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Ardenwood Historic Farm& The South Pacific Coast Railway.

May 6, 2008


For those who haven’t discovered the real gem of the south east San Francisco Bay Area, prepare for an authentic travel back in time. Now I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it. Once you leave your car behind, you become the only anachronism.

This East Bay regional park is located in Fremont, not far from the 880 freeway. Lined with Eucalyptus trees as a traditional California windbreak, this farm is still fully operational today. The Centerpiece is a STUNNING 1889 Queen Anne Victorian Mansion, with all the amazing glass, woodwork, carpets, and period furniture you probably wouldn’t see anywhere else. In addition to the house itself, all of the original outbuildings remain, a variety of barns, sheds, tractor sheds, Sheep& Cattle pens, rabbit hutches, and a Victorian-era Aviary with a collection of live, impressive rare birds. Other unusual areas include an Indian Burial ground (luckily preserved by the Ardenwoods) and of course, the last remnant of the great South Pacific Coast railway.

If you’d like to visit this amazing park, follow this link to learn everything you need to know before going. Make sure to pack some sunscreen though, you’ll be out in the sun for most of the day.

The Railroad.

The South Pacific Coast Railway is one of my personal favorite narrow gauge operations. It ran from   a pier on the end of the dock on Alameda Island (near Oakland), known as “The Mole” to Santa Cruz. Learn a LOT more about the real railroad, as well as the official society that runs the mile-long 3 foot gauge line at Ardenwood Farms here: The Main purpose of the organization today is to help preserve the last fragments of rolling stock built by the once-popular Carter Bros. car builders, located in neighboring Newark, Ca. The Original site of the Car shops is, like almost everything historical in California, covered with housing tracts. 

The Depot at Ardenwood (The real stop at ardenwood was an ornate passenger shelter) is patterned after a SPC design.

The side of the depot that faces the railroad is deorated with old passenger carts, crates, and barrels.


A portion of their collection, showing a small Plymouth locomotive, and three ex-SPC and Southern Pacific Keeler branch boxcars. 36″ gauge wheel sets are certainly interesting, and note the switch “clear” post, to protect switching movements.


Although it looks old, don’t be fooled. It was built in 1989, it roughly follows design standards of the Westside Lumber Company.

This flatcar came from the predecessor of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, the North Shore.

What’s California 1870’s era narrow gauge without link& Pin couplers, archbar trucks and wood frames and trussrods? Well, a whole lot safer, but at the speeds they operate this mile-long railroad, it doubt it’d ever be a problem.

The ride is scenic, lazily winding around the farm, from point to point. You really get a feel from what the area looked like as recently as 50 years ago, nothing but rolling farmland.

After curving around the previous field, you enter a grove of euclyptus trees.

These classic “harp” switchstands are really beautiful, and certianly define the location, railroad, and era. Also note that the switches don’t have points, two or three rails move into place, guiding the train along.

The line terminates just past the little “s” curve. It’s really pleasant, and a good way to get around to the back of the house, where a good deal of interesting attractions are.

After touring the house, looking at the animals, watching the birds, eating lunch, checking out the indian burial ground, and taking lots of pictures, I returned to the freight cars just before we left.

I urge you to check out one of the best parks in the Bay Area. If you live in the region or plan to visit San Francisco, be sure to visit this vivid portion of preserved history.

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