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Visitor Guide: Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum |

Visitor Guide: Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum

Each year, the Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum draws visitors from around the world to enjoy the building filled with railroad artifacts and exhibits. The depot is a replica of one of the few buildings that remained standing following the devastating earthquake in 1952. A second tragedy struck in 2008 when the building was completely destroyed by fire just as the project to restore it to its original condition was nearly finished.

“The board of directors are dedicated to keeping the doors open,” said Nick Smirnoff, curator and adviser. “The all-volunteer directors work hard to ensure the museum is an interesting and attractive venue.”

A great attention to detail was involved in creating the ambiance of the museum, right down to the tongue and groove wood flooring. Visitors are transported back in time with the whistling railroad music piped throughout the stereo system as they relive the memories of the Southern Pacific as seen through the passengers’ eyes aboard the San Joaquin Daylight Streamliners that once traveled the long-ago tracks. Memorabilia includes trunks and dinnerware from the dining car and an original menu.

The hub of Tehachapi is preserved deep inside the depot’s walls at the railroad agent’s desk, where the comings and goings of all passengers, as well as freight, were handled with efficiency. A Western Union Telegraph hangs above the authentic workings of the desk, with telegrams dating from 1932 posted on a clipboard.

Volunteer docents have been carefully collecting and preserving documents, books, photographs and stories of the men and women who built the railroad and whose lives were affected by it. Many items are found nowhere else in the world.

Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the depot also features an expansive collection of lanterns, which railroad workers used to signal engineers. On display and on adjacent grounds is the renowned collection of William Stokoe, a former Tehachapi resident and longtime railroad man. The Stokoe collection consists of more than 300 railroad artifacts.

If you haven’t been in the depot lately, stop by and check out the latest updates and displays. The place just keeps getting classier! Your visit won’t cost much — it’s free — ‘cause the gents and ladies who operate the place — the Friends of the Tehachapi Depot — keep their nonprofit group in the black by all of their hard work and dedication. They’ll give you a fine guided tour if you’d like one.

Hours of operation are Thursday through Monday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The depot is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day and Eve. For more information, call 661-823-1100.

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