Take a short road trip to Old Sacramento’s auto, science museums

Two museums north and south of Old Sacramento bring fresh perspective and ideas to the other half-dozen museums in Old Sacramento, which preserves the days of Sacramento’s Gold Rush history and is home to more than 50 historic buildings.

Just south of Old Sacramento, the California Auto Museum, 2200 Front St., is attracting crowds with a special exhibit featuring a display of 20 early and current electric and steam-powered cars. The museum is home to 130 classic and vintage autos ranging from cars from the brass era of the early 1900s, right up to 1960s/’70s muscle cars, racing cars and noteworthy cars of the past 30 years.

This 1905 Studebaker Electric Roadster lost out to gas-powered autos during the early 1900s.

The special exhibit starts at the dawn of the automotive age in late 1800s, when both US and European manufacturers experimented with electric, steam and kerosene or gasoline-powered vehicles. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

The Tango electric roadster carries two adults in tandem and at 38 inches wide, two can cruise abreast in one lane.

By 1897, the first motorized taxis in New York City were electric; a few years later, more than 1,000 of them roamed city streets. The first hybrid electric car was built in 1899 by Porsche, which built over 300 of these vehicles.

Earlier, in 1886, Karl Benz patented his “vehicle powered by a gas engine,” providing the birth of gasoline-powered cars. In 1897 Ransom Olds would begin the Olds Motor Works and introduced the 1901 Oldsmobile Model R “curved dash” auto, becoming the first mass-produced gasoline car in America.

In the early 1900s, US oil discoveries lead to a boom in production of energy – dense, easily portable and inexpensive gasoline-powered cars would take the lead. With Henry Ford’s assembly line churning out thousands of Model Ts, by the 1920s half the autos in America were Ford-built gasoline-powered cars.

The brass water tank helped produced the steam to power this 1914 Stanley Steamer.

Particularly interesting autos in the special exhibit are the electric Tesla Plaid Roadster (fastest production car in the world, zero to 60 in under two seconds), a 1905 Studebaker electric, a 1914 Stanley Steamer, the tiny 2004 Tango electric and a 1901 Locomobile steamer .

On the north edge of Old Sac is the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity (MOSAC), at 400 Jibboom St., Sacramento. The space, science and technology museum occupies the rehabilitated 114-year-old PG&E Power Station, with a restaurant and educational center, a planetarium, and a new open-space park area with amphitheater. The venerable California Railroad Museum and Sacramento History Museum are just a few blocks south.

MOSAC's Curiosity Development Center greets museum visitors.

MOSAC is a noteworthy public-private partnership of city of Sacramento, SMUD and the Powerhouse Science Center to transform the old power station into a dynamic regional destination. With a modern facility to bring K-12 schools, colleges, universities, museums, and other community resources together build a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) learning ecosystem and help inspire students to enter STEAM careers, it appears on its way. Just a few of the special exhibits designed to reach youth, young adults and families, include:

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