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Friday, January 25, 2013

Oil City & Aldercroft Stations

Site of Aldercroft Station (Courtesy Duncan Nanney)
Nothing significant was at Aldercroft when the South Pacific Coast Railroad first rode on through Los Gatos Creek in 1878. The land was owned by the McMurtry family and the right-of-way was donated by them to the SPCRR. While it is possible that flag service to the site existed prior to 1899, nothing is known or recorded of that time. The earliest use of the site is recorded in 1899, naming the place Oil City, according to the station book. In July 1900, the Alma Oil Company began drilling from an oil field two miles to the south of Alma along Los Gatos Creek and two miles north of Wrights. Its close proximity to the Southern Pacific Railroad line allowed there to be a rail outlet from the site. It is likely there was a short spur that ran to the oil fields from the main line at this site, though no such line was listed in 1899. Oil City was listed as being 60 miles south of San Francisco via Alameda Point. It had a class B freight station, implying at least two sidings and some freight-moving equipment, and it had a freight platform on the west side of the tracks. The name "Oil City" was probably a reference to the more famous Oil City fields near Coalinga in Fresno County.

Near to the station site is the intersection of
 Aldercroft Heights Road and Alma Bridge Road
It is unknown when Oil City fields closed, but by June 1918, a new stop at the same or nearby location arose that went by the name of Aldercroft, a name that is still used in the region today. Timetables report that Aldercroft was flanked by Alma and Wright and was equidistant between them. Later timetables would place it closer to Alma, with Eva and Call of the Wild located between it and Wright. Indeed, by 1932, Aldercroft was only one mile north of Alma, though it, in reality, had not moved at all. Later timetables would attest to this fact. The station was still in use when the line collapsed in winter 1939, but the proposed timetable for March 1940 removed it, suggesting that the site was not worth maintaining, or that it simply had been downgraded to a flag-stop in that proposal.

The right-of-way inside SCCWD land.
De Leuw's survey of the Santa Cruz-Los Gatos Rail Corridor, published in December 1994, provides the best details in locating the precise location of Aldercroft. It was located beside the creek on the east side from Chemeketa Park. The probable location of the station was just south of the intersection of Aldercroft Heights Road and Alma Bridge Road, at roughly 20600 Aldercroft Heights Road where a row of mailboxes sit today. Just south of the site, Aldercroft Heights Road crosses the right-of-way twice before the right-of-way plunges into Lexington Reservoir. The community of Aldercroft, located mostly on the hillsides above the tracks, mostly survived the flooding of Los Gatos Creek in 1952, though it is sometimes viewed as a town that was partially flooded. When the proposal to reopen the line in the 1990s was passed around, a station at this site was proposed.

A creative use for an old trestle, common near Aldercroft.
Today, there are virtually no residents immediately around Aldercroft and the right-of-way is primarily owned by the Santa Clara County Water District. A direct path to Wrights is generally accessible through water district property, but not advised due to strict patrolling of the routes. It is reported that the water district will give permission to field trips and other groups, but it must be made well in advance. Walking this route would also pass through Eva and Call of the Wild.

Citations:

  • California Division of Mines & Geology, Bulletin, Issues 19-20 (1900).
  • De Leu, "Santa Cruz-Los Gatos Rail Corridor Feasibility Study: Draft Final Report" (December 1994).
  • Southern Pacific System: List of Officers, Agencies and Stations, 1899.

3 comments:

  1. Trying to find the exact locations of these stops and depots can sometimes be an arduous task and require meticulous detective work. In this case, I met a gentleman one day several years ago, while fishing at Lexington Dam, that had lived in Aldercroft for over 40 years. According to him, an old man from the Aldercroft area that had often traveled on the train had described the exact location of the Aldercroft Stop as being adjacent to an old mailbox on Aldercroft Heights Rd labeled 20600. This is in the general area of the intersection of Alma Bridge road and Aldercroft Heights Rd.

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  2. There are a lot of railroad remnants in the Aldercroft area. Just north of the trestle below the road is a concrete battery box dated 1927, likely for the signals since I doubt there were ever any wigwags in the canyon. A short hike south from the Aldercroft station site are a giant pair of concrete supports for the trestle over Los Gatos Creek. The steel railroad span has been replaced by a smaller aluminum trestle for a water pipe. Below the trestle is a 20-foot spillway for the creek, a large pond and a fish ladder. It's hard to believe Los Gatos Creek was ever deep enough for an operational fish ladder. The trestle supports would have been built around 1900 when the line was standard-gauged. I don't know if the spillway and fish ladder were added later or built at the same time.

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    Replies
    1. I was once told the spillway, known as "Ryland Dam" was built in 1950, 10 years AFTER the train ceased running. Not sure if it's true, but it's what I was told growing up in Chemeketa Park.

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