb out, stretch their legs and read the local signs displaying information about the surrounding country. We would then reboard, flip our seats over and settle in for the 30-minute ride back to the museum site and car barns.
This is a busy place when school is out, but coming in midweek and in the spring or fall means attendance will be light. We were able to spread out and move side to side to view the passing scenery of Black Angus cattle grazing among 800 or so wind turbines. It seemed an incredible juxtaposition of the old and new, traditional agriculture mixed in with cutting-edge energy production in what are called the Montezuma Hills.
The interurban car itself is a magnificent example of how restoration can bring back a more graceful era. Our bright-red single car was built in St. Louis in 1903 by the American Car Co. for the Peninsular Railway Co. It has an all-wood interior that looks like polished oak, restored green Naugahyde seats that accommodate two people on each side of a center aisle (or four seats across) and beveled, etched glass windows on top.
The lower windows can be opened and slid down into a compact compartment constructed just for that purpose. Brightly polished brass handles attached to each seat along the aisle sides help passengers keep their balance when the car is moving and aid them in flipping the seats back and forth so they can always ride facing forward.
Glittering light bulbs hang down from the ceiling. These were manufactured in the Soviet Union because they are no longer made in the United States.
When we rolled out at 12:30 p.m., our conductor, Fred Codoni, a volunteer from Fairfax, Calif., informed us that we would be stopping at all railroad crossings. Even though the law says trains have the right of way, the Western Railway prefers to stop for the sake of safety.

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