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All Aboard

03/31/2009 05:00PM ● Published by Super Admin

The quality of life that we enjoy can mask the fact that the developed area in which we now live was once a hardscrabble patch of unoccupied territory discovered and settled by prospectors with dreams of striking it rich.  But today, thanks to organizations like the Folsom, El Dorado and Sacramento Historical Railroad Association (FEDS), which works to promote, restore and preserve the region’s rich rail history – the past seamlessly intersects with present times.

The key aim of FEDS, a non-profit organization established in 1995, is education, according to the organization’s president, Bill Anderson. “Our mission is to educate the general public by preserving and maintaining the railroad history in the City of Folsom,” explains Anderson, who adds that Folsom was the first railroad town in the West, and the terminus of the Sacramento Valley Railroad.

To achieve this goal, “FEDS members are not afraid to get their hands dirty,” says Anderson. In addition to running the Folsom Railroad Museum, which is housed in a vintage 1920s passenger car located next to Folsom’s Southern Pacific Depot, and partnering with the Folsom History Museum and local schools to assist students with various service projects, FEDS volunteers are actively involved with restoration projects. Among these preservation efforts is the 6,000-hour restoration of the Vail Speeder #30 (Skagit), as well as several smaller speeders. Also included in FEDS accomplishments is the acquisition of two diesel locomotives, one of which was donated by the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Naturally, as a non-profit, fundraising for FEDS’ restoration projects is crucial. As such, the organization established the annual Folsom Handcar Derby Races in 1992 in support of the Folsom History Museum, and specifically to restore the Historic Railroad Turntable, which was originally built in 1856 and can be viewed at Historic Folsom Station along Sutter Street. Now in its 18th year, the Derby will take place May 2-3, 2009. The Derby – located on the tracks along East Bidwell Street at Broadstone Marketplace – is free to the public.

Of all FEDS’ successes, Anderson cites its involvement in a 2006 celebration marking the 150th anniversary of both the Sacramento Valley Railroad and the establishment of the City of Folsom, and the extension of light rail service to the latter. “FEDS partnered with the City of Folsom, Sacramento Regional Transit and community volunteers to stage a celebration that culminated in the re-creation of an 1856 ball marking the arrival of the train to Folsom,” remembers Anderson, who credits FEDS volunteers with the organization’s growth, expansion and success. “Thanks to our volunteers, the old Southern Pacific Section Superintendent House has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.”  

For more information or to volunteer with FEDS, call 916-985-6001 or 916-985-6031, or visit fedshra.org. For rules and more information about the 18th Annual Folsom Handcar Derby Races, visit fedshra.org/handcar.htm.

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