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Santa Clara Depot (a.k.a., Santa Clara Station) is a one-story wood frame combination (passenger and freight) railroad depot located in Santa Clara, CA. According to its National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, the structure "is the oldest railroad station building in California in continuous service; is the only remaining station from the period of initial construction of the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad (California's second railroad after the pioneer Sacramento Valley Railroad); is one of only two structures of the SF & SJ to survive to the present (the other being the much-modified Menlo Park Depot); is one of the largest surviving wood frame depots in California; [and] is one of few remaining examples of board-and-batten depots. It retains a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association, and represents the distinctive characteristics of a type, period and method of construction." It was begun in 1859 (before the Civil War), was mostly completed by the autumn of 1863, when rail service began, and was probably finished by the end of December of that year. The construction of the railroad led to the growth of the Santa Clara area as a center for farming and fruit-related industries and was also associated with the growth of Santa Clara College (founded in 1851, later known as the University of Santa Clara). In 1983, the state of California, through Caltrans, acquired the building from the railroad, and two years later the South Bay Historical Railroad Society (SBHRS) leased the depot and started to restore it. SBHRS now maintains a small museum in the station, a model railroad display and a library of railroad history. Santa Clara Depot was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in February, 1985.

  • Santa Clara Depot (ca. 1912)
  • Santa Clara Depot (current view)
  • Plaque commemorating Santa Clara Depot
  • Recreation of original ticket window at Santa Clara Depot museum
As early as 1851, plans for a railroad linking San Francisco and San Jose (the first capital of California) had begun, and were revived eight years later. Financing for the project came from county governments in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. The first excursion ride in January 1864 between the two endpoints of San Francisco and San Jose (SF & SJ) attracted thousands of passengers in coaches, box cars and cattle cars. When the train reached San Jose, it was greeted with a 13-gun salute and civic celebrations.

Only four years after the commencement of service, the SF&SJ was absorbed by the new Southern Pacific Railroad (SP). SP constructed a line into southern California and then towards the east, eventually linking with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in 1881, completed the second transcontinental railroad.

The depot was moved to its current site on the west side of the tracks in 1877, probably due to safety considerations and because of plans to add a freight depot at the rear of the station. By the turn of the century, the Pratt-Low Preserving Company, the largest fruit packing plant in central California, was established south of the depot. Other local businesses included a lumber mill, a tannery noted for its fine leather, a flour mill and a brewery. Santa Clara College was a stockholder in the railroad, and the depot's proximity to the campus was intentional: students and faculty of the college were now able to commute quickly to San Francisco and San Jose. After World War II, San Jose and Santa Clara developed as the epicenter of semiconductor production. There were major developments in the electronics industry and corporations and startups moved to the area. Orchards were transformed into office parks, and the population exploded.

The depot features vertical board and batten siding of clear heart redwood that was felled in the nearby mountains. The building has a wood-shingled gable roof with broad, overhanging eaves supported on gable ends by knee-braced purlins and ridge beam, and on the sides by X-braces, except that the west eaves of the passenger portion of the depot are supported by curved brackets. Windows and doors make reference to the Greek Revival style of architecture. The passenger end of the depot is the original structure, little changed from its original appearance. The entire building has been in its present form since at least 1885.

The station currently serves the Amtrak California Capital Corridor line, the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) line and Caltrain local and limited-stop trains. A Silicon Valley extension of the BART rapid transit system is expected to be built, in which the Santa Clara station will serve as the terminus.

South Bay Historical Railroad Society (SBHRS) began restoration of the site in 1985. Volunteers donated 25,000 hours of labor, which included removing debris, replacing timbers, and extensive painting. The Edward Peterman Museum of Railroad History, located in the depot, displays a large collection of historic railroad artifacts. On the depot’s siding is the Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation business car #184, which was loaned to the museum in June, 2009. Within the depot are two operational HO and N scale model railroad layout displays, depicting different railroad eras and venues.

"NPGallery." National Park Service. Access date: 1/8/17.

Snyder, John W. "NRHP Inventory - Nomination Form - Santa Clara Depot." National Parks Service. Publication Date: 2/28/85. Access date: 1/8/17.

"The Great American Stations - Santa Clara–University, CA (SCC)." Amtrak. Access date: 1/8/17.

"Santa Clara County: California's Historic Silicon Valley - Santa Clara Depot." National Park Service. Access date: 1/8/17.

"FACT SHEET: BART Silicon Valley - Extension to Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara." BART. Access date: 1/8/17.

"Santa Clara Depot." SBHRS - South Bay Historical Railroad Society. Access date: 1/8/17.

"Railroad Buildings - Santa Clara Depot." SBHRS - South Bay Historical Railroad Society. Access date: 1/8/17.

Andrews, Diane. "Model Train Show On Track at Historic Santa Clara Caltrain Depot." Santa Clara Weekly. Publication Date: 4/18 - 4/24/12. Access date: 1/8/17.