History: The Museum of Truckee History now open
Special to the Sierra Sun
When the Chamber of Commerce vacated the east end of the Truckee train station, the Town could have simply rented it out to a commercial concern and made money. In a forward-looking action the Town of Truckee Town Council approved the request by a joint committee of the Truckee Donner Railroad Society (TDRS) and the Truckee-Donner Historical Society (TDHS) to allow the group to occupy the newly available space for the new Museum of Truckee History (MoTH). The two societies had to commit to keep the space open for visitors and pay for their share of maintenance.
The idea came from Bill McGlashan, a descendant of Charles McGlashan who was an early leader of the Truckee community. Bill challenged the Truckee-Donner Historical Society to take on the project and share Truckee’s story. The TDHS quickly got the Truckee Donner Railroad Society interested and the project became an entire community effort with former TDRS president Jim Hood working actively with Truckee community leaders for donations.
What a bargain the Town got in the deal!
Truckee’s new Museum of Truckee History is a step back in time and covers how Truckee has constantly changed to stay relevant. Truckee is famous for world-class recreation in summer and winter, a biologically diverse and rich environment, and extraordinary scenery. What separates the area from other places blessed with recreational opportunities, biological diversity, and scenery, is the history. This was the gateway to California for many and the route to share the riches of California with the country and the world. There are thousands of stories about this rich history.
When you enter the museum through the Train master’s office you will see furnishings and original items from the old train depot. Continue on to the various historical displays of major stories in Truckee history: Truckee’s Chinese, Logging and Lumbering, Native Americans, the Ice Industry, Boca Beer, Charles F. McGlashan’s Vision, 1960 Olympics to Today, and Trains Yesterday to Today. The displays are made up of interpretive material, interactive computer displays, and artifacts. The information and most of the artifacts come from the Truckee-Donner Historical Society, which also runs the town’s Old Jail Museum, and the Truckee Donner Railroad Society, which has its own little museum in the caboose at the other end of the train station. Their volunteers have put in countless hours to spread the story of the rich history of the area. These volunteers have done quite a job. The exhibits tell a myriad of stories and visitors can go past the surface, using the interactive computer displays, to find more details.
Because there have been dozens of donations of historical artifacts to the MoTH, as well as the TDHS’s collections, there will be rotating displays which will make repeat visits a must.
Before the space became the new MoTH, the exhibit space needed rehabilitation and TDHS president Greg Zirbel filled the bill painting, installing flooring and baseboards, moving furniture in from the jail, and installing display components. With the museum rooms renovated the work to design and implement the numerous displays was done by a community of volunteers from both the TDHS and TDRS.
When you stop by for your dose of local history, please leave a donation in the box by the exit door. Your contribution will go to maintenance. Note too that the MoTH is soliciting volunteer docents (MuseumofTruckeeHistory@gmail.com). You’ll get to become intimate with Truckee history and meet interesting people while you help the community.
Once you’re done with the history in the MoTH, you’ll be ready to go out and see history in person. It’s everywhere.
Bill Oudegeest has had a house on Donner Summit for more than forty years. He is a retired public school teacher and administrator and one of the founders of the Donner Summit Historical Society. He writes and edits the Donner Summit Heirloom, has published two books on local history, written a variety of pamphlets and exhibits, leads hikes, and more.
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