Sacramento city officials will throw an open house at the downtown railyard today to show off their new train tracks, platforms, the huge new passenger tunnels and even the golf carts they're using now to ferry elderly and disabled people to catch their trains.
But the most interesting opportunity for sightseeing will be something old, not new.
For what may be the first time, the railyard owner will open one of its seven huge shop buildings for general unescorted public viewing.
The seven central shops buildings are where generations of Southern Pacific railroad workers built and repaired locomotives and passenger cars.
The easternmost shop, known as the "paint shop," will be open for viewing from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
To get to it, you enter through the historic depot at Fifth and I streets, then walk north and down into the new passenger tunnel. Signs will direct people to steps at the north end of the tunnel that take you into the heart of the railyard and the magnificent shops complex. Depot parking is limited. Try the Old Sacramento garage, or walk or take light rail.
The paint shop is not the biggest or most impressive of the buildings. But it's beautiful nonetheless. Its oldest sections date to the 1870s.
It has arched doors and windows, wooden trusses overhead, and the brickwork is a peeling history of a century of paint colors. Sunlight takes on a special feel when it is filtering into a dusty old building like this.
Paul Hammond, head of the California State Railroad Museum, will be posted inside for an hour or so after 11 a.m. to chat with visitors about the shops' history and possible future.
Developers and city officials hope to turn the site into what should be the region's biggest and best transit-oriented village a mix of housing, stores and offices next to trains and light rail. Two of the shops will house a railroad technology museum.
The paint shop's future is uncertain, but you can get a sense of what it might become. There probably would be a large plaza out front. Some developers have suggested the Safeway-sized structure could become a marketplace and a farmers market.
City officials will hold a ceremony near the platforms at 10:30 a.m. to dedicate the new track alignment. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento a leading proponent of redevelopment of the depot area as a transit village will speak. In a press statement Thursday, Matsui called the first stages of work around the tracks "a critical steppingstone in the transformation of Sacramento's downtown."
Four food trucks will offer lunch at the open house.
Unfortunately, the canopy over the new, direct walkway from the depot to the new tunnel isn't finished, so part of the walkway will remain closed to passengers for at least a few more weeks, city officials said.