San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum

by Joe Thompson

Click on thumbnails to view larger photos. Use back arrow to return. All photos by Joe Thompson unless otherwise credited. All rights reserved.


Ribbon Cutting Cutting the ribbon at the dedication of the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum. October, 2013.

In October, 2013, we visited beautiful San Luis Obispo for the dedication of the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum and the 2013 Central Coast Railroad Festival. I've been trying to remember, but I think this is the first time I was ever present for the opening of a museum.

El Camino Real Bell I love the scenery along 101 in the Salinas Valley. I have been trying for a couple of years to get a photo of an El Camino Real bell from a moving car. I almost got it here. October, 2013.

We got off work early on Friday and had a nice drive down to San Luis Obispo. We stopped at the outlets in Gilroy to change drivers and do a little shopping. We stopped in King City to fill the car and have a snack at McDonald's.

Cuesta Grade Dropping down the Cuesta Grade towards San Luis Obispo. October, 2013.

Madonna Inn Sign The Madonna Inn sign from 101. Pink is a popular color at the Madonna Inn. October, 2013.

We checked in at the Madonna Inn and found it as interesting as we had always heard. There were rocks in the walls and the paving and the chimneys. Alex Madonna's pick and shovel symbol was in all the concrete. He made a fortune as a road contractor.

Pick and Shovel Alex Madonna's pick and shovel symbol. October, 2013.

Horses We parked in front of our room and found that there was a paddock with horses and cows. October, 2013.

Pioneer America Map At the Madonna Inn, we stayed in the Pioneer America Room. This map was over the bed. October, 2013.

We stayed in the Pioneer America Room, a large room. There was a big map over the bed with pictures of various explorers, from Columbus to Lewis and Clark. There was a blunderbuss and a powder horn in a display case by the side of the king bed. The furniture was rustic, except for a leather couch and a love seat.

Coffee Pot Lamp A coffee pot lamp by the bed. October, 2013.

Blunderbuss A blunderbuss and powder horn were displayed by the bed. October, 2013.

Friday night we went out to dinner at Appleby's, and the NLCS game between the Cardinals and the Dodgers was on. We got back to the room during the eighth and we lay to watch the end of the game. It went on to the 13th. We were happy to see the Cardinals win.

Madonna Inn A typical section of the Madonna Inn. October, 2013.

Madonna Inn Cat The Madonna Inn cat. October, 2013.

Saturday morning we walked down to the restaurant to have breakfast. There were more stones. The place was very busy. My waffle was excellent. Walking back to the room, we met a nice cat, who came out of the grass by the paddock, meowed at us and rubbed our legs.

Madonna Inn Guest Rooms Looking up the hill. Our room was in the building on the right, in front of the handicapped parking sign. October, 2013.

SLO train station Going to the museum, we parked near the train station. October, 2013.

Saturday we went to the museum, in the former Southern Pacific freight house. Parking was tight. We found a space near the train station.

Coast Starlight sign A sign in the train station touts the Coast Starlight. October, 2013.

SLO statue Iron Road Pioneers, a sculpture near the train station, remembers the Chinese laborers who built the Southern Pacific Coast line. October, 2013.

speeder One of the two speeders giving rides. The pedestrian bridge across the tracks is visible in the background. October, 2013.

Volunteers were giving rides on two speeders on the track by the museum.

Now Open Sign A sign proclaims that the museum is now open. October, 2013.

wig wag The wig wag by the station was controlled by a button. Kids liked it. October, 2013.

platform Vendors and visitors on the platform. A speeder is visible on the tracks. October, 2013.

There was a crowd on the platform, where vendors were selling books and photos.

SP Spittoon An official Southern Pacific spittoon. October, 2013.

We went in through the small bookstore. The main part of the museum was a large room with exhibits on the local railroads, Southern Pacific/Union Pacific, the Pacific Coast Railroad and the Santa Maria Valley Railroad. They had a mining car from a cinnabar mine south of San Luis Obispo. There was a car and a section of track from an temporary agricultural railroad. There was a freight agent's desk with an official SP spittoon. They had lanterns and schedules and other railroad paraphernalia.

Signs A variety of railroad signs. October, 2013.

Men At Work A blue flag, indicating Men At Work. October, 2013.

SLO station model A model of the San Luis Obispo station. October, 2013.

Upstairs in the back, they had model railroad layouts with room for many more to come.

Port Harford model A model of the pier at Port Harford, the terminal of the narrow gauge Pacific Coast Railway. October, 2013.

Port Harford model/2 Another view of the model of the pier at Port Harford. October, 2013.

I told several volunteers they had a wonderful museum. I hope to visit again.

box cars Two Pacific Coast Railway box cars flank the podium for the dedication. October, 2013.

emcee Vice President Karl Hovanitz served as emcee. October, 2013.

The dedication at 11:30 began with the National Anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Boy Scout Troop 308 presented the colors.

Brad Larose President Brad Larose speaks. October, 2013.

Then came a speech by Brad Larose, president of the museum, who talked about the 23 year process that led to the opening.

Andrew Merriam Board member and construction supervisor Andrew Merriam speaks. October, 2013.

There followed a speech by Andrew Merriam, Board member and construction supervisor, held up before and after photos of the freight house and talked about the many code issues that had to be addressed.

Lisa Stark Union Pacific Director of Public Affairs. October, 2013.

Lisa Stark, Union Pacific Director of Public Affairs called the museum founders the most organized and professional group she had worked with. UP declared San Luis Obispo an official Train Town USA.

Jan Marx Jan Marx, Mayor of San Luis Obispo. October, 2013.

Jan Marx, Mayor of San Luis Obispo, said that the town council had worked with the museum people for many years. She said the retirement home billboard out front will come down and be replaced by a sign for the museum. She issued a proclamation for the opening day, and then joined a group cutting the ribbon.

UP Locomotive 8087 Union Pacific Locomotive 8087. I like the contrast between the size of kid and the size of the locomotive. October, 2013.

Then we went and looked at a locomotive that UP sent for the occasion, an SD 9043 MAC. It was nice to see it up close.

UP Locomotive 8087 3/4 Union Pacific Locomotive 8087. October, 2013.

UP Locomotive 8087/flag A flag decal on the side of Union Pacific Locomotive 8087. October, 2013.

UP Locomotive 8087/logo A Union Pacific logo and slogan on Locomotive 8087. October, 2013.

UP Locomotive 8087/nose A head-on view of Locomotive 8087. I like the winged UP logo. October, 2013.

We walked to the train station, then drove to the public library, where an HO narrow gauge group had a display.

HO Narrow gauge railbus A Mack railbus on the HO narrow gauge layout. October, 2013.

I hadn't brought along the addresses of other layouts that were on display, so we headed for home. We had a late lunch in Paso Robles, stopped to fill the car in King City, and went to mass at Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Morgan Hill. We had dinner nearby, then went home.

SLO museum


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Copyright 2013 by Joe Thompson. All rights reserved.

Last updated 31-October-2013