The City’s infinite microclimates can make it hard to experience seasons, but a Bay Area gem near Suisun Bay offers the perfect springtime ticket.
Running through April 28 — and possibly later, depending on Mother Nature — are the Western Railway Museum’s 12th annual Spring Wildflower Train Rides.
“The wildflowers have to keep going,” says Phil Kohlmetz, the museum’s executive director. “I was utterly panicked three weeks ago. We had good rain in November and December, but we got that last good rain and it’s warmer, and they’re all opening up. I’ve never seen more filaree than I have this year.”
Typical floral sightings include fields of blue and purple lupine and vetch, poppies, daisylike goldfields and fiery red sheep sorrel toward the end of the season.
There are two rides: the Scenic Limited and the Vintage Comet. The Scenic Limited features cookies and lemonade for first-class passengers in observation parlor carriages dating back to 1914, and the Vintage Comet does a special sunset ride at 5 p.m. Saturdays, complete with wine tasting from Suisun vintners.
“The light is spectacular at 5,” Kohlmetz says. “And you get some time with people who are real winemakers, and it’s a good pour. It’s authentic and close to the bone. Suisun Valley produces excellent wine too. They really don’t get enough credit.”
The 10-mile rides include views of Mount Diablo, Shiloh Church, Suisun Marsh and, of course, the flowers.
The Western Railway Museum has about 50 electric trains on display at any one time, about half of which are operable. The 22-acre museum sits atop Rio Vista Junction — a former stop on the now-retired Sacramento Northern line — a 184-mile electric commuter line that linked San Francisco to Sacramento and Chico.
While the focus is on California, the museum also has rare carriages from Blackpool, England and Melbourne, Australia.
After more than 40 years of collecting, WRM was founded in 1984 by the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association as a labor of love, and it largely remains so, operated by BAERA volunteers.
Kohlmetz, a lifelong railway enthusiast, admits he “speaks train,” and he looks forward to the yearly blooms with great anticipation.
“These flowers, the biggest ones are only the size of your thumbnail,” Kohlmetz says. “It’s only in this mass profusion that they create this gorgeous carpet. Most are not showy flowers, but collectively they’re truly impressive.”