Group on track to open railroad museum
October 22, 2007
A group of local train enthusiasts wants to see an essential part of Truckee’s history commemorated with the creation of a railroad museum.
The Truckee Donner Railroad Society currently maintains a display of local railroad lore at the Chamber of Commerce office, located in the old railroad depot in downtown Truckee.
But members of the rail society have adopted a bigger plan to educate the public on the major role railroads played in the development of both Truckee and the American West.
“Where better to have a railroad museum than Truckee?” asked Nelson Van Gundy, historian for the society. “Truckee’s history is so wrapped up in the railroad ” not just the transcontinental railroad, but the logging lines as well.”
From 1868 to the late 1940s, Van Gundy said the railroad was the primary employer for the area.
“Those [of us who are] aware of that want to do something to memorialize that history and make it available to the public,” he said. “There is nothing carved in stone yet, but the effort is stronger, more positive, and has gained more support than ever before.”
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What historical equipment will be included, and where the museum will be built remain to be decided, but discussions for both are ongoing, Van Gundy said.
“Our goal is both outdoor and indoor displays ” outdoor would be real equipment that ran in or around Truckee, and the indoor would be artifacts, models, and historical perspectives,” Van Gundy said.
He said Teichert Aggregates, which operates three mines in the Truckee area, has stepped forward to help relocate any historical equipment ” like engines or cars ” to the museum.
“The railroad society contacted Teichert to see if we could help them move a locomotive to Truckee,” said Jeff Thatcher, Teichert senior project manager.
Likewise, Van Gundy said Rick Holliday of Holliday Development has supported the museum’s possible location in the new Railyard Development east of downtown. As for the museum’s potential draw, Van Gundy said he believes Truckee’s place in railroad history will attract many people.
“What having the museum will do is bring people from all over the world to see how Truckee’s history fit into the development of the west,” he said. “I talked to a guy from the museum in Portola who said he had a 747 full of railroad fans from Vienna come to his museum.”
Truckee Council member Josh Susman, a member of the Railroad Regulators, said a museum could diversify the reasons that tourists visit Truckee, and sees the success of past Railroad Days as a good sign for the success of a museum.
Misty Young, also with the railroad society, agreed that the museum would add another draw for Truckee’s tourism.
“The number-one thing it could bring is an economic opportunity,” Young said. “When you look at a little community like ours with all the visitors coming up for the outdoors, tourism and resorts, I think having a world-class museum could really help our tourism economy in a great way.”