Although few people seem to know it, Sacramento is the state capital of California. The history of California is inextricably bound up with railways. These days, of course, everyone flies, but at a time when the only choices for getting from the East Coast to California were cross country by stage coach or by sea with a land crossing in Panama the prospect of a trans-continental railway was enormously attractive. Consequently the State Railroad Museum provides a history of the state, not just of trains. I am indebted to my friend and traveling companion, Kevin Standlee, for some of the detailed information on California’s history and railways.
If you are staying in the San Francisco Bay Area and fancy spending a few days up state you might want to try taking the train. Amtrak’s Capitol service runs from San Jose and Oakland to Sacramento several times a day and you can arrange to have a hire car waiting for you on arrival. By European standards the journey is painfully slow, but it is comfortable and quite scenic, especially if you are a bird watcher. Do not try to drive from the Bay Area to Sacramento for the weekend, especially if there is good snow at Tahoe. The traffic out on Friday night and back on Sunday night is terrible.
You will need a car. There are no alternatives (though see the Folsom Old Town entry for news of future light rail projects).