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Home to Santa Clara 6/9-10/2022

by Chris Guenzler

In November 2021, Elizabeth joined the Central Coast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and became their National Representative on the NRHS Advisory Council, changing from her At-Large membership. It was announced in March that a special tour of the Southern Pacific Sacramento Shops would be offered by the chapter on June 11th, so we made plans to attend. In addition, the monthly Board meeting of the Central Coast Chapter was occuring the day before so she would be able to attend a meeting in-person rather than joining by video conference. On Sunday, we would be in Jamestown to ride the train at Railtown 1897. The two of us came up with an itinerary which included Elizabeth's municipal pin project for California along the way on Thursday, photographing stations on Friday and a visit to ride the train at Ardenwood Historic Park in Fremont, a place neither of us had ever been to. We had a plan so now we had to live it.

6/9/2022 We packed and after a good breakfast, we departed at 9:00 with Elizabeth driving us up Interstate 5 to the rest area at the top of the Grapevine. She continued north to Tulare where they did not have a pin. I drove us to The Habit for lunch and north to Visalia where she scored a pin.

Here is the City of Visalia pin she received. Her project of writing to all 458 cities and counties in the state was finished but there were several from which she had not received responses, Visalia being one of them.

Union Pacific 5554 East with Chicago and North Western heritage unit 1995 in the consist, a nice surprise and the first time Elizabeth had seen it.

Next was Union Pacific 5801 East heading down the San Joaquin Valley. I drove her next to Ceres but, alas, no pins, so we continued to Stockton where we checked into the Best Western Heritage Hill for the night.

6/10/2022 This morning we cuddled first then checked the Internet before checking out and I drove Elizabeth to the International House Of Pancakes for breakfast then made our way to Pittsburg were we found the first depot of the day.

Santa Fe Pittsburg station built in 1916. Next I drove Elizabeth to the Pittsburg City Hall where she received her pin. I left here and we went straight to Martinez and parked in the regional park.

Southern Pacific Martinez station built in 1876.

Southern Pacific 0-6-0 1258 built by Southern Pacific in 1921.

Santa Fe box car 40992.

Santa Fe caboose 999390 built by American Car and Foundry in 1928.

Martinez Amtrak station built in 1999. The Capitol Corridor, San Joaquins, Coast Starlight and California Zephyr all serve Martinez. Next we took the skyline highway to Crockett with many fantastic views along the way.

Southern Pacific Crockett station built in 1919 which is home to the Crockett Historical Museum. Next I drove us to Berkeley for two stations.

Southen Pacific Berkeley (University Avenue) station built in 1908.

Santa Fe Berkeley station built in 1904 which now houses the Berkeley School. I then drove to old Oakland station.

Southern Pacific 16th Street Tower built in 1912.

Southern Pacific Oakland station, also built in 1912, which was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but continued serving trains at an adjacent building until 1994.

The upper level where the Southern Pacific Key trains once ran. Our next stop was Centerville.

Southern Pacific Centerville station built in 1910.

Southen Pacific Centerville shelter built in 1910. I then drove us to Ardenwood Historic Farm and we parked under a tree on this hot day.

Ardenwood Historic Farm

The Carter Brothers

Northern California had no shortage of home grown car builders. Most were small specialty shops, but a few had aspirations to join the big boys back east.

The most important and longest lived of the builders were the Carter Brothers, Thomas and Martin. Active from 1874 to 1902, the Carters probably built about 5,000 cars over 28 years. They specialized in narrow gauge equipment, but also built horse cars, cable cars, a few electrics, and some standard gauge equipment. Early shops were located in Monterey, Sausalito and San Francisco. By 1877 they built what would be their final shop in Newark, California on the South Pacific Coast Railroad, less than a mile from Ardenwood Farm.

The Newark shops were located just east of the Newark station to the north of Carter Street. There were three 150 foot long two-bay buildings adjacent to the South Pacific Coast Railroad's backshops and roundhouse. Here the Carter's work crews of about 24 men built the cars using hand tools, muscle and skill.

The Carter's also exported equipment as far away as Brazil and Alaska. Cars would be built and assembled in Newark; painted and then carefully disassembled; shipped to the destination and then reassembled by workers sent along with the 'kits'.

Thomas Carter was the businessman, he maintained offices on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. Martin Carter ran the shops in Newark and lived locally.

The South Pacific Coast Railroad

In 1880 the SPCRR was the South Pacific Coast Railroad, a narrow-gauge railroad that steamed south across the marshes and farms of Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, then wound through the mountains and forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains until it reached the ocean at Santa Cruz.

The SPCRR carried lumber and produce from the from the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Santa Clara Valley to build and feed the growing cities of Oakland and San Francisco. It carried commuters, travelers, and tourists from small farm towns and logging camps to big cities. It maintained a fleet of locomotives, baggage cars, passenger cars, box cars, flat cars and cabooses from shops in Newark, California.

Engines and cars wrecked in the Santa Cruz Mountains arrived in Newark as wrecks on flatcars and returned to service under their own steam. The Carter Brothers car shops turned out logging disconnects, flatcars, boxcars, coaches, baggage cars, cabooses, cable cars and streetcars. The first industry in Newark spawned a foundry, hotels, homes and even a church.

Today the SPCRR is the Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources, a non-profit 501(c) corporation operating the Railroad Museum at Ardenwood Historic Farm Regional Park in Fremont, close to the original Carter Shops in Newark.

The Railroad Museum restores equipment representative of those bygone days. Our collection contains over 17 wooden cars from the 1870s to the 1920s. Most of the cars were built by the Carter Brothers in Newark or the West Side Lumber Company. We are actively restoring 3 cars and have 7 cars in service. We operate three days a week on 1-1/2 miles of track in Ardenwood recreating the original SPCRR's Centerville Branch using a 1885 North Pacific Coast Railroad flatcar set up as a picnic car on scheduled runs through farm fields and eucalyptus groves.

Our restoration efforts are usually performed at our yards at the end of the line, but on interpretive days they are performed in front of the park visitors using hand tools and 19th. century techniques. On special event days costumed brakemen and drivers operate the branch railroad and tell stories; blacksmiths shape iron and steel into box-car parts; carpenters construct mortise and tenon joints and repair cars; laborers lay track; and mechanics tend the journal-boxes and brake-gear on the cars.

The Centerville Branch

The Centerville Branch of the South Pacific Coast connected Newark and Centerville (now one of the districts of Fremont). It was a horse drawn branch railroad for its entire 30+ year existence. The existing double track Union Pacific Dumbarton Cutoff between Niles and Newark runs a few yards south of the old branch line on Baine Avenue.

The SPCRR operated a recreation of this line in Ardenwood Historic Farm Regional Park using draft horses to pull a picnic car on 1 1/2 miles of 3' gauge track until 2015. Many of our ties have had the center worn down by the steel toes horseshoes of the horses.

Since 2015 we have pulled trains behind internal combustion 'critters' - Plymouth industrial switch engines.

We also built a replica of a single truck flatcar used on that line in 1994. This replica has wood pedestal bearings like the original.

Our Visit

We walked to the station to buy our tickets and were told that their system was down so "go ride our train" and we said "Thank you!" Elizabeth and I walked around the depot and boarded the next train to Deer Park. A few minutes later our conductor told us to remain seated and we were off with a toot of the horn.

It was going to be very hard to get a picture of the front of our train as the engine was so small.

Views of the Ardenwood Historic farm.

Is there really an engine on the front of our train?

Heading for the trees and the shade on a hot day.

Two trees that came down during a recent windstorm.

Views of the benches on which passengers ride on this train.

A forward view as we arrive at the switch to enter Deer Park.

Deer Park station.

I moved to the rear car to get a picture of the engine running around the train. It was a 5 ton Plymouth switcher built for the United States Navy in 1968 and given number 581, and acquired in 2004.

The trip back to the Ardenwood station.

The engine running around the train.

Ardenwood station

The timetable for today's train ride. Since the volunteers were busy with the train and there was no one else from the Society around, we decided to come back another time to see the rest of their equipment. So we left and drove to the Quality Inn in Santa Clara. I wrote this part of the story before we went for dinner at the Habit with Steve Ferrari, President of the Central Coast Chapter NRHS.