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Monday, November 23, 2009

The Cajon Pass Railroad Museum - The Birth Of A Dream

Written By: Ken Hulsey

This past weekend I was doing my usual unwinding from the week prior, reading through some of my railroad books, when the most incredible idea came into my mind. What if I could bring people together to build a railroad museum? A museum that would pay tribute to one of the most famous areas in North American railroading, the Cajon Pass.

What an incredible idea, I thought to myself. And since I live in Victorville, CA, what a great way to both combine my love for trains with a possible way to bring more attention to my area and become more involved civilly.

It was at that moment that the "Cajon Pass Railroad Museum" was born.......well in spirit anyway.

The area of the Cajon Pass is the railroad lifeline to the greater Los Angeles area. Over the decades the region has been regarded as one of the best places to view trains in North America....possibly the world, and has a rich railroading history.

It would be the mission of the Cajon Pass Railroad Museum to honor this rich railroading landmark, by presenting examples of railroad equipment that has served the Union Pacific, Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and now, BNSF in this region.

As I sat in ponderance of this certain monumental task, ideas began to flood over me one after another. Potential locations. potential exhibits and ways to fund the museum, they all came to me one by one. Surprisingly, all of these thoughts made perfect sense and seemed to gel together seamlessly.

I can only assume that this was somehow Divinely inspired, because normally my ideas don't come together in this fashion.

Potential Locations For The Museum:

1. Cajon Pass - Certainly the most logical location for a museum about railroading in Cajon Pass would be in the pass itself.

This would be a good location due to the fact that it is easily accessible from the 15 freeway and because rail fans already congregate here to watch trains.

I, however, think that this would be a bad location for the project due to the potential for wild fires in the area. I would hate to have all of this come together, only to have it destroyed by fire someday.

2. Hesperia, CA - This is my favorite location, due to the fact that it is at the top of the pass, and is accessible from the 15 freeway. I believe that building the museum to where it can be seen directly from the interstate would be crucial to its survival, due to the fact that it would attract visits from passing motorists, who may not necessarily be rail buffs.

There is plenty of open land in this area that could be obtained for the project, plus there could be a possible rail connection from the museum built to the Union Pacific's "Palmdale Cut-off".

Let's not forget that the location is also on the historic Route 66.

3. Downtown Victorville - Though not directly visible from the 15, the area near the old Victorville train station makes some sense. This location is also on the old Route 66.

4. Barstow - Though not one of my favorite locations, there is the BNSF yard and historic Harvey House here and a museum would certainly fit in with those.

It is however off the beaten path a bit, which may be a big negative here.

Potential Exhibits:

When thinking about what to display in the museum, two potential pieces of railroading equipment came to my mind instantly.

First, ex Union Pacific 2-8-0 Consolidation #6051 presently located in Fairmount Park Riverside Ca (Photo Above). The loco is in fair shape, but has obviously suffered years of neglect. It is literally just sitting there rusting and no one ever looks at it. It needs to be someplace for people to admire it!

Second, ex Southern Pacific 2-8-0 Consolidation 2825 which presently resides at the San Bernardino County Museum along with a an old Santa Fe caboose.Granted, the locomotive is already at a museum, but as is the case with the locomotive in Riverside, it is in a state of neglect. Presently the loco and caboose are displayed outside, locked up where nobody can get at them. From the look of the equipment I would say that the museum has all but forgotten about it, or given up on restoring it.

The locomotive is listed as a mere footnote on the museum's website.

As you can see from the photo below, there was great fanfare when it was first brought to the museum, but to look at it know, you would think that nobody has touched it since.

I will be taking the time to write separate articles, with photos, about both of these locomotives in the very near future. As luck would have it, both are within minutes of my work. A lunchtime excursion to visit both and find out more info about them definitely is in order.

There are literally pieces of railroad equipment scattered all over the high desert area, which includes Hesperia, Victorville, Apple Valley, Adelanto and Barstow. I believe that gathering all of these items for display in one location would be in every one's best interest.

I also want to quickly touch on some ideas to help fund the museum once it is constructed. The first being a hobby store that centers on model trains. This would also include a website for selling related items.

The second being a 40s or 50s style restaurant that would both tie-in to the golden age of railroading and the nearby historic Route 66 to which this region has always been associated.

I believe that both of these would be able to aide in funding the museum, plus bring extra jobs and tourists to the region.

At this point the "Cajon Pass Railroad Museum" is just a dream.

I did take the time this weekend to create a 'group' on Facebook to gauge interest in the project. You can visit that at Cajon Pass Railroad Museum. Please feel free to join up if you like.

If you have any questions, or you would like to get involved, please shoot me an e-mail at

I will, certainly, be posting updates as events unfold so......stay tuned!

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