Historical Railroads of Folsom, El Dorado, Placerville & Sacramento
08/25/2015 01:47PM ● Published by Bill Romanelli
Jim Harville (top) and Doug Fuller (bottom) - Photography by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group
It’s one thing to read about Folsom’s rich history, but quite another to ride it. “When you ride our excursion trains across the prairie, hearing the ‘clack clack’ of wheels on rails, you’re living history,” says Jim Harville, president of the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad (PSVRR). “You’re experiencing what it was like to ride a train from Folsom to the foothills in the 1800s.”
PSVRR was formed in 2008 to complement the work and mission of the Folsom, El Dorado & Sacramento Historical Railroad Association, lovingly known by its “FEDSHRA” nickname. FEDSHRA was actually here first. It was launched in 1995—shortly after the pit for Folsom’s original railroad turntable was rediscovered. One of its first programs was a campaign to rebuild the turntable, which stands today as a centerpiece of Folsom’s Historic District.
Since then, FEDSHRA has worked to collect and restore vintage railroad equipment and display it for the public. Those efforts culminated with the Folsom Railroad Museum, housed in a 100-year-old beautifully restored rail car on Wool Street. Eventually, FEDSHRA obtained enough equipment to actually run a historic train, but needed to do so through a separate organization. Enter PSVRR, which currently runs excursion trains along the same rail lines served by the original Sacramento Valley Railroad a century ago.
They are separate organizations in principle, but one in practice—together they work to preserve the area’s rail history and educate the public on the role trains played in building California. Within that, Folsom has the distinction of being the terminus for the first railroad built west of the Mississippi. (Ever see the name “Theodore Judah” and wonder who he was? He’s the man who got the railroad built.)
Today, PSVRR runs several excursion trains and events that bring the railroad to life, and FEDSHRA holds the popular Folsom Handcar Derby every May. This month, from September 26-27, the sixth annual Folsom Railroad Festival—a free family event showcasing “anything on wheels,” along with train rides, music and three convention rooms of model trains—takes place along Placerville Road (across the street from Hampton Inn) in Folsom. The arrival of fall also brings a special excursion train, the “Pumpkin Patch Flyer” (the last two weekends of October), which carries families from Folsom to Willow Hollow Pumpkin Patch and back. That’s in addition to several regular excursions every month, including the “Latrobe Breakfast Special,” a monthly one-hour trip from Folsom to Latrobe, where passengers enjoy a pancake breakfast at Latrobe’s Community Hall.
The idea of it all is to keep local residents in touch with our area’s rail history and invite them to get involved in preserving it. Family memberships in FEDSHRA are just $48 per year, while individual active memberships are $24 per year, and all proceeds from memberships and excursions go back into maintaining the railroad and museum. New additions to the all-volunteer staff are also welcomed, to help with the business side of running a railroad, maintaining equipment and staffing the museum.
For a complete schedule of PSVRR’s events and excursions, including special trains for Christmas and Easter, visit psvrr.org. For more information about the Folsom Railroad Museum or FEDSHRA, visit fedshra.org.