Santa Clara (1985)
Santa Clara’s was one of two depots between San Francisco and San Jose when the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad began service. The other original SF & SJ railroad depots at San Francisco, San Mateo and San Jose have long been replaced but the Santa Clara depot has survived to be both the oldest on the Caltrain line and probably the oldest west of the Rockies, according to railroad depot historian Henry E. Bender Jr.
Originally, Santa Clara’s 24-foot-by-50-foot depot was located on the east side of the tracks, opposite where it stands today. To be on the same side as the town and the University of Santa Clara (then Santa Clara College), it was moved about 100 feet to the west, joined to an existing freight house in 1877, which was expanded to provide additional square footage.
Architecturally, it is one of the last remaining examples of first generation California railroad depots. The depot is a simple one-story vernacular board-and-batten structure with vaguely Gothic Revival style details. It was built with clear heart redwood lumber secured with square nails. The passenger end of the depot, which is the north end, is the original structure and looks much as it did in the 1860’s.
The opening of the railroad spurred the development of farming, particularly orchards and other fruit-related industry such as canneries. By the turn of the century, Pratt-Low Preserving Company, the largest fruit packing plant in central California, was located near the depot. Faculty and students also could commute to campus easily, and an educational elite was introduced into the rural farming community.
The depot had fallen into disrepair by the 1980s, when the California Department of Transportation assumed management of the service from Southern Pacific. The South Bay Historical Railroad Society was founded in 1985 to rehabilitate the depot. Members worked with the City of Santa Clara and Caltrans to complete the depot’s renovation in 1990.
In 1995, the SBHRS hosted a two-day celebration marking the 130th anniversary of the depot, as well as the railroad, and some 10,000 people attended the open house to herald the remarkable survival of this classic early California depot. (Historic Caltrain Site Link Here)
Fun Fact: When the depot opened, a telegraph operator was paid just $100 a month.