The Western Pacific Railroad Museum is located at the former Western Pacific Railroad Portola locomotive servicing facility in Portola, California. The 37-acre site includes a 220 foot long, 16,000 square foot diesel shop that was used from 1954 until 1974. It also includes two and a half miles of trackage consisting primarily of a balloon track and various yard tracks. The property is right next to Union Pacific's (formerly Western Pacific) Feather River Canyon Subdivision main line.
The museum has over 35 historic locomotives and 101 cars of various types. Unlike many other museums, visitors to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum soon discover that this is a hands-on facility where they are encouraged to climb up in the cabs of locomotives, sit in the engineer's seat, and browse through the many cabooses and passenger cars that are on display. Our museum is one of the few places in the world where you can operate a real diesel locomotive (reservations required).
During early days in the west, the Western Pacific served transportation needs between Salt Lake City, Utah and Oakland, California, spanning the Sierra Nevada mountains by means of the Feather River Canyon above Oroville, through the 5,221 foot Beckwourth Pass and on to Portola and points east. The rail line through the rugged Feather River Canyon was completed in 1909, and despite rockfall and other difficult conditions, the line was maintained and is still used to this day.
From the late 1940s through to the early 1970s, freight traffic on the line grew slowly, while passenger traffic fell substantially. However, this did not stop the Western Pacific from introducing the California Zephyr in 1949. The Zephyr, which operated over three railroads on its route between Oakland and Chicago, gained immense recognition but failed to last past the year 1970, when lack of riders and unprofitable conditions forced the Western Pacific to abandon the service.
The Western Pacific was bought out by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1983, but railroad romantics will always remember the Western Pacific's heyday through the Feather River Canyon and east to Keddie, Quincy, Portola and beyond.
The museum also maintains a gift shop located within the diesel shop. The museum is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm, the first Saturday in May (beginning in 2012) through the last Sunday in October. It will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in October.
Come enjoy a peek into the Sierra Nevada past, on a train!