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Train museum facing derailment?

City officials say they don’t intend to ‘displace’ rail group
By: Don Chaddock Telegraph Managing Editor
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The next phase of Folsom Historic District revitalization efforts is meant to honor the town’s railroad history, but for one local historian, the plans could derail the town’s only railroad museum. City officials counter those same historians have been part of the process since the beginning and there are no plans to displace the museum. Dubbed Historic Folsom Station, the revitalization project is 4.9 acres bounded by Sutter Street, Wool and Leidesdorff streets and includes four buildings featuring retail, restaurants, residential and office space, according to city plans posted online. Plans also call for a public plaza and amphitheater located behind the old railroad depot that houses the Folsom Chamber of Commerce. Bill Anderson, president of the Folsom, El Dorado, Sacramento Historic Railroad Association, said he’s known the railcars would eventually be moved, but he had hoped for a bit more notice. Volunteers from his group have been scrambling over the last week to remove fences from around the train cars so they can be transported to the Wye property on Bidwell Street. The museum, currently housed in a 1920s era Santa Fe coach passenger car next to the chamber building on Wool Street, acts as a part-time visitor center and participates in educational tours for schools and other groups. The museum has been in place since 1998. “It’s a resource for the city,” said Anderson. “As the visitors center on weekends, we tell locals and tourists what’s going on and where to go. We push the town and offer brochures.” The museum boasts a library, educational display, photographs and antique railroad items. They also sell books and accept donations to help raise funds for their organization. “When (the passenger car) was retired, it was used as a restaurant dining room called San Francisco Express at Highway 50 and Bradshaw,” Anderson said. He said the city moved the railcars that were gathered around the old turntable to their current spots near the chamber office to make way for the turntable’s restoration. “We have families come in when their kids are doing a school project,” Anderson said. “Even some Folsom Lake College students come in to do some research.” He said when students take a tour they start at the Folsom History Museum, stop off at the turntable and then come by the railroad museum. They usually end at Pioneer Village, located next door. Attached to the museum are two city-owned railcars and a caboose. They will also be moved to the Wye property, but only the 1942 caboose will return to the block, according to Anderson. “Nothing has changed all the way through the design of the plaza,” said Assistant City Manager Evert Palmer. “The ultimate outcome is that the caboose will be relocated to Pioneer Village and the vision has always been (to create the) ‘jewel box’ — the engine display pavilion.” Palmer said the city would work with the railroad group to choose an antique engine to display, which could be rolled out for special events. The pavilion is supposed to be located on the site of the current museum. Anderson said if the museum is moved to the Wye property, it could mean financial trouble for the nonprofit railroad group. “It’s a loss of sales and donations, which is an important part of our outfit,” he said. “Our presence on the block will disappear. We’re trying to be there (on the block) somehow.” Robert Miller, 73, is retired from United Airlines. After moving to Folsom in 2002, he discovered the railroad group. “I like mechanics, that’s why I’m here,” Miller said. “There is something very unique about Folsom. We have more track than the railroad museum in Sacramento.” Miller helps with restoration work on some of the pieces the group has at the Wye property. Anderson said his railroad group thinks the improvements will be good for the area, but thinks the railroad museum needs to be included. “As much as we support the redevelopment of the historic district, we want to keep our home,” Anderson said.