Sacramento, Calif., which was incorporated in 1849, has been a railroad town since the Sacramento Valley Railroad operated the first steam-powered railroad in the far West between Sacramento and Folsom in 1855. The Pacific Railroad Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1862, established that the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads would build the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Ever since Leland Stanford drove the final golden spike in 1869, officially connecting the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento and the Union Pacific Railroad from Omaha, Sacramento and Union Pacific have been inextricably linked in a shared history.
As the Gold Rush had done two decades prior, the railroad brought thousands of people from around the world to Sacramento as it revolutionized travel by reducing the arduous overland journey across the continent from months into days. The railroad also reinvigorated Sacramento’s business district, allowing businesses to thrive and adapt as the city grew.
Sacramento remained the site of the central repair shops of Central Pacific, and later Southern Pacific, from 1869 until 1992, employing more than 7,000 workers in its machine shops, steel foundry and lumber mill. It was Sacramento’s largest employer for 80 years. The Southern Pacific Common Standard system was developed at the Sacramento Shops. After E. H. Harriman acquired control of Southern Pacific in 1901, the Common Standard system expanded to include Union Pacific. Numerous passenger trains shared the UP-SP Overland Route which passed through Sacramento, thus the Union Pacific brand has long been familiar here. When Union Pacific purchased the Western Pacific Railroad in 1983, the railroad finally began running its own trains through Sacramento. UP’s merger with SP in the 1990s brought the Union Pacific-Sacramento connection full circle, with UP now owning all major railroad lines through the city.
Sacramento today serves as a major junction between east-west and north-south railroad lines - from San Francisco to Chicago, and from San Diego to Seattle. The California State Railroad Museum, which opened its first facilities in 1976 in Old Sacramento, is today recognized as the most popular railroad museum in North America, displaying and interpreting artifacts, documents, and more from all major western railroads including the Union Pacific. The Railroad Museum’s planned expansion into two buildings at the former Southern Pacific Sacramento (central) Shops, to be known as the Railroad Technology Museum, will bring together the science and engineering innovations of the railroad industry, including Union Pacific and its predecessor companies, for the public’s enjoyment.