Friday, April 16, 2010

Bicentennial Railroad Days Focuses on Train History - Ride Historic Engine 3751

Engine 3751, long a familiar sight in San Bernardino, returns to the city for Bicentennial Railroad Days May 8-9.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (April 16, 2010) – Railroads have played a vital role in the growth and development of San Bernardino throughout most of its 200-year history.

The Bicentennial Celebration will honor that history with Railroad Days, May 8-9, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days at the San Bernardino Depot, 1170 W. Third Street.

“The railroads were crucial to San Bernardino,” said Steve Shaw, president of the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society, and leader of the group organizing Railroad Days. “The first railroad arrived in San Bernardino in 1883, putting San Bernardino on the map. The city’s population grew by leaps and bounds because of the railroads.”

In current times, the Amtrak Southwest Chief’ stops at the historic San Bernardino Depot every weekday for eastbound and westbound service, and Metrolink trains stop several times a day, weekends included, to provide service to Los Angeles. The depot otherwise sees far less use than in its glory days of the early 20th Century, when it was one of the busiest railroad depot west of the Mississippi River.

During the Bicentennial Railroad Days, the San Bernardino Depot will be open throughout the day, bringing some of that glory back to life with the historic steam locomotive Engine 3751. This fully-operational locomotive will pull historic railroad “passenger cars, including one “dome car” during Railroad Days, giving participants a chance to experience rail travel as it was when trains were the primary means of travel between cities.

For tickets of $85, or $105 for seats allowing views from the glass domed car and another special car, Railroad Days participants can either ride the special train pulled by Engine 3751 on its journey from Los Angeles on Saturday, May 8 or on its return to Los Angeles on Sunday, May 9.

The ticket price also includes transportation in the opposite direction by a modern, Metrolink train.

“We will time Engine 3751’s return to Los Angeles so that riders can spend the day in Los Angeles, perhaps checking out its historic Olvera Street, have dinner there, and return by Metrolink that night,” Shaw said.

Meanwhile at the San Bernardino Depot during Railroad Days, there will also be historic photographic displays, model trains similar to those used in San Bernardino in the 19th and 20th centuries, and food and merchandise vendors. Admission is free.

The 1918 Moorish-style San Bernardino Depot was once one of the busiest train depot west of the Mississippi River because Santa Fe Railways used it as a transportation hub.

“At that time, Santa Fe was San Bernardino’s largest employer,” Shaw said. “For part of that time, fully half of the working people in San Bernardino worked for the railroad.”

As train travel decreased in the mid-20th century, the depot completely shut down in 1972, shortly after Santa Fe transferred ownership of its passenger service to Amtrak.

After Amtrak took over the passenger service, it switched boarding of its Southwest Chief to a smaller outdoor depot west of the historic structure. The Metrolink trains providing service from San Bernardino to Los Angeles since the 1990s have also always used the smaller depot.

In 1992 the San Bernardino Associated Governments (transportation agency for all of San Bernardino County) bought and renovated the San Bernardino Depot, reopening it in 2004.

One of the key attractions at the 2004 Grand Reopening, and again at this year’s Railroad Days, will be Engine 3751. This steam locomotive served Santa Fe Railways from the 1920s through the 1950s. Built in 1926, it was the first of the 484 series owned by Santa Fe Railways and was in active duty for about 30 years.

“In the 1940s and 50s, it served the San Bernardino Depot exclusively,” Shaw said. “It was a “helper” engine for trains that needed to get over Cajon Pass.”

In 1958, Santa Fe sold the locomotive to the City of San Bernardino. It was on public display at Viaduct Park until 1985, when the City sold it to the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society

The San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society restored Engine 3751. Today it is a fully functioning locomotive, but only travels the rails on special occasions like Railroad Days. It is usually kept in storage in Los Angeles.

“This locomotive was a familiar sight in San Bernardino for many years,” Shaw said. “Railroad Days will be the first time it has been seen in San Bernardino in more than six years.”

Other upcoming Bicentennial Celebration Events:

On May 1, the San Bernardino Symphony will perform a “Celebrate America” concert at the California Theatre of Performing Arts in honor of the city’s birthday as well as the centennial of the Community Hospital of San Bernardino.

More music will be performed May 7 and 8 with an adaptation of Mozart’s opera “Cossi Fan Tutte” at the California State University San Bernardino’s P.A. Recital Hall.

May 15th current and former residents join together at an elegant gala at the National Orange Show Events Center, with the 16th capped by a Bicentennial Mayor’s Run and Youth Safety Expo at Arrowhead Credit Union Park and a Festival of Faiths at the Western Region Little League Stadium.

There will be a Centennial Monument rededication as well as a Bicentennial Monument dedication on May 20 at Inland Center Drive and “I” Street with a reception to follow at the California Welcome Center – San Bernardino.

The Bicentennial Parade will start at 7th and E Street, ending at Meadowbrook Park, on May 22 focusing on San Bernardino from its beginnings as a Native American settlement centuries ago, to the present and future.

The Bicentennial festivities continue on July 4th at the 66ers Stadium in the Arrowhead Credit Union Park, the 4th of July Extravaganza with a fireworks display unlike any the city has previously seen.

The Stater Bros. Route 66 Rendezvous, the Western Regional Little League Tournament and other events taking place in the latter part of 2010 will also feature a tie-in to San Bernardino’s Bicentennial, keeping the celebration alive throughout the year.

Rabbi Hillel Cohn is the chairman of the Bicentennial Celebration Committee, and Erin Brinker is the chair of its Public Relations & Marketing and Independence Day Extravaganza committees. Other Bicentennial Celebration Committee members are Jim Smith (chair of the Community Engagement committee), Cheryl Brown (chair of the Youth Council, Intergovernmental and Arts committees), Beverly Bird (chair of the Legend of the Arrowhead committee), Steven Shaw (chair of the History committee), David Smith (chair of the Finance committee), Jane Sneddon (chair of the Parade committee), Martha Pinckney (chair of the Gala committee.) and John Valdivia. The mayor and members of the San Bernardino Common Council appointed these members.

Additional community volunteers who have taken on leadership of other committees are: Rev. Malleis-Sternberg (Festival of Faiths), Edward Martinez (Leadership Cabinet), Peggi Hazlett (Mayor’s Run), Dr. Charles “Skip” Herbert (Coloring Books for Schools), Karen Blanco (Media) and The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire (Design).

For additional details, contact Erin Brinker at (951) 323-9337 or go to