The Oldest Station on the Line

On Saturday Morning I took the earliest southbound train from Hillsdale Station. My destination was the oldest passenger station on the line, and it is was in the county of my own birth: Santa Clara County. This is Santa Clara Station.

This station was built by the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad in 1863. It is the oldest station on the Caltrain line and the oldest passenger depot west of the Rocky Mountains. The station was moved from it’s original location on the opposite side of the tracks, to the west side, where the University of Santa Clara is located. In 1877, the passenger depot was joined to the freight house.

The station is at an important junction to points north. The trains to left (Coast Division) head north to San Francisco and the tracks that head to the right (Western Division) takes train to points north: Dunsmuir, Portland and Seattle. So the junction sees a lot of rail traffic.

By the 1980s, the depot had fallen into disrepair but in 1985 the South Bay Historical Railroad Society was founded with the mission of restoring the depot to it’s former condition. The restoration was completed on 1990.

The passenger depot in January of 2020, looks in great shape compared to other historic depots I have sketched on the line. This is due to the hard work of the volunteer labor of the South Bay Historical Railroad Society.

The depot was a very busy place on a Saturday morning and many children and their families were gathered and waiting for the museum to open at 10:00. The museum houses railroad memorabilia and a large model railroad layout which is the big draw for children. Both child and adult children!

One of the few places you can still see Southern Pacific in action, although in HO scale, is at the South Bay Historical Railroad Society. I had a model railroad when I was a kid. My HO gauge railway ran in an oval with a small town in the center. I had a Santa Fe “Super Chief” locomotive but my favorite was a Daylight GS-4 number 4449. The full scale locomotive pulled its passenger consist past Santa Clara Station but did not stop. Passengers wishing to board the Daylight had to go to San Jose.

This an original bench in the passenger waiting room of Santa Clara Station.

This control tower was built in 1926 and was in continuous use until July 17, 1993. The tower was built at the junction of Southern Pacific’s Coast and Western Divisions.

A MP36PH-3C diesel locomotive Number 928 took me to my final destination on this sketching journey, the end of the Caltrain line at San Jose Diridon Station.

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