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Finishing up the VTA and San Jose Trolley Barn 7/9/2022

by Chris Guenzler

We awoke at the Quality Inn and after finishing the Internet we went to the Black Bear Diner for breakfast. I then drove us to the Caltrain Mountain View station and we paid to park. This morning I would finish up the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Light Rail system with a ride from Mountain View to Baypointe.

The car that allowed me to finish it.

The map of our route. We made stops at Whisman, Middlefield, Bayshore/NASA, Moffett Park, Lockheed Martin, Borregas, Crossman, Fair Oaks, Vienna, Reamwood, Old Ironside, Great America, Lick Mill, Champion and Baypointe. Now here are scenes along the route from both ways.

The double blimp hangars of Moffett Federal Airfield.

NASA Ames Research Center.

Levi's Stadium, Home of the San Fransisco 49ers.

Great America Theme Park.

Hangar One, one of the world's largest free-standing structures, covering eight acres at Moffett Field. The massive hangar has long been one of the most recognizable landmarks of California's Silicon Valley. An early example of mid-century modern architecture, it was built in the 1930s as a naval airship hangar for the USS Macon and is now part of the NASA Ames Research Center.

A replica of the Southern Pacific station in Mountain View, built in 2002.

The Caltrain right-of-way.

Caltrain 229 heading for San Francisco from San Jose. I drove Elizabeth along the VTA lines into San Jose before we went to Walmart but no film was to be had. From here it was a short distance to the San Jose Trolley Barn at History Park, where we paid to park down the road in Kelly Park.

History Park of San Jose Trolley Barn

Electric trolleys were the main source of public transportation in San Jose between 1880 and 1938. These streetcars operated on nearly 130 miles of track throughout Santa Clara Valley. Automobiles were too expensive to be widely owned, so many San Jose residents used trolleys to travel around town and into the countryside, with tracks extending as far as Los Gatos, Saratoga, Alum Rock Park and Palo Alto.

The California Trolley and Railroad Corporation began its Historical Restoration Project in 1982 to restore six vintage streetcars. The Trolley Barn was built in 1984 in the style of trolley buildings of the early 1900s as a place to restore and display these streetcars. By 1988 the first restored trolleys were being used for public transportation in downtown San Jose, where they continue to operate today. Tracks from the barn extend the length of Kelley Park to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, and free streetcar rides are available to the public on weekends. The Trolley Barn and trolleys are featured in the Historic Transportation Experience School Program. The Trolley Barn is a joint project with the California Trolley & Railroad Corporation. Visit their website for a history of the trolley restoration project at History Park, as well as background on the trolleys in operation at the Park today.

History of Trolley Service

In 1868 Samuel Addison Bishop and his partners built the West’s first horsecar railroad which ran between San Jose and the mission town of Santa Clara. Cars were pulled along a line by horse over 4 1/2 miles of narrow gauge tracks. The horsecar railroad ran from San Jose Coyote Creek Bridge on Santa Clara Street to the Fredericksburg Brewery at the corner of Cinnabar and the Alameda, and from there to the town of Santa Clara.

Fares of ten cents were very popular from the beginning, and did away with the expensive and inconvenient stagecoach run. In 1871 Bishop acquired a second line which carried passengers from the train station in San Jose near San Pedro Street south to a terminus near Martha and Bestor Streets. Trains linked San Francisco to San Jose in 1864. Other horse-drawn lines were franchised. One ran from Market Street in San Jose to Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen, a scenic route outside of the then City limits.

Jacob Rich built a parallel line on Santa Clara Street in competition to Bishop’s line in 1878. At the height of competition, trolleys left San Jose for Santa Clara every 7 1/2 minutes. After years in a court battle for franchise rights, the decision was made to merge both franchises and upgrade to electric trolleys. 1901 saw the last of the horse-drawn trolleys in San Jose.

Bishop and Rich’s first line carrying electric power was underground. This decision satisfied the safety-conscious City Council. However, this design was unsuccessful — mud and leaves fell into the conduit slot and blocked power. Pedestrians had the habit of poking metal umbrella handles into the slot, which shorted the system, and stopped all trolleys on line. Bishop and Rich sold their trolley interests to ex-banker James Henry who successfully put power lines over the street on poles.

In 1903 James Rea (a Gilroy dairyman and real estate agent), F. L. Granger (a Santa Cruz railway promoter), and D. A. Hale (a San Jose department store owner) successfully raised $500,000 in construction bonds. The San Jose-Los Gatos Interurban Line, started in 1904, originated at Market & Bassett Streets in San Jose and terminated opposite the Hotel Lyndon in Saratoga.In 1938 saw the end of the trolley era. Tracks were torn up, and trolleys scrapped, sold or even used for housing.

San Jose and Peninsular Railroads ran on 126 miles of track from Palo Alto to Monte Vista near Cupertino, to Alum Rock Park in San Jose and to Los Gatos and Santa Clara, linking the towns of Los Gatos, Saratoga and Campbell to San Jose. Interurban lines crossed the Southern Pacific line in Los Gatos. Passengers could transfer lines and continue their trip to San Francisco or other destinations of the Southern Pacific line.< Special service trolleys were called flyers. Customers could board trolleys in Saratoga and arrive in San Jose in thirty minutes. In the spring the special Blossom Trolley ran along a 65-mile excursion through the Santa Clara Valley viewing the apricot, peach and pear blossoms for 35 cents. This was done in the luxury of the latest red trolley car with 52 plush seats, stained glass windows trimmed in gold leaf, and interiors finished in cherry wood. Fares on regular trolleys started at five cents then increased to ten cents or metal tokens at a cost of 3 for twenty five cents. Tracks were laid in the middle of the streets in town at ground level, inside of road. Outside of town, tracks were raised like railroad tracks. Signs were hung on hooks on the outside of the trolleys to indicate the destinations.

Our visit

As we walked into the park, the first thing we saw was this wig-wag crossing signal. Looking to the left we found our next items of interest.

Southern Pacific 0-6-0 1215 built by Baldwin 1913. 1215 was one of the first "modern" steam switchers on the railroad, equipped with superheating and piston valves. The locomotive was originally assigned to the Dunsmuir rail yard near Mount Shasta, and used mainly on the Southern Pacific's Western Division out of Oakland, Sacramento and Bakersfield. It last operated in San Francisco before being retired in 1957. The following year, it was donated to Hanford for a park display. The Feather River Railroad Society bought 1215 in 1995 and moved it to their Portola Railroad Museum. The California Trolley and Railroad Corporation acquired the locomotive from the Museum in 2004.

Orchard Supply Hardware Boxcar 1. In the early 1960s, the City of San Jose denied owner Al Smith permission to install a sign along Auzerais Street to promote his Orchard Supply Hardware store because a sign for the store already existed facing San Carlos Street. Undeterred, Smith bought this boxcar from Southern Pacific, painted the car with the OSH logo, and placed it at the end of the spur track behind his store and alongside Auzerais Street. It remained in that spot for nearly 50 years, and was occasionally featured in OSH's promotional material. Because of its long-term private ownership, the boxcar still closely resembles its "as-built" condition. Recognizing its historic relationship to the San Jose community, OSH donated the boxcar to the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation in 2013 for display in a museum setting. Al had to get his reporting mark from the Assocation of American Railroads.

Missouri Pacific caboose 13522 built by International Car in 1971.

Port Huron Traction Engine was manufactured by the Port Huron Engine and Thresher Company of Port Huron, Michigan and shipped to Wichita, Kansas on July 20, 1921. It was used for hauling, plowing and operating machinery from a belt to the engine flywheel. It produced 16 horsepower from a boiler that was designed for 175 pounds of pressure. It took over 10 years of part time work to restore this traction engine.

We then met Jim Maurer, one of the motormen, and second longest volunteer with the California Trolley & Railroad Corporation.

The Ron Diridon Sr. Trolley Barn informational board.

Portuguese Trolley Car 168 built by the Brill Company in 1934 in Portugal in 1934 to a turn-of-the-century design. It operated in Porto, Portugal until it came to San Jose in the early 1980's. Significant refurbishment has been done in San Jose including installation of a new ceiling and re-upholster of the seats.

Central Railroad Horse Drawn Streetcar 7 built by John Stephson in 1863 and was shipped to San Francisco around the Horn with several other horse-drawn streetcars. It ran on the Central Railroad from the Ferry Building to Potrero and Lone Mountain through the business district north of Market Street. After service as a horse drawn car, it may have been used as a trailer on cable cars. After 25 years of service, it became a tool shed until it was reduced and exhibited on the Hyde street pier for some years. The remains were acquired by the CTRC and restoration was completed in 1993.

San Jose Trolley 124 was built by the American Car Company in 1912 for the San Jose Railroad. It ran in San Jose from 1912 to 1934 when it was sold with Car 73 for use as housing. In 1920, its original red paint scheme changed to yellow and the windows were added to the open sections. Car 124 was restored and returned to service on November 18, 1988.

San Jose Trolley Car 143 was built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1922 and served in Fresno California for all of its useful life. It is called a Birney car as it was designed by Mr. Charles Birney who worked for the Stone and Webster Company at the time. The intent of the design was to reduce the costs of trolley operation, lower prices and stem the flow of riders from trolleys to private autos. To do this, several safety systems were added to allow the car to be licensed for use with a single operator. Thus, capital costs were increased somewhat (added systems) to permit a significant decrease in labor costs.

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway 0-4-0 5 was built by Baldwin in 1899 as Santa Fe Terminal Railway saddle tank locomotive 1 to work in San Francisco. It was transferred to the AT&SF in 1912, where it was renumbered 02419. In 1945 it was re-numbered again to 9419. It was rebuilt with a tender to appear in the 1948 Chicago Railroad Fair as "Little Buttercup" named after a character in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "HMS Pinafore". An oil burner, it weighs 69,860 lbs and has 17" x 24" cylinders and 51" drivers. Operating at a boiler pressure of 160 psi, it delivered 18,500 lbs tractive effort. Three years later, it appeared in the Columbia Pictures movie "Santa Fe" starring Randolph Scott and based on the novel of the same name by James Vance Marshall. Santa Fe donated Little Buttercup to the California State Railroad Museum and later it made its way to here.

Light Inspection Car built by Teetor-Hartley Motor Company in 1910.

Fairmont Speeder Model MM9 built by Fairmont Railway Motor Incorporated in 1927.

Trolley equipment in the glass case.

There is a model trolley line in this car house.

A children's trolley.

The Trolley Barn emblem.

1909 Facts. Jim then showed us what it takes to prepare the trolley for service. Elizabeth and I joined him aboard the trolley as he took it from the car barn to the loading area for the trip.

This track is not used by the public.

Ron Diridon Senior Trolley Barn.

On each trip, Jim gives an informational speech about the trolley as well as safety and then asked if anyone had any questions. After that, we were off for our first ride. Sit back and enjoy the ride through the history park.

The trip to the end of the line.

This tower, rising 115 feet, is a half-size replica of San Jose's electric light tower which was a gift from the San Jose Real Estate Board, built at a cost of $65,000 and was lit up at History Park for the first time on May 1, 1977. The original light tower straddled the intersection of Market and Santa Clara streets in downtown San Jose, and was the inspiration of J. J. Owen, editor of the San Jose Mercury. On May 13, 1881, Owen printed an editorial suggesting that by providing one high and immense source of arc light, the night would become as day for the downtown area. With the enthusiastic financial support of local citizens, construction began that August, and on December 13, 1881, the gigantic 237-foot tower was lit. The tower proved to be more spectacular than practical, since its 24,000 candlepower failed to sufficiently light the streets. The tower was to light up the downtown area, the theory being that enough light from a high enough source could do so. However, the six carbon arc lights at the top of the tower lit the sky, not the streets. The carbons for the arc lamps burned out and had to be replaced. The small lights running down and around the tower were added later. Local farmers complained that the tower’s lights disturbed their chickens and prevented them from roosting. Another common problem was that intoxicated individuals tried to climb the tower after leaving nearby bars. Neighborhood children used pieces of carbon under the lamp fixtures for their hopscotch games, and also enjoyed viewing fireworks launched from the tower as well as the decorations placed on it at Christmas. Although it did not fulfill its original purpose, the tower was a success in that it represented progress to the people of San Jose, because electricity was a relatively new source of power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Already damaged by a windstorm in February 1915, the tower completely collapsed into the street on December 3, 1915 at 11:55 a.m. The tower telescoped into itself and no one was hurt.

Here is Jim switching ends. The rear trolley pole is raised and the front pole is lowered onto the wire, plus two additional views of the car from both ends.

Here is the trip back to where we started. The next trip I will point out buildings along our route.

The Printing Office.

The Pacific Hotel.

The Band Stand.

Homes along the street.

The Tower.

The Steven's Fruit Barn.

Bungalows along our route.

Jim speaking with his passengers.

Banca D' Italia.

Jim and his trolley.

The Gardens.

Banca D'Italia and the Pacific Hotel building.

The Firehouse.

More homes along the street.

The Band Stand.

The City Park.

Dashaway Stables and Southern Pacific 1215. Since there we no other passengers Jim asked if we would like to pose the trolley and we took him up on it.

The trolley in front of the Pacific Hotel.

The trolley in front of the fire station.

The trolley near the old fire station.

The trolley in front of Steven's Fruit Barn. Now Jim would give Elizabeth and I a real treat.

A trolley photo runby. We then bought T-shirts and before leaving, caught Jim running with the next group of passengers coming back down the road.

The trolley returned the passengers to where they boarded. I gave Jim twenty dollars for all he did for us today, after which another gentleman with the group told us how to get to their steam engine so Elizabeth and I then drove over to Santa Clara Fairgrounds.

Southern Pacific 4-6-2 2479 built by Baldwin in 1923 which is being disassembled for relocation to the Niles Canyon Railway. Elizabeth then drove us to Milpitas where we checked into the Best Western Plus. Later we went to Denny's for dinner where I enjoyed a chicken fried steak and Elizabeth had the salmon then we returned to the hotel and I relaxed the rest of the evening.