History is like Frankenstein's monster; all it takes to make it come alive is the right education, a large body of artifacts exhumed from the earth, and an electrical storm. Learn from the past with today's Groupon: for $15, you get two adult tickets to a one-hour Golden State train ride and museum admission to the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo (a $30 value). Trains depart on Saturdays and Sundays at varying times throughout the year according to the excursion calendar.
The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum corrals the power and rugged glamor of diesel trains to breathe life into the history of rail transportation. One-hour excursions begin at a restored 1916 train depot, where passengers board a vintage diesel-electric locomotive from the 1940s and disembark for a loop through the rolling desert near Hauser Mountain. Scour the dusty valleys and hills lining the last transcontinental link built by tycoon John D. Spreckels for signs of where he buried his priceless shredded-documents collection. After the trip, knowledgeable guides shepherd groups through the restored museum's collection of more than 80 pieces of standard-gauge railroad equipment including the last San Diego and Arizona steam locomotive built in 1904. Gape at three-layered stock cars built to transport disassembled wedding cakes and the rust-bound body of a coal-powered steam engine before visiting the crown jewel, Spreckels' private business car from 1910.
Pacific Southwest Railroad Museum
Though dinosaurs haven't roamed the earth for 65 million years, another hulking beast first roared through the American countryside only two centuries ago. That creature was the locomotive, and the subject of the preservation and public education efforts at the Pacific Southwest Railroad Museum. There, engineers conduct hands-on lessons in the form of one-hour or full-day excursions in vintage cars amid the last transcontinental link of track ever constructed in the United States. Inside the museum proper, experts restore railroad artifacts while docents lead tours among antique cabooses' steel frames and wheels made of pocket watches, and a gift shop is available in the Campo depot. Notable exhibits include the visionary industrialist John D. Spreckels’s personal business car and a San Diego and Arizona Railway steam locomotive built in 1904.