San Carlos Station

If there is any historic station on the line that has been truly marginalized by the march of modernity then it would have to be San Carlos Station.

This beautiful and unique station looks like no other on the line. It was built in 1888 and is constructed with Almaden sandstone from Greystone Quarry in the Almaden Valley which echos the building material used at nearby Stanford University. The station is designed in an Richardsonian Romanesque style which is very unique for a railway depot in California. There are rumors that the architect that designed Stanford, Charles Coolidge, also designed San Carlos station.

The railway line has been elevated and the trains now tower above the station. There was a time when this distinctive station was the focus of the growing town of San Carlos but it has been hemmed in with the elevated railway to the east and the newly constructed residential buildings to the north and south.

Sadly this iconic station is in the shadow of all that surrounds it and speaks to the Bay Area in the 21 Century: over populated and addicted to cars.

It was hard to get a clear view of the entirety of the building because I couldn’t back up far enough without backing into the new residential buildings or having the conical tower disappear as I backed under the railway overpass. It felt a bit like the blind men and the elephant. I could only see bits of the station but never the whole thing.

This station also represents what I have seen at Colma, Millbrae, and Hillsdale. They are all buildings that no longer function as a passenger railway depots. In other words they are just empty shells that no longer serve a purpose other than being a bookmark in historical time. They are there for those who read the passages of time and I am one of those.

The San Carlos Station has housed many things: a post office, a church, a library, and lastly, a restaurant. And this restaurant now is closed and the interior is stripped bare. Sad really, that this architectural gem should serve some purpose other than just looking nice.

The San Carlos Station is now surrounded on three sides. The towering new residential building to the left makes a weak attempt to echo the sandstone look of the station.

My northbound train heading to San Francisco from Millbrae Transit Center. Don’t let it fool you, this is the end of the train, the diesel engine is pushing the train north. I was going to take BART to Daly City with three sketches in my bag.

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