Leland Stanford Mansion / Sacramento CA

On the corner of 8th Street and N Street in downtown Sacramento California is a magnificent home that at one time was the residence of Leland Stanford, an east coast educated lawyer, one of the Big Four railroad men of California, a California governor, a United States Senator and the founder of Stanford University.

stanford mansion sacramento

Stanford Mansion, Sacramento CA

Today, this historic mansion is a California State  Historic Park and a federally protected site.

Like many men of wealth in northern California during the latter half of the 1800’s, their fortunes originated with the famous California Gold Rush. In Stanford’s case, he created his wealth as a merchant and wholesaler during the gold boom years. It’s often been said that the real financial winners during the gold rush were the merchants who sold vital equipment and supplies to the prospectors and miners rather than the people who actually panned and dug for the yellow ore.

Leland Stanford’s two brothers were very successful merchants in Sacramento and after moving west from New York State, he also became a successful merchant selling to miners and settlers. Leland Stanford went into the mercantile business with a good friend by the name of Captain Nicholas T. Smith. Their business operated out of Cold Springs in El Dorado County.

leland stanford mansion state historic park

Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park

Business Success Led to Political Success

With his success in business Stanford met several influential people including hardware merchants by the names of Huntington and Hopkins as well as dry goods dealer Charles Crocker. Stanford along with the businessmen mentioned above formed the Republican Party of California.

In 1861 Stanford would become the president of the newly formed Central Pacific Railroad and also become the Republican nominee for governor. The Central Pacific Railroad was formed by Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins, all names that were significant in early California’s growth. Leland Stanford was sworn in as Governor of the State of California on January 10, 1862 and the Central Pacific Railroad would go on to be the western link of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad in 1869.

california state parks

Another view of the Stanford Mansion architecture

The story of how the Central Pacific Railroad scaled the Sierra Nevada mountain range is a fascinating story itself. Constructing the rail lines over Donner Summit through winter snow storms and the building of snow tunnels to cover certain sections of track from snowfalls was one of the most daunting feats in the history of railroad construction. The work performed building the rail line over the Sierra Nevada by Chinese laborers is another unique story in itself.

The Leland Stanford Mansion

The mansion was built in 1857 by Sacramento merchant Shelton Fogus. Stanford purchased the mansion in 1861 for $8,000.

Built in the Renaissance Revival style, the mansion would become known as the “Gubernatorial Mansion” after Stanford’s election as governor. An interesting historical fact about this home is that three California governors conducted the business of the State of California from this massive residence. These were Leland Stanford, Frederic F. Low, and Henry H. Haight. Stanford and Low actually resided in the home during their terms as governor while Haight used only the office until the construction of the California State Capitol was completed in 1869.

leland stanford home

Elegant formal entrance of the Stanford Mansion

Stanford’s Founding of Stanford University

Stanford University resides on 740 acres land that Leland Stanford purchased  for a farm. The acreage was located between Menlo Park and Mayfield.

While touring Turkey in 1884 Stanford’s son Leland Jr. was stricken with typhoid fever and died at the age of 15. It was this tragic death that served as the impetus for Stanford University’s founding. Stanford declared that he wanted to do something for the children of California. He decided that the bulk of his fortune would be dedicated for education. Construction started in 1887 and the university opened in 1891.

Palo Alto came into being as a place where both students and faculty could reside. The city of Palo Alto where the university is located incorporated in 1894.

The links below are to additional Trips Into History articles you may enjoy…

Sacramento History / The Steamboat

Historic Central Pacific Railroad Locomotives

A Six Month Voyage Chasing for Gold

huntington and hopkins hardware store

Restored Huntington and Hopkins Hardware Store in Old Town Sacramento CA

The Leland Stanford Mansion State Park Today

The State of California took over the property in 1978 with the idea of designating it as a State Park.

It was many years however until funds were gathered together to restore the old mansion. In 1991 Peter McCuen, a Sacramento businessman and former Stanford professor, helped put together the Leland Stanford Mansion Foundation. The organization’s goal was to help raise the funds to restore the Mansion to have it serve as the Governor’s protocol center and as a historic park with public tours.

Funds were secured by a public/private effort and the restoration took place to return the mansion to the way it looked during the years it was occupied by the Stanfords.

Today the Leland Stanford Mansionis used occasionally for California state functions including the welcoming of various important visitors in addition to it’s public tours. Usually groups of twenty people at a time are allowed on tours. You’ll find very knowledgeable tour guides who will tell you about the mansion’s history as well as the charitable endeavors performed by the Stanford family. One of these is the work taken on by Mrs. Stanford to help establish the Stanford Children’s Hospital.

The house truly is enormous and fascinating with the entire building taking up about 19,000 sq.ft. The largest room is the ballroom. The mansion has been beautifully restored and decorated. The interior of the mansion is stunningly beautiful and many will say that there’s a good deal  of railroad symbolism depicted in the furniture.

Tour Information

Public tours are operated by the California Department of Parks. The Stanford Mansion Visitor Center and Museum Store is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Guided tours are offered on most days between 10:00 and 5:00, with the last tour at 4:00 p.m. More information to help plan your visit can be found on website www.lelandstanfordmansion.org

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History)

Three Historic Train Rides

Below are listed three historic rail lines that today offer scenic rides that relive the history in their respective areas. All of these railroads were once a part of a larger system that ran over these same rails during the height of railroad expansion in the late 1800’s.

All three of these historic railroads make excellent additions to your vacation planners if your travels take you to northern California, northern New Mexico or southern Colorado.

niles canyon railway california

Niles Canyon Railway Sunol Train Depot

Niles Canyon Railway / California

The  Niles Canyon Railroad history goes all the way back to the year 1862, seven years before the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. The railroad’s history includes both the building of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Western Pacific Railroad.

As it’s name implies, the Niles Canyon Railway runs through scenic  Niles Canyon. Today’s scenic rail line runs between Fremont California in San Francisco’s East Bay area to the town of Sunol. The town officially began with it’s first post office in 1871 which at that time was renamed Sunolglen. The name was changed back to Sunol in 1920. Sunol is located 17 miles north of San Jose and about 32 miles southeast of San Francisco proper.

california scenic railraod

Niles Canyon Railway

Steam locomotives began traversing the canyon as early as 1865 via the Western Pacific Railroad. The Western Pacific started to build from San Jose north and eastward. As was the case with most railroads, mergers, acquisitions and new routes would emerge through much of the latter 1800’s.

Eventually, the Western Pacific Railroad was bought out by the Central Pacific and the Central Pacific was taken over by the Southern Pacific.These acquisitions and mergers were commonplace during the late 1800’s all over the west. The Southern Pacific focus was more to the north around Martinez California and as a result the Niles Canyon railroad line became secondary. Having been a part of the legendary Central Pacific Railroad, today’s Niles Canyon Railway line runs over what was once part of the transcontinental railroad.

Another interesting fact is that the Niles Canyon route was the very first line for trains running eastward from the San Francisco Bay. It wouldn’t occur until 1879 that the much shorter route from the Bay Area to Sacramento would be completed which ran through Benicia to the north.

sunol california

Scenic Sunol California

The Pacific Locomotive Association has an excellent collection of railroad equipment that has been accumulated since the 1960’s. The locomotives and rolling stock collected went through restoration programs and train restoration continues as an ongoing project. The collection is found at the association’s Niles Station located in Fremont.

This is the location you want to visit to see some spectacular restored rolling stock. The steam engines at Fremont’s Niles Station includes a great exhibit of old Southern Pacific steam locomotives.

Just to give you an idea of some of the other rail cars collected by the Pacific Locomotive Association, they include, but are certainly not limited to, a 1904 80 foot Pullman Business Car, a 40 foot 1911 Pullman RPO (Railroad Post Office) Car, a 1907 69 foot Observation Car, q 1923 Pullman Interurban passenger car, a 1926 Pullman Heavyweight Sleeper, a 1923 60 foot Pullman Business Car and a 1926 Pullman Heavyweight Dining Car.

vintage diesel locomotive

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad vintage diesel locomotive

The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad

Another very popular attraction in Alamosa itself is the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. This excursion train rides from Alamosa to La Veta Colorado and a connection to the Cumbres and Toltec Railway which offers scenic rides to Chama New Mexico. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad route takes you through fascinating mountain country that’s not seen from the highway. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad excursion train rides take you through breathtaking mountain valleys and passes on miles and mile of historic trails.  The steam and diesel trains transport you to charming and historic western towns from the heart of the San Luis Valley.


rio grande railroad

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad vintage rolling stock

The train runs from Alamosa to the charming art town of La Veta. A  two-hour stop for lunch allows passengers to relax in the park, do some shopping and gallery exploring, or enjoy a great meal at one of La Veta’s local restaurants and cafes. La Veta in Spanish means “the mineral vein”. This twon name was given to it’s association with mining claims such as the abandoned mining camp of Ojo, which is located a few miles from the town and whose concrete foundations are still visible.

Alamosa Colorado is located about 85 miles north of Taos New Mexico and about 70 miles west of Walsenburg Colorado on Interstate 25 via U.S. Hwy 160. Alamosa is also a two and one half hour drive north of Santa Fe New Mexico which makes it a good addition while vacationing in Santa Fe.

cumbres and toltec railroad cars

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad coal tender

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, originally built in 1880, offers all day excursions on their narrow gauge train powered by a coal burning steam locomotive. The route the train travels is a very scenic one which is common in this beautiful area of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Terrific views are offered of the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain Ranges. Along it’s route, this scenic railroad runs over the 10,000 foot Cumbres Pass.

Two additional Trips Into History photo articles you may enjoy are listed on the links below…

Historic Railroads of Texas / The Frisco

The Vintage Pullman Car

The Historic Rocket Trains

The Wells Fargo Stagecoach / Photos and History

antonito colorado trains

Cumbres & Toltec Railroad water tower in Antonito, Colorado

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad offers excursions from the train depot in Chama New Mexico as well as the depot in Antonito Colorado. Trains depart each morning from both depots. Passengers can ride all the way between both towns or return to where they departed on the other train at Osier, an old stagecoach stop, where lunch is served. The steam locomotives used by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad are engines that once worked on this line and on the Denver & Rio Grande Western.

All three railroads described above are only a few of the many found across the United States. If your future travel plans take you to any of the areas above, I believe you’ll find these train excursions to offer fun and educational experiences for the entire family.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History)

Driving the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway


Trips Into History traveled the historic and very scenic Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway. Here is a national Scenic Byway that travels through three counties of southern Colorado and through the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

blanca peak colorado

14,345 foot Blanca Peak in the Sangre de Cristo range

In North America, certain roads are designated as scenic byways based on their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and overall scenic qualities. America’s Byways are a distinctive collection of American roads, their stories and treasured places.

The name of this scenic byway means “the ancient road” and it is true that this roadway winds itself through an area that was once home to the ancient Indians of the southwest as well as the territory of Nuevo Mexico once ruled by Spain.

Travel on the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway and you’ll have the opportunity to explore the culture and traditions of some of Colorado’s oldest communities. You’ll view the spectacular San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain ranges as well as the high, fertile San Luis Valley which is today Colorado’s largest agricultural area. Also, along this highway you’ll explore the fascinating Great Sand Dunes National Park, the site of the highest sand dunes in North America.

las caminos antiguos scenic byway

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Conejos Colorado

Some of the Unique Sites Along the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway

The entire length of the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway is 129 miles and the travel time for it’s exploration will take perhaps four hours. Travel time will be dependent on how many stops you make along the way.  Interpretive markers along the way will direct you to specific sites that tell the region’s history and make the journey so enjoyable.This scenic highway is open during the entire year.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

This church was founded in 1856 and it’s parish is the oldest in Colorado. The first church was constructed of logs put together with adobe. In 1863 a larger adobe church was built.  Renovations took place through the years but the building was destroyed in 1926 by an electrical fire. The walls and towers were spared but new brick towers and a brick entrance were built in 1948.When you visit the church you’ll notice a niche above the front entrance near the roof line containing the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This is the original statue brought by the first settlers of the area.

stations of the cross san luis colorado

Stations of the Cross, Chapel of All Saints

Shrine of the Stations of the Cross

In the town of San Luis Colorado you’ll see a mesa just a few yards west of the scenic byway off of main street. This is the location of the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. A walkway up the side of the mesa leads past 3/4 size bronze statues by local sculptor Huberto Maestas. The statues depict Christ’s last hours. At the end of the three quarter mile walkway is the Chapel of All Saints which is used by pilgrims for prayer and meditation. On top of the mesa are additional statues of martyrs and saints.From atop the mesa you’ll see the town of San Luis below and the People’s Ditch, the oldest communal irrigation waterway in Colorado.

The mesa is named La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia (the Hill of Piety and Mercy) .Look for the interpretive signs at the trail head on the left side of the highway as you enter the town from the south.

fort garland colorado

Restored Fort Garland Colorado buildings

Historic Fort Garland

North of San Luis is historic Fort Garland, once an important frontier fort that was established in 1858 to protect settlers of the San Luis Valley and at one time commanded by Kit Carson and occupied by the Buffalo Soldiers after the Civil War.

Today, Fort Garland exhibits several restored original buildings and offers visitors several separate museums within the structures. You’ll see authentic frontier firearms, many artifacts from the 1800’s and recreations of original interiors such as the infantry and cavalry barracks and the commander’s quarters. All of the structures were built around a parade ground with it’s historic flagpole in the center.

Looking north from Fort Garland you’ll see the towering Blanca Peak rising some 14,345 feet above sea level. Blanca Peak is the fourth highest peak in Colorado.

On our Western Trips site you’ll enjoy our photo article of Fort Garland found on the link below…

A Trip to Fort Garland

alamosa colorado train station

Old D & RG Railroad Depot, Alamosa Colorado

Alamosa Colorado

Alamosa went from a tent city to a full fledged town almost overnight when tracks of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad reached the settlement.Today, a great many of the buildings in Alamosa are on both the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties and the National Register of Historic Places.

One of the best ways to explore Alamosa is with a downtown walking tour. Maps are available at the Colorado Welcome Center located at the D & RG train depot. Add to your trip a visit to the San Luis Valley Museum. The museum exhibits artifacts, photos and collectibles that portray early farm life in the valley. Also exhibited are Indian and Hispanic artifacts and artifacts and photos of the early railroad.

The link below will take you to our photo article of Alamosa Colorado on our Western Trips site…

A Visit to Alamosa Colorado

great sand dunes colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Great San Dunes

The Great Sand Dunes National Monument was created in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. By the year 2004 the park also included a preserve. The preserve was then joined with the Great Sand Dunes Monument and was then the combined area was named a full-fledged National Park in September 2004. It contains about 39 square miles of massive sand dunes, some 750 feet high. The Great Sand Dunes National Park also includes alpine lakes and tundra, six mountain peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range.

The Great San Dunes National Park is located about 29 miles northwest of Fort Garland and about 34 miles east/northeast of Alamosa.

Below is a link to our Western Trips photo article on the Great Sand Dunes National Park…

The Great Sand Dunes

rio grande scenic railroad locomotive

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad locomotive, Alamosa Colorado

There’s Plenty to See on the Los Cominos Antiguos Scenic Byway

The above sites along the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway are just a few of the sites you’ll see during your road trip. For more information about the route and additional sites along the way see website www.coloradodot.info/travel/scenic-byways/south-central/los-caminos  Here you will find much more detailed information as well as a map of the route.

Again, this area of southern Colorado is one of the most scenic and historic in the entire country. If your future travel plans call for a visit to this part of the country you may just want to add this historic scenic byway to your trip planner.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History)

Historic Carbines

Trips Into History had the opportunity to visit historic sites of the old west that today display some amazing collections of old carbines and other firearms that saw action during the frontier days.

Below is a collection of old carbines popular with the cavalry that are on display at Fort Garland in southern Colorado. Like many of the old frontier forts, Fort Garland was established to protect settlers and foster the growth of towns and commerce.

frontier carbines

The four rifles displayed here are the Merrill Carbine 1861, the Sharps and Hankins Model 1862, the Burnside Carbine 4th Model 1864 and the Model 1858 Starr Carbine. Some of these carbines may be more familiar to you than others.

The Merrill Carbine Type 1

The top carbine shown in the photo, the Merrill Carbine, manufactured in Baltimore Maryland, was said to be not too popular with the troops. The carbines were originally designed for sport use and didn’t adapt well to the rigors of cavalry use. Sights and hammers were also said to break off during rugged use.

The Merrill 1st Type .54 caliber was first issued to the army in 1861 and it’s estimated that just under 15,000 were produced. These carbines saw action during the war in both the east and the west. Additional Merrill models were introduced during the Civil War. The carbine had a breech system with a long lever released by a spring latch. It was percussion primed using a paper cartridge. Features with this firearm included a brass buttplate, brass patch box, brass trigger guard, single brass band, and a saddle riding ring.

The Sharps and Hankins Model 1862

The second carbine from the top is the Sharps and Hankins Model 1862. This single shot breech loading percussion carbine was manufactured by a partnership between Christian Sharps of popular buffalo rifle fame and a man named William Hankins.  The Model 1862 rifle has a 24 inch barrel and a hexagon bore. It’s estimated that about 6,000 of these were manufactured during the Civil War. Christian Sharps also produced several popular sporting rifles after the Civil war, the Sharps 1873 Sporting Rifle being one of them.

The Burnside Carbine Model 1864

The third rifle from the top down is the Burnside Carbine 4th Model 1864, often said to be one of the finest carbines used during the Civil War This firearm was produced by the Burnside Rifle Company in Providence Rhode Island.The rifle was designed by Ambrose Burnside, an ex-Army officer who left the military to devote all his time to designing the carbine.

Returning to service with the Civil War, Burnside’s command didn’t fare as well as the rifles with his name did. He and his troops lost the Battle of Fredericksburg and retreated. The story is that afterward many of his men complained directly to the White House about Burnside’s ineptness in battle.

About 7,000 of these carbines were manufactured. They used an unusual cone shaped metal cartridge for use in a percussion system. Features with this rifle included an  iron buttplate, a single iron barrel band, saddle riding bar and ring on left side, strap hook on bottom of the butt, a double hinged iron loading lever and a hinged sight. This rifle system used a rotating block, released by a loading lever that was activated by a hinged, clamping catch.

The Starr Model 1858 Carbine

Here was a breech loading, percussion, paper cartridge single shot rifle that was purchased by the U.S. Army during the latter years of the Civil War. The rifles were manufactured by the Starr Arms Company of Yonkers New York. The company also built revolvers and it’s been said by some that the revolvers were a bit more popular than the carbines. The reviews of the carbine depended on who you asked. Some cavalry officers seemed to like the Sharps better while many of the non combatants in the war department favored the Starr. One story that circulated was that the the troops were often issued Sharps ammunition which didn’t work well at all with the Starr rifles.

As a side note, the Starr Arms Company manufactured three revolver models that were used during the Civil War. These included the .36 caliber Model 1858 Double Action Navy, the .44 caliber Model 1858 Double Action Army, and the .44 caliber Model 1863 Single Action Army.

These carbines based on Starr’s 1858 patent were produced in fairly large quantities during the Civil war. It’s estimated that over 20,000 of these carbines were built from 1862 to 1865. Standard features found on the 1858 Starr Carbine included a brass buttplate with squared tang, iron loading lever that doubles as a trigger guard, a single brass band, a single leaf hinged sight and a saddle ring on the left side.

Below are links to additional Trips Into History photo articles you may find interesting…

Fort Union’s Santa Fe Trail Wagon Ruts

The Military Cannon

Western Frontier Doctors

fort sumner new mexico museum

Firearms on display at Fort Sumner New Mexico Museum

Some Excellent Sites to View Historic Carbines

During our travels we’ve come across several historic sites which in themselves have marvelous displays of frontier firearms. These include, but certainly are limited to, the sites listed below.

Fort Garland Colorado– Fort Garland was established in 1858 to protect settlers in the San Luis Valley.  This old frontier fort has a large display of carbines and revolvers dating to the mid to late 1800’s. Fort Garland is located about 78 miles north of Taos New Mexico and about 90 miles southwest of Pueblo Colorado.

fort garland colorado barracks

Cavalry Barracks at Fort Garland

Fort Stockton Texas– This is a finely preserved western fort in southwest Texas in the town of Fort Stockton. Easy to reach via Interstate 10, Fort Stockton has a large collection of rifles and carbines used during the mid to late 1800’s. Sharps rifles and many other firearms are on display including artifacts retrieved from the fort and a lot of history regarding the buffalo soldiers who at various times were stationed there.

Fort Union New Mexico– Located just north of Las Vegas New Mexico and a few miles west of Interstate 25 and along the old Santa Fe Trail, Fort Union was an important fort protecting commerce traveling the Santa Fe Trail. Lots of artifacts and frontier rifles are on display along with the ruins of fort buildings. Fort Union also has original wagon ruts dating back to the Santa Fe Trail days. It’s a must stop if you’re traveling between Denver and Santa Fe.

santa fe trail wagon ruts

Fort Sumner Museum New Mexico– Fort Sumner’s fame includes being the site where Billy the Kid is buried. The museum has a very large collection of frontier firearms as well as artifacts dating back to when the fort was operational during the mid to late 1800’s. Fort Sumner is located about 44 miles south of Santa Rosa New Mexico and Interstate 40. Fort Sumner is also about 150 miles east southeast of Albuquerque. If you’re traveling Interstate 40 between Amarillo Texas and Albuquerque it’s a great stop.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History)