The New Almaden Branch
In 1886, the South Pacific Coast Railroad started building a branch line from the mainline at Campbell, CA to service the quicksilver mines at New Almaden, south of San Jose. Not to be outdone, neighboring Southern Pacific decided to build a branch from their own mainline at a location called Seven Trees in order to access the same quicksilver mines. This branch line became known as the New Almaden Branch, and was officially opened in November of 1886, just four months after the SPC opened their adjacent line; SP terminated the New Almaden Branch in Almaden Springs at a passenger depot located at the intersection of present-day McKean and Cahen Roads. The end of the line was yet two miles away from the quicksilver mines due to the narrow canyon at the mine's entrance.
The New Almaden Branch saw regular service handling incoming shipments to the mine; it also carried the daily Almaden Express passenger train from San Jose. It also included a spur track to the Goodrich Quarry at Greystone to transport sandstone that was used in the construction of many important buildings, including many at Stanford University, San Jose's post office, hall of justice, and St. Mary's Church, as well as several SP depots.
In 1906, SP opened Sunset Park, at what is now the current site of Almaden Lake Park near Coleman Road and Almaden Expressway. Picnic trains from San Francisco operated on Sundays and holidays until World War I, when the trains gave way to the rising use of automobiles. By 1922 service on the branch had declined to a single train on Mondays, going from Campbell to New Almaden (over the former SPC trackage) and then back up the New Almaden Branch to a location named Lick. In 1934, portions of the branch were abandoned when the mines shut down during the Great Depression. The remaining 3.6 miles of the branch from Lick to Alamitos was abandoned in the early 1940s, but the booming economy brought it back to life, and it was re-named the Lick Branch.
Thanks to Paul Carr for contributing information.
|Southern Pacific Railroad|
|Docket: 10196||10/23/1933||Section: 1|
|App. of Southern Pacific RR. Co., South Pacific Coast Ry. Co., and Southern Pacific. Co., their lessee, for certificate to abandon the following parts of the New Almaden Branch; (1) between Alamitos and New Almaden, a distance of 4.087 miles; and (2) between Le Franc and Almaden Junction, a distance of 4.360 miles; all in Santa Clara County, California.|
|Length: 8.447 miles||Citation: 199 ICC 43|
Also under this filing: The South Pacific Coast Railroad
I found large concrete footings from an old railroad bridge near my house in Almaden and would love to learn the history of the old line that served the Almaden Quicksilver Mine.
John, do you mean the bridge trestle abutments near the creek? They were part of the New Almaden Branch. Talk to Jack Pfeiffer. He's in his 90's born and raised on the Lane.
Sunset Park was not near Almaden Lake Park. It was off a spur off the mainline near Wrights Station (south of Lexington)
There was a second Sunset Park that opened after the one near Wrights Station closed, which is the one spoken of here.
I tried to find Jack Pfeiffer and was unsuccessful. If anyone knows his location, please call me at 408 841 9219. Thanks!
Jack died in 2011. http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_18456464
I've seen a bond certificate for the "Saratoga & Almaden Railroad Company", issued in 1895, redeemable in 1905. I am familiar with most rail facilities in the Valley but have not heard of this one. I suspect the company either sold out or never got started. Anyone have thoughts?
Correction to my previous post: Issue date on that bond would have been 1885.
Hi Chuck, I wrote a Wikipedia page on that exact topic, if you have any specific questions, I would be glad to answer them. There is little information available about the railroad, but historical societies like the one in Saratoga can be helpful when researching for information.