April 19, 2010

Trains connect many parts of San Bernardino history

Trackside of the original San Bernardino Santa Fe Depot, 1915.

The Press-Enterprise

For parts of the 200 years it's been a city, San Bernardino has been linked to rail lines.

Now, in the year it is celebrating its 200th year, organizers of the celebration say they will honor that history with Railroad Days, May 8-9. The 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. event takes place both days at the San Bernardino Depot, 1170 W. Third Street.

According a statement released about the event, Steve Shaw, president of the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society, and leader of the group organizing Railroad Days, "The railroads were crucial to San Bernardino. The first railroad arrived in San Bernardino in 1883, putting San Bernardino on the map. The city's population grew by leaps and bounds because of the railroads."

During the Bicentennial Railroad Days, the San Bernardino Depot will be open throughout the day. Steam locomotive Engine 3751, a fully operational locomotive, will pull historic railroad passenger cars, including one "dome car" during Railroad Days. For tickets of $85, or $105 for seats allowing views from the glass domed car and another special car.

Riders can either ride the special train pulled by Engine 3751 on its journey from Los Angeles on Saturday, May 8 or on its return to Los Angeles on Sunday, May 9. The ticket price also includes transportation in the opposite direction by Metrolink train.

"We will time Engine 3751's return to Los Angeles so that riders can spend the day in Los Angeles, perhaps checking out its historic Olvera Street, have dinner there, and return by Metrolink that night," Shaw said.

At the San Bernardino Depot during Railroad Days, there will also be historic photographic displays, model trains similar to those used in San Bernardino in the 19th and 20th centuries, and food and merchandise vendors. Admission is free.

The 1918 Moorish-style San Bernardino Depot was once one of the busiest train depots west of the Mississippi River because Santa Fe Railways used it as a transportation hub. As train travel decreased in the mid-20th century, the depot was shut down in 1972, said sponsors.

In 1992 the San Bernardino Associated Governments (transportation agency for all of San Bernardino County) bought and renovated the San Bernardino Depot, reopening it in 2004. One of the key attractions at the 2004 Grand Reopening, and again at this year's Railroad Days, will be Engine 3751.

This steam locomotive served Santa Fe Railways from the 1920s through the 1950s. Built in 1926, it was the first of the 484 series owned by Santa Fe Railways and was in active duty for about 30 years. In 1958, Santa Fe sold the locomotive to the city of San Bernardino. It was on public display at Viaduct Park until 1985, when the city sold it to the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society.

The San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society restored Engine 3751. Today it is a fully functioning locomotive, but only travels the rails on special occasions like Railroad Days. It is usually kept in storage in Los Angeles.