Western Pacific Railroad Museum – Portola, California - Atlas Obscura

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Western Pacific Railroad Museum

Portola, California

A unique museum where guests can rent and operate a locomotive.  


Nestled high in the Sierras, this museum is dedicated to preserving the history and equipment of the Western Pacific Railroad.

The company was founded in 1903 to compete with Southern Pacific Railroad. Offering service between Oakland and Salt Lake City, the line created an alternate route through the Sierra Nevada mountains via the Feather River Canyon. The Western Pacific remained in operation until 1982, when it was acquired by Union Pacific Railroad.

The Feather River Route is still in use today, however, following the merger Western Pacific facilities in Portola, California were vacated. A group of volunteers secured the site and the Western Pacific Railroad Museum was born.

In addition to preserving the company’s records and history, the museum restores and maintains Western Pacific rolling stock. This 36-acre facility is home to over 100 pieces of equipment. In addition to one of the largest collections of cabooses anywhere, the museum has several passenger and freight cars as well as dozens of locomotives.

Being a privately financed, non-profit organization, this museum has a unique fund-raising offering. Guests can actually rent and operate a locomotive. Rentals are by the hour and include private instruction from a qualified engineer. Anyone who has ever wanted to operate a 2,000 horsepower, 128-ton vehicle can do so at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum.

Know Before You Go

The Western Pacific Railroad Museum is closed during the winter months. Check their website to confirm availability.

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May 21, 2021

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