Manuscripts Collections
Manuscript collections are unpublished materials created by corporate bodies or individuals during the course of daily activities. The Library's manuscript collections are extensive and diverse, ranging in size from a single item to hundreds of cartons. The archives contain corporate, operating, financial, personnel, and engineering records, personal papers, research notes of writers and historians, as well as a wide variety of railroad-related documents accumulated by private collectors.

The administrative and financial records of several California and Western railroads form the core of the Library's archival holdings. These documents relate to the major Western railroad companies such as the Southern Pacific Railroad and its numerous predecessor and subsidiary companies, as well as to the Western Pacific, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, and the Union Pacific Railroads. The Library also collects the records of smaller lines such as the Sierra Railway, the Virginia & Truckee, Nevada Central, and the Northwestern Pacific Railroads.

The Southern Pacific Company files are extensive. Although much of the material is unprocessed, finding aids are available for a sizeable amount. For the Central Pacific Railroad, the Library has manuscripts which document the early years, including payment vouchers, payrolls and engineering records pertaining to the building of the transcontinental railroad. For both the CP and the SP, equipment records document the railroads' roster of locomotive and rolling stock.

The Library received the Western Pacific Railroad Presidents' files in 1987. There is much information about the day-to-day operation of the company, its policies, financial and technical information for the period 1905-1983. Information about subsidiary companies such as the Tidewater Southern and the Sacramento Northern may also be found in the WP archives.

The records of companies which supplied materials to the industry are also part the Library's holdings. In 1991, the Baldwin-Hamilton Company donated a collection relating to the Whitcomb Locomotive Company and the Sterling Engine Company which includes records of the sales department, specifications, and vendors files, as well as drawings. The Pacific Fruit Express collection contains material relating to the construction and operation of freight cars.

The Library has microfilm copies of significant railroad collections held by other institutions. These include records relating to the Baldwin Locomotive Works from the DeGolyer Library, Stanford University and the Smithsonian Institution, and the Collis P. Huntington Papers from the George Arents Research Library at Syracuse University.

The Library has manuscript collections of railroad writers and historians. These authors are Jeff Asay, Lucius Morris Beebe, Gerald Martin Best, Arthur Detmers Dubin, Philip Ross Hastings, M.D., Gilbert Harold Kneiss, Louis L. Stein, Jr. and Jack Russell Wagner. Many of these collections contain research notes and rough drafts relating to their publications.

The lives of the men and women who worked for the railroad are documented in several collections ranging in size from a single certificate of apprenticeship to more substantial coverage of an individual's career. Employee record cards from Southern Pacific's Sacramento Shops between 1900 and 1930 document over 55,000 local railroad workers. For more information regarding the Library's holdings relating to railroad employees, see Genealogy Resources.

Several collections reflect the role which labor unions have played in the railroad industry. These include the records of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, and other Western branches of major railroad-related unions.

In 1996 the Museum, funded by a grant from the Sacramento Trust for Historic Preservation and the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, undertook the Southern Pacific Railroad Sacramento Shops Oral History Project. Men and women who worked in the Sacramento Shops as laborers, craftsmen, clerks and managers were interviewed, their sessions taped and transcribed, and in some cases videotaped. These intriguing stories are available for review in the Library reading room.

The Library also preserves documents relating to the history and development of Old Sacramento State Historic Park and the California State Railroad Museum.

Finding aids provide detailed descriptions of processed collections, their intellectual organization, and at varying levels of analysis, of individual items in the collections. Finding aids for processed collections have been entered into a database and can be searched by corporate or personal name, keyword or date. Preliminary box lists are available for unprocessed collections.

Search the Archives and Manuscripts online catalog.

Selected CSRM finding aids have been converted to electronic format and are available on the Online Archive of California website at The Online Archive of California, a component of the California Digital Library, is a single searchable database of the finding aids to primary sources held by nearly fifty California libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies.