I’m a typical history nerd who daydreams while driving about old trains or historical events that took place on the same road I’m driving over. The daydreams turn obsessive when I’ve read and researched about certain historical events and I can almost recreate them in my mind. A good example is the path the California Central Railroad took from Folsom to Roseville, California, in 1861. I’ve driven and walked over so much of the rail grade that is accessible, and thought about its construction and daily operations, that I finally made a video about retracing the long forgotten railroad grade. YouTube Link To Retracing Railroad Recording Below.
1860s Railroad From Folsom To Roseville
People I talk to are still amazed that there was a railroad that ran from Folsom to Roseville between 1861 and 1864. Sometimes the railroad may have pass right through their backyards. Maps and old photos are one way to bringing history to life. Another way is to use modern technology to capture the space and time that the events occurred. In other words, make a video of where the train travelled.
Fortunately, I recorded the various public spaces that the California Central RR ran over before California made it illegal to hold a cell phone in your hand while driving. Yes, I was that guy holding my mobile phone out of my sun roof while driving down Greenback Lane. I was also that guy walking through weeds and bramble bushes with the cell phone in front me in Orangevale Park.
Video Retracing The Old Railroad
These remnants of our railroad history can easily be washed away or bulldozed level. All that is left in many places are faint elevated piles of dirt in long lines. Much of the grade, if not covered by roads or houses, is overgrown with bushes and trees. The grade was hand-built and is still there. Trust me, I’m not the only one who has found it and confirmed it with aligning old maps on top of Google Earth. I’m just the one goofball who put my research into a video recording.
Many Surface Streets Follow The Old Rail Grade
It’s somewhat surprising how much of the old rail grade is still accessible. Parts of Greenback Lane, Orangevale Avenue, Main Avenue, South Cirby Way, Oak Ridge Drive and Folsom Road are thoroughfares that were develop because of the original grade for the California Central RR. You can still see the elevated grade of the railroad, constructed between 1859 and 1861, through Orangevale Park and along Linda Creek in Roseville. All of this I capture in my little movie retracing the old line. The old rail line was even represented on the marketing literature for the Orange Vale Colonization Company in the 1890s, even though the CCRR had been defunct for over 20 years.
It Is Not A Slick Hollywood Movie
For a variety of reason, not the least was to satisfy some obsessive compulsive history disorder; I decided I would record as much of the old rail line right away as possible for historical sake. After capturing video while driving or hiking through the brush, I compiled all that into a little movie. I have to admit that I like my first attempt at making a short movie. It’s not perfect, rough around the edges, very amateurish, but I wasn’t working with perfect content to begin with as my iPhone gets shaky on rough roads. Real history nerds don’t care if it doesn’t have the slick packaging a Hollywood movie.
I Wrote, Directed, Edited, & Narrated the Movie
The most difficult part was just learning the movie making software. I was able to add a sound track of a train rolling over the rails along with steam engine and whistle effects. After I found a decent microphone, I added some narration to give the viewer a little history of the California Central Railroad as the recording drives down Greenback or South Cirby. Where I was not able to walk or drive because of private property, I included still photos of aerial maps that showed the line.
Perhaps the goofiest moments are when I speed up my walking through Orangevale Park or along Linda Creek in Roseville. Seriously, no one is going to sit through 45 minutes of me walking dirt paths, dodging bushes, or ducking trees. Oddly, when I sped up the motion, there is almost a feel that you are travelling in an old rail passenger car being bumped around.
History can be boring. Not everyone connects with history through old photos and numerous pages of text. If my “no-budget” movie of an extinct rail line captures the imagination of a few people to keep the history light alive, so be it. Now I have to think of my next project, this movie making stuff can get addictive.
Retracing The California Central Railroad: Folsom To Roseville
Full original blog post of the research I did to retrace the CCRR. The website can load slow because of the numerous pictures. That’s something I need to fix in the near future.