150th anniversary of Transcontinental Railroad kicks off in Truckee

Hannah Jones

A summer-long celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad kicked off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, along with a soft opening of a new Truckee History Railroad Museum at the Truckee Train Depot.

“Visitors to this museum will have a new appreciation for Truckee, the people who lived here, and a newfound pride in this delightful and extraordinary community,” said Katie Holley, president of the Truckee Donner Historical Society.

While the existing Old Jail Museum and the Truckee Railroad museum offer historical context of the town, Holley said they hope to continue the story through the new museum.

“Each of these exhibits in the Old Jail museum are a chapter in our story,” she said. “What we’re looking for is how to bring that story all together.”

“Visitors to this museum will have a new appreciation for Truckee, the people who lived here, and a newfound pride in this delightful and extraordinary community.”— Katie HolleyPresident of the Truckee Donner Historical Society

According to Jim Hood of the Truckee Donner Railroad Society, stories in the museum will start with the Washoe Indian Tribe around 200 years ago and continue with the history of the region.

“The objective of all of this is to have a museum that is a 21st century museum telling a very old story,” Hood said. “We want to bring some really good exhibits in here.”

Among those exhibits will be interactive displays, Hood said, noting fundraising for the museum will continue while adding to the collection of artifacts and displays.

The historic completion of the railroad tracks through the Sierra Nevada, headed by Central Pacific Railroad, was long and laborious process, with workers having to cut through hard granite and blast tunnels through Donner Pass. According to the Truckee Donner Historical Society, the longest was Tunnel 6, which was to run 1,659 feet through the summit ridge at Donner Pass.

In early 1868, the tracks from Sacramento to Reno were finally completed and the first passenger car completed a trip from Sacramento to Reno on June 16, 1868.

The historical society’s website states the first train to ride through Truckee marked the start of development of the town, as Truckee shipped more freight than any other point on the Central Pacific during the 1870s.

According to Hood, Truckee is one of 42 towns along the railroad, established to provide for the construction workers, that survived after its completion.

“There’s quite a number of stories that have to be told and that’s exactly what we want to do in the museum,” said Hood. “Hopefully as people leave here they’ll understand what the history of Truckee is, why it came into existence and why it’s still here.”

The 150th anniversary celebration will run all summer though Labor Day. The historical societies will be hosting various activities including educational walks and hikes in the Truckee Donner Summit areas and a train themed Fourth of July parade.

Residents and visitors can also pick up passports from the The Truckee-Donner Historical and Railroad Societies, which will be uniquely stamped at various locations in the area.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or

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