Know before you go
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The 2018 Central Coast Railroad Festival is just around the corner, October 5-7, 2018, and you’ll want to come aboard! This three-day, all-things-trains festival includes special events like rail excursions, art shows, live music and more.

The festival began in 2009 and continues to grow every year. Many events are centered at the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum in the city’s historic Railroad District. The SLORRM and its rail artifacts call the historic freight house building home. It was built in 1894 when the Southern Pacific Railroad came to town. One of the highlights of the festival is an impressive display of working model trains and demonstration of rail equipment on the tracks outside the museum. The festival is hosted by the SLO Railroad Museum, Santa Maria Valley Railroad, Amtrak and Union Pacific.

San Luis Obispo County has a rich history in the rail road industry. Because of its remote location, trains were vital to bringing supplies to the Central Coast. The Central Coast Railroad Festival is a must for train enthusiasts of all ages while you’re staying in San Luis Obispo. You won’t be disappointed by the wide variety of train history our community has when you visit. The San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum is open the second and fourth Saturday of every month from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Admission is just $5 for adults, $3 for children under 12.

Some Fun Facts about a Glorious Past

California Train Trivia: ’20s & ’30s

Back in the 1920s and ’30s, the Hollywood elite would take a train up the coast to spend the weekends at Hearst Castle, just 40 minutes from San Luis Obispo. After traveling most of Friday night, Hearst’s celebrity guests were picked up at the San Luis Obispo train station and driven north to San Simeon. These Hollywood guests—usually two or three dozen—would then begin a non-stop party that would culminate in another train ride home in order to be on their movie sets Monday morning.


’40s & ’50s

By the ’50s, the Golden Age of cocktail cars and railroad romance was coming to an end but, WWII and the steady transport of troops gave our trains one last breath. By 1950, passenger train travel was all but kaput. They tried glitzy advertising and mega-mergers but no matter how hard railroads tried to lure passengers it was all for not. People were hooked on the automobile.


The ’60s and beyond

The ’60s would set the stage for the disaster of the ’70s as the industry fell into disrepair. Train travel was on life-support. On May 1, 1971 a new company would save the day, it was called Amtrak. However, ridership remained low and trains barely survived until now. The post 9/11 era and the recent gas crisis has given people a new reason to consider the train and California has done a magnificent job in marketing it.

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