Library & Collections

 Move update as of October 2013:

Our off-site collections are all moved in! Library collections held off-site in the new California Statewide Museum Collection Center are now available for research. Please contact Library staff in advance of your visit. Staff will bring requested materials to the Library once per week, each Tuesday. Library hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., except state holidays.

Move update as of December 14, 2012:
Because of delays in construction, we now anticipate that collections held off-site will be available beginning in late Spring 2013. The California State Railroad Museum Library staff maintains regular public open hours Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. while continuing to move off-site collections to our new collections facility. Thank you for your patience. Please contact Library staff directly before making a research visit.

Move update as of January 18, 2012:
California State Railroad Museum Library collections currently housed off-site are being moved to a new collections storage facility. During the move, these collections will be unavailable for research use through Fall 2012. If you are planning a visit to the Museum Library, please contact Library staff ahead of your visit. We thank you for your understanding and patience as we complete this move.

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.