Western Railway Museum, March 16th.
by Emilia Seiferling
The weather was clear blue sky and breezy, more so than usual for Rio Vista! Jim and I headed down to Shelby's to meet up with those CP members who would be arriving for Brunch before heading to the Western Railway Museum on Highway 12. The place was packed! I've never seen them so busy, there were no spaces in the parking lot and the customers were waiting out the doors! We had gone about a half hour early to snag the "Dog House" (the larger semi-private area at Shelby's) but it didn't work out that way. We parked across the street and were joined almost immediately by John Worsley. We discussed options as we waited for the rest of the group. Plan B was to have breakfast at Maria's Mexican Restaurant, which is right next to where we had parked. I walked over to check on seating, only to find that Maria's opens later on Sunday morning! On to Plan C, go to down town Rio Vista to the Striper Cafe. So we waited until 10 AM before going to Plan C, since we were not sure exactly who might show up that didn't RSVP. We didn't want to leave them stranded and hungry! By 10 AM the parking at Shelby's had thinned out so we decided to try again. We got their largest booth and thought it would be adequate since we had received an e-mail from Mike & Nancy Haney that they were having car trouble and would not make brunch. They would meet us at the Western Railway Museum in whichever vehicle they got running! The three of us were seated with coffee and looking at the menu when we saw Lamar and Toni Fairchild drive in. At almost the same moment Henry Kirk walked up to the table. Our large booth would have worked for the group but would have been snug. The "Dog House" was just being vacated so they offered to move us and we had plenty of space. Marlene our waitress has been there for years and does her job very well. The pots of coffee on the table made for a relaxed wake up for the group. We hope everyone enjoyed their meal. We had our drivers meeting at the table before we headed to the WRM, via back roads in the Montezuma Hills.
We were off to the Museum, but first needed to stop at our house to pick up the radar detector that Jim left in my car the day before. We have never seen any type of law enforcement on those roads but we didn't want this to be a first! The drive includes Main Street in down town Rio Vista (past the Plan C Striper Cafe) then out into the countryside. With all the recent rain, the Montezuma Hills were beautiful. The green grass rippled in the wind and the blue sky. These roads were made for the Pantera! There was zero traffic all the way to Birdslanding. The scenery is very rural; cattle, farms, goats, and sheep with baby lambs. The only things to let you know that you hadn't been transported back in time were the wind turbines. There is one spot in the drive where you come over a hill and see them for the first time. The site of them still impresses me even though I have done this drive many times before! We stopped for a photo op, part way to the museum. It was after the photo op that we got the two Panteras to the front of the line. John was driving "like an old man" in the Bricklin. Jim had to keep slowing down to keep him in site in the real view mirror, and Jim was driving nowhere near the limits of the Pantera! Picture an 11 mile road, with zero traffic, and the twists and turns of the Sears Point race track, that the Pantera can do the entire length in 3rd & 4th gear, with occasional drops into 2nd. We arrived at the Museum parking lot to find Mike& Nancy waiting for us in the Jetta. Nancy said that in the 15 years that she has had her Pantera, this was the first time that it had failed to get her somewhere! This "Failure to Launch" was due to a leaking carburetor float bowl; not a good thing!
A quick photo stop in the middle of the windmill farm
We entered the nearly empty Museum just in time to go on the next scheduled Trolley ride. It was a 1904 wooden interurban type car. There are only 4 of this type left in the country and two of them are at this museum. The car had two sections and our group got one of them, sort of like having a private car! The roundtrip ride was about 10 miles long. We left the museum and headed south, out into the countryside. The conductor provided narration and pointed out points of history along the way. We even had to stop for livestock on the track. A mama sheep and two lambs were on the track and didn't move when the conductor blew the whistle. We stopped until they ambled off back into the pasture. On the return part of the ride they were lying in the grass next to the track and only stood up right when the trolley passed. After disembarking the trolley, we did the rest of the self-guided tour of the museum.
Our 1904 Interurban Trolley at the turnaround point.
(the point when the DC voltage drops from 600 volts down to 300 volts.
Additional power supplies will be installed, in the future, to extend the ride another 5 miles).
The Western Railway Museum tour completed, we all headed our separate ways. Jim and I enjoyed exploring a piece of history in our own back yard. It had been some time since we have stopped there and it was nice to see the progress that has been made expanding the museum. In fact, they will be opening up a new "car house #3" very shortly. We hope that those who joined us enjoyed the museum also. Another good day because we drive a Pantera!