Library & Collections


Some materials are housed off site in the Statewide Museum Collections Center. Please contact Library staff at least a week in advance of your visit to allow Staff time to bring requested items to the Library reading room. Library hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The Library is closed on all state holidays and the Saturdays during Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

On May 2, 1981, the California State Railroad Museum opened to the public, as did the Museum Library. The library has been an integral component of CSRM since the project's inception. It was clear to the founders of the Museum that a thoughtfully assembled collection of published, manuscript, and pictorial materials would not only enhance the museum's services but also support its conservation and education programs. With this goal in mind, as railroad equipment and artifacts were gathered for study and exhibit, collections staff also acquired documentary materials to form the nucleus of the California State Railroad Museum Library.


Phone: (916) 323-8073
Fax: (916) 327-5655
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The focus of the Library collection is the history of railroads and railroading in California and the adjacent states from the 1850s to the present. Collections also cover selected railroad topics throughout North America, including Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Emphasis is on acquiring materials relating to the social, economic, political, cultural, technological and environmental impacts that the industry has had, and continues to have, on the region.

The collection has been assembled primarily through donations from individual and corporate benefactors. Gifts range in size from a single menu to hundreds of cartons. The 1982 deposit of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society research collection expanded the Library's resources. The state and the non-profit California State Railroad Museum Foundation provide for the purchase of selected additions through an opportunity acquisition program.

Reference sources include a wide range of books, periodicals, railroad association and union publications, ephemera, government documents, and trade catalogues. The Library also collects manuscript materials and corporate records, photographs, maps and engineering drawings. See Library Collections for more detailed information about the Museum's documentary collections.

The California State Railroad Museum Library provides public access to the Museum's documentary collections. The Library is located adjacent to the Museum of Railroad History on the second floor of the Big Four Building at 111 "I" Street. The reading room is open to the public without charge Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Library collections do not circulate and are to be used only in the reading room.

The Library responds to approximately 5,000 requests each year. Our patrons include historians, genealogists, fiction writers, students of all ages, picture researchers, film makers, modelers, and members of the legal and environment-related professions.

To be certain the collection you want to see will be available, contact staff ahead of time.