The development of Redwood Empire Live Steamers Interactive Museum at Youth Community Park
The Redwood Empire Live Steamers’ origins can be traced back to the Fall Meet of the Sacramento Valley Live Steamers in October 2002. A group of live steam enthusiasts with connections to the Sonoma County area discussed forming a new club to serve Santa Rosa and surrounding areas. A meeting was held the following week and the group has been meeting every month since then.
During 2003 and 2004 the group held presentations at various local events and collected over 2300 signatures of residents who would support the establishment of a local live steam rail track. After meeting with the Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks staff it was decided that such a project was feasible and The Redwood Empire Live Steamers’ Interactive Museum was incorporated as a 501(C)3 tax-exempt non-profit corporation.
On Father’s Day 2005 a demonstration run was held in Youth Community Park, using a portable track borrowed from Sacramento Valley Live Steamers and locomotives from the group’s members. A similar event was also held on Mother’s Day 2006.
In 2006 an initial survey of the Youth Community Park was completed. Funds were raised to purchase our own portable track and equipment and the City of Santa Rosa gave us permission to run our portable track on a regular basis.
Early 2007 we purchased materials to build riding cars and portable track, and began our regular public runs on the first weekend of each month from May until October. This schedule has been maintained every year since.
In 2008 we were able to purchase a diesel locomotive from another railroad and had it repainted in the North Western Pacific colors to reflect Santa Rosa’s railroading history. We also started building track panels for our permanent track and in December the Santa Rosa City Council unanimously approved our building of a permanent track in Youth Community Park. A 20’ demonstration section of track was installed for final approval from the Recreation and Parks Department, which was obtained in September 2009.
September 2008 was also our first participation in the Train Fair at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. This has been an outstanding success every year since then, both for us, the show organizers and the thousands of riders who support us.
Installation of the permanent track began in the fall of 2009 around the periphery of the lawn area in the park. This track was used for the 2010 season, running point to point. On August 28th. 2010 this loop, running all around the lawn, was completed and our Labor Day weekend run was able to offer continuous running for the first time on the permanent track.
2011 saw the installation of a passing lane in the station and a storage container to hold our equipment. Over the 2011/12 fall/winter we added a siding running into the container and a loading ramp to the car park area, to allow easier access for members’ locomotives. All of this currently installed track is shown in red on the aerial photograph. Its total length is 1243 feet.
For 2013 we are working on installing a Y in the undeveloped area north of the skate park to allow us to reverse the direction of trains. This section will then run over to Fulton Road and return to the northeast corner of the present loop. So far we have installed the three switches and next need to install the sidewalk crossings. This plan is shown in yellow on the photograph and will bring the total track length to 2378 feet.
In the future we expect to add passing lanes in this area plus a crossover to enable us to run figure of 8 routes. Plans for this will be put on line shortly.
Come check out our progress and any offers of physical or financial support will be gratefully welcomed.