San Luis Obispo has a new title: Train Town USA.
This weekend, Union Pacific Railroad will recognize the city as part of its national network of Train Town USA communities, which includes the California cities of Colton, Dunsmuir, Portola and Roseville. The designation comes as Union Pacific celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Curtis Reinhardt, director of the Central Coast Railroad Festival, said the designation “solidifies ties” between the city and the company whose predecessor, the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, shaped much of its past.
“It’s good to get this relationship started,” he said.
Now in its fourth year, the Central Coast Railroad Festival kicks off tonight at the San Luis Obispo Farmers Market.
Festival organizers will set up model train layouts and railroad equipment at the corner of Higuera and Chorro streets. Visitors are invited to play with toy trains, participate in an Amtrak raffle and listen to live music by Don Lampson and BanjerDan.
The Freight House, located in San Luis Obispo’s historic Railroad District, is the site of Saturday’s San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum open house.
The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will include the Train Town USA dedication ceremony, model layouts, speeder car rides, walking tours and a railroad swap meet. Attendees can check out improvements to the 1894 freight house and get a sneak peak at artifacts and equipment that will be displayed at the museum, slated to open in 2013.
On Sunday, the San Luis Obispo Model Train Association hosts an open house at the Oceano Train Depot, featuring a large model layout and yard sale.
In addition, the festival is offering a model layout tour today through Sunday at businesses, homes, gardens and museums ranging from Paso Robles to Lompoc.
For more adventurous train enthusiasts, there are five rail excursions.
Three family-friendly excursions depart Saturday from Grover Beach, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, respectively, while wine country excursions will leave San Luis Obispo on Friday and Monday and include stops at D’Anbino Vineyards and Cellars in Paso Robles and Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery in Templeton.
Tickets are $19 to $29 for the family excursions, and $39 to $59 for the winery excursions; all other festival events are free.
Reinhardt estimated that this year’s Central Coast Railroad Festival will attract about 5,000 people.
For more information, call 773-4173 or visit www.ccrrf.com.