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Day 34 – Apr. 22nd: Old Town Sacramento

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<– Day 33 – Apr. 21st: Tom, Paty, Sparky, Bill, Lucy, Snoopy, Charlie, Linus, and More | OVERVIEW | Day 35 – Apr. 23rd: Over the Sierras –>


Given the public can climb into this old Ford, it was still a pretty nice car!. They even let me jump into it!

During the spring of 2013 my son Karson visited Old Town Sacramento and said it was a great area of the city.  Ann and I didn’t know for sure what to expect when we arrived there today, but we came away pleasantly surprised.


Today we drove from our Sacramento motel room to the California Auto Museum, then to Old Town Sacramento.

We began the day at the California Auto Museum located just a little south of the Old Town Sacramento area. Much of the museum’s collection came from Edward Towe, a Montana banker who assembled a large collection of Fords in Deer Lodge, Montana (some of his collection is still there at the Montana Auto Museum). That explains why many of the early vehicles and artifacts are related to Ford.


I felt like the museum started strong, with some good explanations and backgrounds. The exhibit is organized on a timeline, starting with some very early Fords.


This is a good display of how Camp Curry at Yosemite began. It started as a tent camp in 1899 by David and Jennie Curry.


A pretty static display more typical of the arrangement of the early vehicles at the museum.

The demonstration of how/why a ring and pinion developed was particularly well done. There was a video (see below the picture of the R&P machine) of the R&P and played above a hands-on example that people could spin by hand. Well done!


As we wandered, more cars from different manufactures were added until rows of cars over took the story of the automobile. It’s as if the curators didn’t know what to do after about 1930, so they lined up some cars. Whatever the reason, the story telling declined for the remainder of the visit.

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Still, there are plenty of cars (few trucks) and a couple jeeps to be seen. Here’s a 1943 Ford GPW. Note the lack of context. In fact, like many museum’s vehicles, the jeep is placed in a space by itself without background. At least it was a nice jeep with lots of F-stamps:




This wagon was placed in even stranger place. Not sure how it fits in here, except that there is some space to place it there.

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Once we were done looking at the cars, we stopped by the gift shop. There were some cool vintage t-shirts with Buick and truck logos, but they were sold out of any size that would fit me.

After the museum we drove to the center of Old Town Sacramento, parked and spent several hours exploring the area. We started with some food (some pricy, but yummy bbq) and then visited the highly regarded California State Railroad Museum. It didn’t disappoint.

Having seen quite a few museums over the past two years, I’ve formed some strong thoughts on the use of large and small spaces as part of the story telling process. For example, the California Auto Museum has a large warehouse feel with some low dividing walls between areas, but there’s not much of an attempt to change the sense of space. In contrast, the Railroad museum begins with a small display in front near at box office, which leads to a small tunnel. As you exit the tunnel, a huge, dramatic space opens up that is delightfully overwhelming. The huge space begins the California railroad experience at a natural starting point: The Transcontinental Railroad (an aside: My kids loved ‘Ten Mile Day‘,  a book that I picked up years ago at Golden Spike National Monument).


It’s more dramatic in person. I’d wished we could have brought a tripod to get some better photos.

Following that display, there are a series of engines and cars that people can explore in different ways.


All the displays were full size.


A lot of the mannequins looked very real.


The old sleeper car was our favorite. It still looked comfortable enough that we were ready to grab a bunk and take a trip. Our photo of it didn’t turn out though :-(.

Ann and I spent a couple hours at the Railroad museum and thoroughly enjoyed it. If there’s one area I’d add, it would be more information about the interplay between trains and national parks. National park development was encouraged by the railroads and the companies advertised travel to national parks nationally and internationally.  Given the existence of Yosemite, there’s a good California story here. This article provides some information on the subject.

By late afternoon we were getting tired, so rather than visit some of the other museums, we walked around old town a little bit.

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Ann and I both agreed that our experience in downtown Sacramento and Old Town Sacramento was a wonderful surprise. We look forward to a future visit where we can visit more of the area.

Tomorrow we’ll go to Placerville and then on to Reno for a couple nights. We’d plan to stop in South Tahoe, but a cold front has moved through, so we’ll hunker down in Reno for a few days and let the weather pass through.

<– Day 33 – Apr. 21st: Tom, Paty, Sparky, Bill, Lucy, Snoopy, Charlie, Linus, and More | OVERVIEW | Day 35 – Apr. 23rd: Over the Sierras –>




12 Comments on “Day 34 – Apr. 22nd: Old Town Sacramento

  1. Mark S.

    Dave, in Jan. 14, 2014 you posted about a 1945 pasture green CJ-2A at the California Auto Museum. I wonder if it was still there and if you saw it. It appeared to be a very nice original jeep.

  2. mmdeilers Post author

    Thanks for the reminder Mark. While we were walking around the museum I thought there was a reason I’d planned to go there, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember why. I’m sorry to say that the M-38 and CJ-2A were not there. Only the GPW was there. 🙁

  3. mom

    He needs a had, coat and a scarf to really complete the look.

    Learned something today with the differential video.

  4. Brian L.

    Really enjoyed the differential video, best explanation I’ve ever gotten to how it actually works.

  5. John Hartman

    Looks like an interesting day to me. I don’t think it’s the curators not knowing what to do, I think at that point most of the inventiveness was completed. If the car you’re sitting in is a Model T, it already had a planetary gear transmission and bevel gear differential. Only to be improved by hydraulics to create an automatic, and offset pinion to make a hypoid differential. After about that time period, improvements were only further development of past inventions.

    As far as railroads and machinery is concerned, consider that up until the about the time of Promontory Point, the only lubricating oils available were animal fat and some plant oils.

  6. mmdeilers Post author

    Dexter, not anymore. Now we are in Reno. The good news is that the National Automotive Museum in Reno is doing a WWII retrospective 🙂 I shall boldly investigate that tomorrow.

  7. mmdeilers Post author

    Brian: Agreed.
    John: I agree that major new inventions had passed (the jeep might be the exception) however there are still plenty of stories to tell. For example, the Peterson museum showed how the garage and life evolved in LA with the car. A topic that the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg museum did real well was the history of car manufacturers in Indiana, which is a story California could tell (albeit there were less in Cali). There was an entire dune buggy industry unique to California. There’s the story of vehicles and the Lincoln highway, which runs through Sacramento. There’s the relationship of vehicle development/use vis-a-vis the Sierras.

    So, to me it falls on the curator/director of the museum to find ways to tell these stories. I guess I’ve hoped that would be a career path, as I’ve been developing ideas on how to tell stories. That’s one reason we visit all these museums. 🙂

    – Dave

  8. Steve E.

    The Calif. Auto Museum is one of my favorites. I’m glad you and Ann took time to visit. The California State Railroad Museum is even more awesome.

    The Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) is holding more than a swap meet. Camp Delta is an eight day military vehicle rendezvous. All week I’ve been seeing all types of military Jeeps and trucks on small trailers and big-rigs headed South on I-5 to Lodi, CA for the MVPA Spring Meet. Some day my calendar will let me experience this huge event.

    Right now 2000 cars are coming out the woodwork for our town’s Kool April Nites week long car celebration, and I’m very busy doing my part in this huge event taking over the town of 90,000. There are mini-car shows every day. They close off the city streets for a vintage car cruise on Friday night, then the big show is on Saturday, April 26th. (Another must-see even for you and Ann. You need a faster Jeep. lol.)

    In April I bought some parts from a MVPA member on Bainbridge Island, WA. He will be making an 800 mile trek for Camp Delta this week, April 20-27. Dave and Ann, you should change your plans and check out this massive military vehicle event in the San Joaquin Delta just South of Sacramento.

    **Steve E.**

  9. mmdeilers Post author

    Steve: If I had known about the Kool Nites even on the 26th, I would have changed our plans to make it up there. That would have been fun. We won’t be into Redding until about the 29th.

    If I’d known about the MVPA swap meet we could have swung down to see that as well. But, as of now, our motels are booked through the 29th. My wife is very patient, but for me to announce we are heading to MVPA from here might be a bit much to ask from her.

    My daughter will likely be living in Los Angeles for much of next year, so we’ll be making at least one trip down there. Perhaps I can time that with next year’s Camp Delta? The timing would be good for us.

    – Dave

  10. Steve E.

    I know, you can’t cut yourself in half and do it all, especially when you’ve already been on the road for over a month. The internet has shown me that there are so many things to do in every part of the world. I have to tell myself that those are good things to look forward to. Annual events will be just as exciting the following year. And there is a Fall Camp Delta on September 21-28, 2014. But I hear it’s not as large as the Spring Meet going on right now.

    I often think about what a keeper Ann must be, but I know you can’t steer away to far from travel plans. She knew what she was getting into when she married you, but she will never be as infected with the Willys virus that you and all the rest of us have. There is no cure to the Willys bug, but eWillys relieves the symptoms.

    **Steve E.**

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