Perhaps you’ve stumbled across this tiny museum, which is actually an historic railway car sitting on the brick plaza in front of the Bechtel Corporate Headquarters at 50 Beale Street near Market Street.
Biggest and smallest
While Bechtel is America’s largest engineering company known for some of the world’s biggest projects, including the construction of the Hoover Dam, the Channel Tunnel, Hong Kong International Airport, the Bay Bridge and BART, this museum is perhaps San Francisco’s smallest. Admission is free.
Why an old railway car?
The company’s founder, Warren A. Bechtel (1872-1933), had his start as a contractor for the Western Pacific Railway. Bechtel’s civil engineering projects in the West expanded in number and in size during which time a railway car served as the private accommodation for the Bechtel family, moving them from project to project in the 1920s. The 18 meter long wooden railway car, WeeTeeKaa, is a replica. To learn more about its renovation, follow an online conversation here which includes comments from individuals who worked on the actual restoration project.
The WaaTeeKaa was a gift to Warren’s son, Stephen David Bechtel (1900-1989), and his wife, Laura (1903-1992), when they were in their 80s. It was she, his college sweetheart, who named it WaaTeeKaa. The ceremony took place here in 1988, attended by the senior Bechtels and their son, Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. who had taken over the company leadership from his father in 1960. It is Steve, Jr.’s son, Riley P. Bechtel, representing the fourth generation, who currently leads the company.
Although no longer fitted out as a traveling home, inside the railway car are four attractive wood paneled rooms with displays covering an historic timeline of the company from 1898 including family backgrounds, photographs, project blueprints and descriptions, some correspondence, memorabilia and artefacts.
The dedication plaque
The plaque reads: “In the 1920s, the railroad car WaaTeeKaa was home to Steven and Laura Bechtel and their family at remote construction sites in the West. This vintage cars has been restored to replicate the original WaaTeeKaa. It is dedicated, as the Bechtel Museum, to the can-do spirit of the Bechtel men and women: past, present and future.”
50 Beale Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Open Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.