CA: Historian to Speak Jan. 25 in Honor of Caltrain's 150th

Peter A. Hansen, a railroad historian who writes for both scholarly and popular publications, will discuss the enormous technological breakthrough brought about by the invention of the railroad during a talk tied to Caltrain’s 150th anniversary celebration being held by the San Mateo County Historical Association.

Hansen, the editor of Railroad History, the scholarly journal of the Railway & Historical Society, will speak Jan. 25 in honor of the anniversary of railroad service between San Francisco and San Jose.  The event will be held at the San Mateo County History Museum beginning at 1 p.m. as part of the organization’s “Courthouse Docket” series.  The museum is located at 2200 Broadway Street in downtown Redwood City. More details can be found here.

The Sacramento resident will discuss Steam, Silicon, and Brave New Worlds: The Railroad and Technological Change. 

In a region where the economy is largely based on technology, Hansen will offer reflections on an earlier world-changing invention – the railroad. No other industrial development has had such far-reaching effects, at least until the advent of the microprocessor, and perhaps not even then, according to Hansen.

Many of these changes were just beginning to be understood around the time that the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad was built, and the comparison between those times and the present is a fascinating one. 

Today known as “Caltrain,” the railroad between San Francisco and San Jose began service Jan. 16, 1864 and is the only continuously operating commuter railroad west of the Mississippi.

In addition to his work with Railroad History, Hansen is also a writer for popular and industry publications related to railroading, and is a writer of award-winning documentary films for public television. He has been a history consultant to several noted museums, including the California State Railroad Museum, the Nevada State Railroad Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.

Hansen has also been an on-camera expert for CBS News, NBC News and PBS.