Lost Railroad on the West Side (Part 1)

I'm fascinated by abandoned or defunct railroads and their histories, especially if they were in my neighborhood. Here's the story of the Saratoga & Almaden Railroad (1884 - 1886) as best as I can reconstruct it.



Surviving Bonds sold for Saratoga & Almaden RR
Surviving Bonds sold for Saratoga & Almaden RR
Phase One Route of Saratoga & Almaden Railroad
Phase One Route of Saratoga & Almaden Railroad
 

Incorporation and the Plan


According to the San Jose Herald article on October 12, 1885, the railroad was to be built from Murphy's (Downtown Sunnyvale Caltrain station) to Saratoga and then onward to New Almaden (San Jose Almaden Valley area). There are subsequent article that suggest they would've continued building to Gilroy.


San Jose Herald article on October 12, 1885
San Jose Herald article on October 12, 1885

Who would have thought that $200k ($6.8M in 2021 dollars) could have capitalized a building this venture. That's hardly 3 Cupertino houses (snark)..


Financing for the RR, San Jose Herald article on October 12, 1885
Financing for the RR

Surprisingly, there are original bond notes available for collectors on ebay.

$500 Bond for sale on EBay
$500 Bond for sale on EBay


 

Routing



Sunnyvale (Murphys) Train Station
Sunnyvale (Murphys) Train Station

Thanks to Brainard map surveys, it's easier to get an idea of the routing and completed construction of the railroad. It curved off the Southern Pacific (Caltrain) mainline about a mile and a half south of the downtown Sunnyvale station (Murphys). It continued south towards Boyter Road (currently Fremont Ave). On current maps, you can see the old right of way as a San Jose Water irrigation channel.



Brainard map of northern half, 1880s
Brainard map of northern half, 1880s

Modern satellite view of northern half
Modern satellite view of northern half

From Fremont Ave, it went due south following on todays maps as indicated by the irrigation channel until it intersects Ortega Park and Inverness Way. From there, the right of way disappears through a residential district, but we can pick it up again for virtually most of the length of Blaney Ave. From points beyond Blaney Road and Bollinger Road,


Brainard map of middle part, 1880s
Brainard map of middle part, 1880s

Saratoga & Almaden RR, Fremont to Hwy 280
Saratoga & Almaden RR, Fremont to Hwy 280

Saratoga & Almaden RR, Hwy 280 to Bollinger
Saratoga & Almaden RR, Hwy 280 to Bollinger

 

Construction


Per the San Jose Mercury News, May 14, 1884, ground was broken and two hundred men were employed during construction.


It is the intension to finish the line to the Saratoga and Quito road by the 10th of July, a distance of twelve to fifteen miles, this point being midway between Mountain View and the Almaden terminus.

San Jose Mercury News, May 14, 1884
San Jose Mercury News, May 14, 1884


Construction made it from about Murphy's station in Sunnyvale to the intersection of Blaney Ave. and Bollinger Road. As with any construction project, there were the 'Not In My Back Yard' who brought lawsuits to stop construction. This bogged down any progress. The lawsuit between Saratoga & Almaden Railroad vs. Portal/Thomson could be characterized as the big city slicker railroad money trying to damage prime grape growing and wine production. The vibrations would disturb the viticulture process and 'no one want to buy farm land next to a railroad'....



As best that I can reconstruct, the plan was to connect the railroad somewhere in Cambell and then continue from there to New Almaden (Almaden Valley). That part of the railroad did finish construction and can be traced if you follow Camden ave all the way through to the Almaden valley and ended in a field near Camden and Harry Road.


Campbell Depot, 1900s
Campbell Depot, 1900s

Campbell Depot, 1920s
Campbell Depot, 1920s

New Almaden Train Depot
New Almaden Train Depot

 

In a future post, I'll discuss the demise of the Saratoga & Almaden Railroad and what parts of the plan for a railroad to New Almaden.


Sources:



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