Gaspar de Portol`a November 30, 1767 to July 9, 1770 sailed the pacific and sailed his ships into Monterey Bay. He camped by San Francisquito creek in today’s Palo Alto. Like a lot of explorers of his time he is credited with “discovering” these places and claiming them for Spain regardless of the people already living there.
Gaspar de Portol'a
He never made it to northern California and never traveled the Sierra Valley where a small town bears his name, and I never knew why the town of Portola was named for him.
The railroad is credited with naming the town, specifically the Western Pacific Railroad, when in 1910 Virgilia Bogue who was queen of the San Francisco “Portola Festival” suggested the name Portola for the town, and the name stuck.
My journey to Portola had less to do with history and more to do with the railroad as I traveled to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, located just off highway 70 in beautiful downtown Portola.
Western Pacific Railroad Museum
The museum has quite a collection of vintage railroad equipment, and funds its mission of restoration and preservation in part by renting out vintage locomotives, and letting you drive them around their 13 miles of track. With supervision, of course.
Some Of The Trains On Display
Our ride for the day was going to be the museums 1950’s EMD GP9. Not my favorite vintage locomotive but it was the only one painted up in Southern Pacific colors. Not the real cool SP black widow, or even the standard bloody nose, but instead painted up in the merger colors with Santa Fe.
Southern Pacific 2873
We rode into town and planned to stay two nights, and had made reservations as we found out 3 miles out of town at the Nakoma lodge
We had no idea what to expect and were pleasantly surprised as we rolled up on this spectacular setting and discovered the place. It is a lodge with a golf course and if you really like the place you can buy some resort property and build your own couple of million-dollar summer cottage right there near the lodge, spa, bar, golf course, and coming soon a recreation center complete with a climbing wall…
We were still absorbing all the elegance of Nakoma lodge when my phone rang. Since I was still in all my cold weather riding gear I wondered what pocket my phone was in and if I could find it. I did and it was a girl from the museum who said the museum had a problem and would have to cancel our locomotive ride.
We decided that after traveling all the way from Australia just to drive a locomotive, that was unacceptably and suited up and rode down to the museum.
We still thought this was unacceptable so we wandered around looking for someone else to talk to. After a bit our train just so happened to roll up to the museum and we asked the fellows who got off just how come we couldn’t drive the train that they were just driving.
On The Ground
Seam's that they were moving some of the museums cars and well some of them ended up on the ground.
After a while it was agreed that we could operate the GP9 as scheduled but that we couldn’t go all around the property as the track was blocked.
Next day we operated the GP9. Rang the bell and blew the whistle. It was great fun and if you ever want to operate a locomotive go check out the Western Pacific Railroad Museum…