NEVER A DAY OFF: If you talk to a true train buff, they'd probably tell you that they never take a day off from their pursuit, or passion, rather. Either they're keeping an eye on new schedules or they're building model railroads or they're really out there, riding one of California's historic cars or something a little newer. This fact shouldn't detract from National Train Day, that second-Saturday-in-May event that is all about train love and getting both buffs and newcomers closer to train life. It's a big day at several stations, but the historic heart of the spectacular, at least 'round the Golden State, has to be Old Sacramento. That's the home to the California State Railroad Museum, an engine filled, story-laden spot that waives its get-in fee in honor of National Train Day. Not only that, but the museum partners with Amtrak to host several happenings both of a learn-more and a get-out-and-ride nature. And this year's date? Saturday, May 11.
CONDUCTORS AHOY: Tours of modern Amtrak passenger cars, museum exhibits, and a look at the "Lost Spike" -- the alleged twin to the famous "Golden Spike" of railroad legend -- are part of the day, but so are excursion rides. Train people like soaking up tidbits, it is true, timetables and photos and such, but they like getting out and going somewhere best. Central Pacific Railroad Freight in Old Sac is the starting point. You'll roll along the Sacramento River for 45 minutes or so in a highly vintage train. Cost? Ten bucks for an adult.
MORE HAPPENINGS: The Sacramento History Museum will also be free on Saturday, May 11. You might consider hopping on an Underground Tour that day, too. Tickets cost, but you'll get an eyeful of subterranean Sactown.