I’ve always had an interest in trains; I still have the engine from my much-abused electric train. With that said it should come as no surprise to readers that I discovered another railroad museum. The Western America Railroad Museum is located in Barstow, CA.
This is a small, almost mom-and-pop museum. It doesn’t have the budget or State Park connections of a place like the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, but it is a much shorter drive for me, and an easy afternoon excursion. Notice, the word afternoon. Yes, this was another bright southern California adventure.
Several locomotives were outside in the yard. I stopped to photograph those first. The sun would only get brighter as the day wore on. Best to do the outside work early.
The above was shot right around noon on a day when temperatures reached 100 degrees (38C). I added a golden tone to the photo to emphasize the warmth of the day! I’m going to carry this color scheme throughout this post.
A Little History
Railroads played a big part in the growth of southern California. Trains from the east crossed the Mojave Desert and stopped at Barstow. The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe was king in this little town.
Generations of local men made a living working for the Santa Fe. The volunteers in the museum are from Santa Fe families. It must be in the blood. Many pieces of memorabilia carried the name Santa Fe or at the very least the initials AT&SF.
A Treasure Chest of Memorabilia
Once indoors, I discovered several rooms filled with all things Santa Fe. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I was taken with the design and shape of all the various “things.” Yes, I recognized some wrenches and a scale but had no clue as to how they were used.
What are these things? They’re stamped with A.T.&S.F. so they certainly belong here.
I found one room containing a miscellany of things including a large computer tape drive, along side an old safe.
The spittoon is a nice touch.
A Surprising Find
The best room was the Date Nail Collection. What in the world is a Date Nail? Simply put, it’s a nail with a date stamped on its head. The date signifies the year the tie was laid. This was important because the ties were are made from wood, which, untreated, lasted about five years. As technology improved new ways to preserve wood developed. Identifying the dates on each tie helped in this development by providing information as to how long the tie lasted before needing replacement.
The Date Nail room was filled with cases displaying nails. I attempted to photograph it, but reflections off all those glass cases made this difficult. Hope this image gives you some idea as to what the room looked like.
Symbols of a Railroad
I also enjoyed the dinnerware display. There’s something intriguing about the unique service each railroad used. The following photo is of the California Poppy dinner china used by Santa Fe.
This pattern is famous and reproductions are now made and sold. Each railway had its own unique pattern. This poppy pattern is much loved and is truly a symbol of the Sante Fe and its importance to California. The little figure in the far left corner is a Harvey girl.
There were so many items in this tiny building, all dealing with the railroad life. It was lots of fun, but I want to end with a photo of a locomotive painted in the distinctive Santa Fe warbonnet red color. I like this throw back to the old days.
In the early 20th century, this locomotive and its red and silver colors were known nationwide. Those days ended when the railroad merged with Burlington Northern to become BNSF. Now really, what kind of a name is that for a railroad? Where’s the romance?
If you’re yearning for a taste of the way we traveled before the dominance of the automobile, take a trip out to Barstow. While the museum is small and funded by donations, it still is fascinating. In addition, it’s right next door to the Harvey House and smack dab in the railyard. Barstow continues to be a railroad hub and you can watch the freight trains pull through. It still gives me a thrill.