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August 31, 2010 > Ardenwood, a railroad runs through it

Ardenwood, a railroad runs through it

By William Marshak
Photos By William Mancebo

It is a bit ironic that each Labor Day, the Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources (SPCRR) and East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) holds a rail fair at Ardenwood. Although he understood the importance of using railroads, George Washington Patterson was not a railroad fan. When the South Pacific Coast Railroad pressed George for passage through his farmlands, Patterson adamantly refused, posting guards to block construction. He believed a rail line through his property would impede movement of farm machinery and could be a fire hazard.

Love intervened when Patterson traveled to Sacramento to marry Clara Hawley Patterson in 1877. Railroad agents took advantage of his absence to bribe guards posted to halt any intrusion. They made quick work of laying track through the Patterson property and, in the end, the railroad prevailed. Remnants of this battle remain as the small station of "Arden" at the entrance gates of Ardenwood Historic Farm and narrow gauge track on the property.

Washington Township, as the area was known when Alameda County formed from portions of Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties in 1853, was pastoral. Patterson, who arrived in 1849 to try his luck in the gold fields found something better in this fertile land... farming. He began working for others in 1850 and started to accumulate his own landholdings in 1856, eventually becoming a major landowner with nearly 6,000 acres. Railroad tracks crisscrossed the landscape and were important transportation for farm goods to markets. It was impossible to ignore the pervasive presence of the "iron horse" throughout the region.

SPCRR operates a limited version of the South Pacific Coast Railroad. In those days, a narrow-gauge railroad steamed through the counties of Alameda and Santa Clara until it reached the ocean at Santa Cruz. It transported people from small farm towns and logging camps to larger cities. Along the way, flatcars picked up lumber used in San Francisco and Oakland. A fleet of locomotives, baggage, passenger, box and flatcars, and cabooses were manufactured by Carter Brothers in Newark. Volunteers have collected rail cars from the 1870s through 1920s - most built by the Carter Brothers. Draft pull horses are often used to pull flat cars along the mile and a half long track in Ardenwood.

This weekend, the Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources (SPCRR) in partnership with East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD will revive the age of steam engine transportation throughout the Tri-City area. An 1889 Porter Tank steam locomotive and an 1890 steam porter engine, "Ann Marie" will make their appearance on the rails. Rides on railcars pulled by these locomotives are included with admission. According to Yvonne Provaznik, Ardenwood Park Supervisor, "Each ride is between 10-15 minutes, going from Arden Station to the Deer Park picnic area." Along with train rides, the Historic Rail Fair will feature handcar rides, narrow gauge speeder car rides, displays of garden railroads, model railroads, rail yard equipment displays, Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association displays, food from an outdoor kitchen, a children's Hobo game, music and much more!

The Ardenwood experience is a veritable time machine. Draft horses pull wagons, rail cars and plows. The land continues to grow the crops George Patterson tended a century ago and farmyard animals, including sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, goats and cows are permanent residents. A blacksmith forges farm implements in his shop as peacocks strut about the property. Tours of the Patterson house are a testament to gracious country living in the late 1800s. The two-story Queen Anne style structure includes a parlor, dining room, bedrooms and a kitchen preserved in the style of the turn of the century. With a bit of imagination, visitors can practically hear George, Clara and their two sons moving about.

Musical entertainment will be held in the barnyard and children's games will keep the kids busy. "Usually, there is a scavenger hunt for the kids, resulting in a reward at the end of the game," says Provaznik. "The farm will also be in operation including tours of the Patterson House, a barnyard with farm animals, black smiths, and the cafe will be open."

For a visit to the past, Ardenwood Historic Farm is hard to beat. The Historic Rail Fair is a perfect opportunity to come by. Profits from the Rail Fair will be used for the restoration of equipment and maintenance of the car barn used to protect and preserve it.

Washington Township Railroad Fair
Saturday, September 4 - Monday, September 6
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
(510) 796-0663

(866) 417-7277

Adults: $8
Seniors (62+); $6
Children ages 4-17: $5
Children age 3 and under: free.

Free parking

Barbara Culp contributed to this article. Some historical references were taken from George Washington Patterson and the Founding of Ardenwood by Keith E. Kennedy.

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