By JUDY DEPUY | Special to Moonshine Ink

The First Transcontinental Railroad was completed 150 years ago on May 10, 1869, forever changing the landscape of the Truckee-Donner Summit area. The railroad made traveling across the Sierras relatively painless. No longer would it take seven months or more to go from New York to San Francisco, the railroad shortening the trip significantly. By 1876, the Transcontinental Express made the cross-country journey in less than seven days.

The sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the transcontinental railroad marks the spanning of the continent with rails a revolution in transport to this part of the country. The railroad was critical for President Abraham Lincoln, who realized that he had to unite our country. This was the period of the Civil War, and in 1862, he passed the Pacific Railroad Act enabling construction of the transcontinental railroad.

The railroad brought both freight and travelers to Truckee, and was instrumental in creating our local lumber and ice industries. Writers and artists came to capture the beauty of the area. The railroad led the way for the first transcontinental highway system, telephone line, pipeline, and postal air route. It opened Truckee-Donner Summit to snow sports, summer activities, and the filming of more than 140 movies in the area.

The Truckee-Donner Summit Historical and Railroad societies invite you to celebrate this wondrous feat, from May through September. Selected events are listed here; for a full listing, visit their website.


• Truckee-Donner Railroad Society Caboose Museum will be open every weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (weather dependent).

• Truckee’s Old Jail Museum will be open this summer on Truckee Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m and weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Pick up a Gold Spike Bar Card and fill it out at locations throughout Truckee, trying each establishment’s interpretation of this historic beverage. Try a non-alcoholic pyrite spike for the kids.

• Truckee Railroad steam and electric train ride for kids and adults, weekends at Truckee Regional Park


May 10: opening reception of Truckee Public Arts Commission spring show, celebrating all things railroad

June 15: historical talk entitled Boca Brewery, Steam and Beer, addressing how this played into today’s beer, by Anchor Brewing

July 4: parade in Truckee with a transcontinental railroad theme.

Aug. 10: historical walk on Jibboom Street, highlighting the infamous “red light district”

Aug. 31: celebration picnic at Truckee Regional Park

Sept. 14 to 15: seven docent-led hikes throughout the region where the Donner Party traveled