It is no secret that railroads interest me. Family connections to the profession guaranteed it.
From a young age, that interest became a passion. Both in model form as well as full size. So much so, that when I graduated high school, there was a brief period where I seriously considered it as a career. Things led me otherwise and my passions became a hobby. For close to 25 years, I volunteered at a railway museum. You name it, I did it. Steam, diesel and electric trains. Engineer, fireman, switchman, conductor, waiter, steward, ticket sales, gift shop sales, promotions, restorations, track work… it was good experience. I learned a lot, from some great people. And from some not so great ones, too. I also volunteered or have been involved in a number of other railway preservation efforts across the west.
I was involved with a model railroad club during the same time. Starting while still in high school, that association lasted more than 35 years. Again, I learned a lot, from some great people. And from some not so great ones, too. And I filled all kinds of roles, many of them in the same vein as at the museum.
Things change. Those opportunities are not what they used to be. Today, I have turned that passion into a business. Still a hobby of sorts, taking people for trips aboard chartered private railcars. In providing service in the traditions of generations gone by, my interest is shared with others.
Today, I found out that an opportunity exists, literally, blocks from where I live. The former Southern Pacific station in Livermore is owned by the City. Plans now call for the city to move the structure from its original location to a new site, next to the former Western Pacific rail line, now owned and operated by the Union Pacific. One possible use for the structure that has been proposed is a railway museum.
As far as I know, there is no formal group in town that focused on railroads. There is a group which saved the depot from demolition in 1973. Their focus is on local history. I am glad they stepped in and saved the structure when they did.
So, the dilemma at hand? Should I step up and get involved. One side of me enthusiastically says, “Go for it!” There is an opportunity to start fresh here. Create whole cloth a proper organization dedicated to the preservation of the railway history of the Livermore valley. Using the station building as cornerstone of that effort.
Yet, the other knowingly says, “No, thank you.” The effort required to get this going will be one that will likely take all of the free time I have to see it to fruition, much less into opening as a museum. All the proper paperwork to complete to create a proper 501(c)3 non-profit historical and educational organization. The proprieties must be observed.
The truth is that creating such a museum would be a great deal of work. And it will not be unique by any means. In the area, there are several other former Southern Pacific stations preserved that house museums. Several are home to scale model railroads. And they all do a fine job in meeting their goals.
Some hard thinking ahead…