Firsts in San Bernardino

1884 - First Steam

Powered Fire Engine

(initally hand drawn,

later horse drawn).




Wednesday 9 AM - Noon
Saturday 10 AM - 3 PM

FREE Admission

FREE Parking

FREE Tours

1170 W. Third Street
San Bernardino, CA 92410

Map & Directions

San Bernardino
Historical &
Pioneer Society

P.O. Box 875
San Bernardino, CA 92402


(909) 888-3634 


Depot & Museum Tour

November 6, 2019

Tours will  be conducted

on  the  first Wednesday of

each month at 10:00 am.

Call (909)  888-3634  for

a reservation.  FREE


Group Tours

For a Group Tour on

Saturday or any other 

day call (909) 888-3634.


Virtual Museum Tour

Click here for visual tour

of the museum.


Photo Histories

Click here to view local San

Bernardino and railroad

photographic histories.


Click here for the Santa 

Fe Railway Historical and

Modeling Society.


Norton AFB Museum

Now Open:

Thursday 10:00 to 2:00

Saturday  10:00 to 2:00



N.A.R.V.R.E. Meeting

at the Mexico Cafe

The next meeting of the

National Association of

Retired & Veteran Railway

Employees will be held

at the Mexico Cafe.





Upcoming Events:

The Museum is open on:

Wednesday 9:00 to 12:00

Saturday 10:00 to 3:00  (Virtual Museum Tour)


2019 Video - San Bernardino Depot




October 26, 1869 - Los Angeles & San Pedro RR

The "San Gabriel" (2-2-0) was the first steam locomotive to haul freight and passengers between Los Angeles and San Pedro.     (Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library)  

Built between 1868 and 1869, the 21-mile line connected Los Angeles with the shipping harbor of San Pedro.

The railroad was the brainchild of Phineas Banning, who made some of the first improvements to the harbor, dredging a channel and building a wharf (Banning also developed the port town of Wilmington).

As a California state senator, Banning sponsored a bill authorizing the City and County of Los Angeles to finance construction of the railroad. The city and county then awarded Banning a contract to construct the line.

When it opened on October 26, 1869, a crowd of 1,500 (roughly one-quarter of L.A.'s population at the time) converged on the rail depot at Alameda and Commercial to celebrate Banning's triumph. 

While an ox-cart and wagon road had connected Los Angeles to the harbor for decades, the railroad slashed the cost of transporting goods and passengers.

 The railroad charged $6 per ton to transport inbound dry goods to the city. Outbound grain cost $2.50 per ton to ship, and passengers could buy a one-way ticket to the port for $1.50. Total commerce at the harbor more than doubled from 26,000 net tons of freight in 1869 to 55,000 in 1871.

Investments in the port by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Southern Pacific Railroad (which bought Banning's 21-mile line in 1872) seemed to ensure that San Pedro Bay would be the site of the region's harbor.

Everything changed in the early 1890s, when the Southern Pacific abruptly abandoned the Wilmington and San Pedro ports and instead began routing its freight trains to Santa Monica. 


October 8, 1873 - Grief Embers

 Grief Embers

Grief Embers was one of 26 slaves that accompanied the Mormons on their journey to San Bernardino in 1851.

Grief was born in 1812 or 1813 and was first a slave for a Mr. Embers, then for Mormon Bishop William Crosby.  Grief Embers may have suffered some tragedy in early life and thus acquired the name Grief, for the term "grief" did not fit his personality.

Grief was best known for his tin horn, said to be about six feet long, that he played for his own amusement, on holiday celebrations and to call the men together in preparation for an Indian attack.

After the Mormon recall of 1857, about 60 percent of the San Bernardino Mormons returned to Utah.  Land prices plummeted. Grief became the earliest recorded black owner of real estate in the Inland Empire (I Street south of Mill Street). Grief and his wife, Harriet, had three daughters.

Grief Embers died of natural causes on October 8, 1873.  In his obituary that appeared in the San Bernardino Guardian it was stated that, "Grief Embers, a well-known colored man, died suddenly about noon yesterday, from the bursting of a blood vessel.  He died respected by all who knew him".


October 3, 1878 - Fire Department Formed

In 1878 the City of San Bernardino was without fire protection.  It was in that year that several disastrous fires occurred, fires that consumed several city blocks.

The present San Bernardino Fire Department was founded on October 3, 1878, when members of the old company met at the Pine's Hotel and formed a volunteer company.  It was funded by the sale of property and equipment from the previous Fire Company that existed from 1865 to 1871.

Membership certificates like this one for E. H. Passmore were issued  to everyone in the organization.

Fire apparatus consisted of a 246 Piano Engine (a hand pumper) capable of supplying two hose streams and a hose cart, Pioneer #1 (located in the Museum, along with Pioneer #2 hose cart).

Click here to view a photo history of the San Bernardino Fire Department.


October 25, 1968 - Santa Fe Superintendent's Car

1965 Photograph of Santa Fe Superintendent's Car No. 406 parked just East of the Depot in San Bernardino.

Santa Fe No. 406 was a steel Superintendent's Car manufactured by Pullman in 1926.

It was 52 feet long and equipped with four-wheel trucks and 37 inch Santa Fe standard rolled steel wheels. The nine foot wheel base insured an easy riding car.

Car 406 was assigned to Santa Fe's Middle Division in the 1950s.

In 1959 its Waukesha air conditioning system was replaced with window air conditioners, about the time it was moved to San Bernardino and assigned to A. K. Johnson, Superintendent of Santa Fe's Los Angeles Division.

The Los Angeles Divsion headquarters was located on the second floor of San Bernardino's Depot and Superintendent Johnson used Car 406 as a mobile office.

By 1964, No. 406 had been modernized with roller bearings, solid steel platform railing & shadow-lined paint.

No. 406 remained in San Bernardino until it was sold to the Texas Tank Car Works on October 25, 1968.

With Car 406 parked near the Depot, we can catch a glimpse of one of the Santa Fe Shops across the tracks.


October 26, 1992 - Metrolink Begins

Shown above is a Metrolink Hyundai-Rotem Train Car             Metrolink Begins Operation

On Tuesday, October 26, 1992 the first Metrolink trains began simultaneous operation serving the counties of Ventura, Los Angeles & San Bernardino:

*   Ventura Line: Moorpark to L. A. Union Station

*  Santa Clarita Line: Santa Clarita to L. A. Union Station

*  San Bernardino Line: Pomona to L. A. Union Station

* Regular service from San Bernardino to Los Angeles would begin in the spring of 1993.


October 16, 2003 - President George W. Bush

(Photograph courtesy of the U. S. White House)

President George W. Bush met privately with California Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday, October 16, 2003, at Riverside's Mission Inn.

At San Bernardino's Radisson Hotel (formerly the Red Lion and recently called the Clarion Hotel) the President addressed a group of VIPs discussing the economy and terrorism.

George W. Bush, the son of a former President, graduated from Yale and Harvard, was an F-102 pilot in the Texas Guard, owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and former governor of Texas before becoming President in 2001.  

(Theodore Roosevelt was the first Prtesident to visit San Bernardino.)

Click here for a history of the U. S. Presidents that have visited San Bernardino.


2019 - Union Pacific Celebrates the Transcontinental Railroad


Union Pacific's historic steam locomotives --- Living Legend No. 844 and Big Boy No. 4014 --- are touring the Union Pacific system throughout 2019 to commemorate the transcontinental railroad's 150th anniversary.

Living Legend No. 844 is the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific.  

It was delivered in 1944 and is still in operation today.

 A high-speed passenger engine, it pulled such widely known trains as the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose and Challenger.

Big Boy No. 4014 is one of the world's largest steam locomotives and the only operating Big Boy locomotive.  

After it's retirement from service in 1961, it sat on display in the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, California for over 50 years.  

Union Pacific then relocated 4014 back to Cheyenne, Wyoming to begin a multi-year restoration.

No. 844 left Cheyenne on April 27 and made several brief stops before arriving in Ogden, Utah on April 28, where it remained through May 9.

No. 4014  departed Cheyenne on May 4 and arrived at the Ogden Train Station for the May 9 celebratory event with No. 844.

For the latest update of Union Pacific's 2019 Steam Schedule click here.

In addion to Union Pacific's Odgen celebration, there was the Golden Spike Sesquicentenial Celebration and Festival at Promonrory Summit May 10th through May 12th.