Friday, November 20, 2015

Miller & Nema

Miller as located on the 1917 USGS Map
At the absolute southernmost end of the Santa Clara Valley sits the mostly forgotten—although still technically active—station of Miller. The station most likely dates to the earliest years of the Santa Clara & Pajaro Valley Railroad (soon the Southern Pacific Railroad) when the tracks passed beside Henry Miller's ranch in 1870. Miller was in fact Heinrich Kreiser, a German immigrant who stole the identity of a man named Henry Miller. Miller became a major cattle rancher in and around the Bay Area. At the Bloomfield Ranch south of Gilroy, Miller built a 44-room mansion in 1888 which acted as the center of a small railroad community. Around it were built livery stables, a blacksmith shop, granaries, a general store, and a train station. Miller also owned a mansion on Mount Madonna for many years.

Bloomfield Ranch, date unknown. (King Library)
Bloomfield Mansion at Miller's with a cattle herd in front. (Calisphere)
By the turn of the century, Miller's was a major cattle and agricultural shipping point in the area and the Miller family land stretched in all directions. At the top of the long siding at Miller's, the Southern Pacific designated a new station that went by the name of Nema (Spanish for "letter seal"—origin unknown). From this site a long spur went to the west to the base of the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. The precise purpose for this spur is not presently known but the existence of a reservoir in the hills and the amount of oil located in these hills just to the south may act as clues. The fact that the tiny town of Miller's Station was located here suggests that Nema may have become a new station point for Miller, despite Miller remaining a stop along the main line. Today a private ranch still sits at the end of this spur site, although the tracks are now gone. Unfortunately very little can be found on Nema Station. The stop shut its doors in 1941 with the spur torn up a few years earlier.

Bloomfield Mansion at Miller's
Much more is known about Miller's Station, which became Miller in the late 1900s. Miller himself was one of the largest land owners in California by the time of his death in 1916. His estimated value was at $40 million. Following his death, his grandson George Nickel reincorporated the family company, Miller & Lux Corporation, into a holding and land development firm. A few members of the family continued to farm for many more years, but they appear to have lost influence in the lower Santa Clara Valley, selling its remaining assets in 1930. The family sold the rest of their holdings over the course of the following thirty years. The station has surprisingly remained on timetables continuously since 1870, although there is no longer any spur at the station and it is doubtful that it has been used for many years. A long freight shed alongside the tracks marks the site of the original station point.

Official Railroad Information:
Miller's Spur was an early station along the Southern Pacific Railroad's main line. When precisely it appeared is not presently known to this historian but it seems likely it was an original stop. In 1899, it occupied a long stretch of track between 84.2 and 84.4 miles south of San Francisco via San JosĂ©. Sometime soon afterwards—no later than 1905—the northern end of this track was renamed Nema. Miller's had a A-class freight platform but had no other facilities listed at the site. It's spur sat on the west side of the tracks and was initially fairly short but by 1899 it stretched 0.2 miles and had become a long siding. By 1937, Nema sat at 84.1 miles south of San Francisco while Miller was at 84.4. An 18-car (~900 feet) spur ran along the western track. At Nema, a 28-car (~1,400 feet) spur ran to the southwest, ending immediately to the east of State Route 101. Extant USGS maps show that this spur forked at the end and included two additional spurs along its length, one staggered on either side of the track. According to the 1939 USGS map, Nema's long spur was removed entirely in the late 1930s. In 1940, both stations were demoted to "Additional Stations" although it appears nothing else changed; Nema was still listed as having a spur, although the length was no longer noted. Nema was formally abandoned on December 15, 1941. Miller remains in use officially, although it seems unlikely that it has seen service for many years. Both stations's spurs have long since been removed and no trace of them remains. The double-tracks from Gilroy pass directly beside the old freight building.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.958˚N, 121.545˚W (Miller)
36.963˚N, 121.544˚W (Nema)

The site of Miller Station is currently inaccessible to the public. It sits along a long stretch of double-track about 500 yards south of the crossing of Hollister Road over the tracks. Currently a long freight shed marks the site of the spur, although all trace of the spur itself appears to be gone. Nema Station, meanwhile was located just north of this crossing, with the spur paralleling Hollister Road on the north side. It crossed the road just at about the site of the highway on/off ramp. The farm that the station serviced still exists today and is located at the southeast corner of Highway 101 and Hollister Road. The Garlic Shop is across Hollister Road from this site.

Citations & Credits:

  • Igler, David. Industrial Cowboys: Miller & Lux and the Transformation of the Far West
  • Nanney, Duncan. Personal correspondence.
  • Salewske, Claudia. Images of America: Gilroy. Arcadia, 2003.
  • Southern Pacific Railroad agency books and employee timetables, 1899-1940.

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