Lunchtime Book Talk: Sierra Railway

Thursday, March 21, 2019 12:00PM

Lunchtime Book Talk: <em>Sierra Railway</em>
Tickets are now Sold Out

Join us for a lunchtime book talk with author of Sierra Railway, Stephen Mikesell on the first day of our dual exhibitions Mark Ruwedel: Westward the Course of Empire and Overland to California: Commemorating the Transcontinental Railroad. Stay after the event to explore both! The free presentation will focus on the importance of the “short line” railroad in the history of California, using the Sierra Railway as a case study.

While historians have focused on the small number of multi-state railroads, such as the Southern Pacific, it was the short lines that opened remote parts of California up to economic and social growth. The Sierra Railway was organized in the late 1890s by a group of three investors: Charles Crocker, the founder of the Crocker Bank and son of William Crocker; Prince Poniatowski, an investment banker from France but of royal Polish descent; and Thomas Bullock, a railroad speculator from Arizona. The idea of the group was to bring standard gauge service to the vast timber resources, gold mines, and other resources of Tuolumne County. Like many railroad speculators, they sought to make money two ways: by charging freight and passenger customers for service between Tuolumne County and a connection with the Southern Pacific in Oakdale, Stanislaus County; and to exploit timber and mining resources the three investors owned. The system grew quickly, funded chiefly by Crocker’s money until the 1907 banker’s panic, which severely drained the resources available to Crocker and the Sierra Railway. The line contracted, dropping service to Calaveras County, but it survived through the Great Depression, through the dieselization revolution of the 1950s, and it exists today, but it two parts. There is a diesel-driven freight operation that is privately owned and there is a steam excursion operation, run by State Parks.

About the Author:

Stephen Mikesell is a historian and historic preservationist as well as an author who has published three books and a dozen articles. His professional credentials include a decade as the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for the State of California. He received a BA in history from Harvard University and an MA in history from the University of California at Davis.

This lunchtime talk is a part of our Culture for Community events that day. In addtion to special programming, CHS' exhibitions are free all day from 11:00AM-08:00PM

About Culture for Community:

Culture for Community, an alliance of Yerba Buena neighboring arts and cultural institutions, has scheduled two destination Thursdays in 2019 (March 21 and September 19) where our doors will be open without entry fees, for many organizations, all day long.

In addition to providing open access to their arts and culture programming, the Culture for Community institutions are creating special free-day programming that reflects important celebrations for us and our community. The inaugural free day will honor Womxn’s History Month. Come together and tap into our shared communities as we invite all to participate in special events, activities, and late-night gallery hopping. In the spirit of community building and collaboration, we aim to make our Yerba Buena neighborhood the arts and cultural destination of the day!