Here you can see the right of way of the Sacramento, Placer and Nevada Railroad. It was designed by Theodore Dehone Judah (March 4, 1826 - November 2, 1863) as Chief Engineer. Conceived in 1854 and constructed in 1861, it ran about thirteen miles from Folsom to Wildwood, starting in September 1862. It ceased operating in late 1864.The Train to NowhereWhat if you had a life long dream to build a structure nearly 2000 miles long and fell 3 1/2 inches short? What would you do? Where would you go?
It was never long enough to fulfill Judah's dream of a Continental Pacific Railway and its gauge was three and one half inches too wide.
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The story ends where you are standing.
Folsom was the site of the first attempt at the transcontinental railroad. Theodore Judah, a railroad engineer from Connecticut, brought his vision and intense passion to Sacramento to build the nation's first transcontinental railroad.
He was hired as the Chief Engineer for the Sacramento Valley Railroad, the first railroad west of the Mississippi, which ran from Sacramento to Folsom (it closely follows the current light-rail route.) He surveyed the route across the difficult Sierra Nevada for the nation's transcontinental railroad. Struggling to find the funds to build this, he was successful in signing up four Sacramento merchants, the "Big Four," who actually built the Central Pacific. After he lobbied Congress to pass the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, which authorized construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, the Big Four marginalized his involvement. Attempting to carry out his own vision, he started the Sacramento, Placer and Nevada Railroad from Ashland Station in Folsom, north to Wildwood, 13 miles closer to his route across the Sierras. (The map shows the right-of way on our current streets. Did the train go through your yard?) While it was used for two years, it was too short for much commercial value. Additionally, the track was 3 1/2 inches too wide for what later became the standard rail-to-rail width.
It is unclear if the track was abandoned because the route was not desirable or if the cost of placing the rails closer was prohibitive.
Dejected, Theodore Judah left California to return to the East Coast to find funding for his dream. He traveled by ship with a land crossing in Panama where he contracted Yellow Fever and died, his dream to be fulfilled by others.
To the left of you are vintage tracks on the right of way of the Sacramento, Placer and Nevada Railroad, the product of Theodore Judah's dream.
For more information, please visit the Folsom Railroad Museum at 198 Wool Street.