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Menlo Park

These pages are devoted to this romantic depot and others RR structures around it.

Menlo Park has one of the most photogenic depots on the San Francisco Peninsula. It is also one of the oldest, built in 1867 by the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad

Other pages on this site about this depot : Picture Album - Drawings and Maps - Tips to model it
An excellent album with photos taken in April 2007 was prepared by Rob Sarberenyi .
Credits:
Some pictures of the album are courtesely from the Art Fisher site, please visit Art Fisher's Southern Pacific Transportation Company Depots and Structures Home Page or in detail the Coast division : SP_Sub_Coast_San-Francisco_1959.htm
Some recent pictures are also courtesely from Richard Silagi,
take a look at the: http://www.railpictures.net/showphotos.php

Depot History

Menlo Park – early history
1853 -
Menlo Park’s first permanent settlers arrived in 1853

1854 -In 1854, four years after California was admitted to the Union, two Irish immigrants of Galway, Ireland,, Dennis J. Oliver and his brother-in-law D.C. McGlynn purchased 1,700 acres of the Rancho Las Pulgas, a tree-studded pastureland at the southern end of the Pulgas Grant, alon g El Camino Real, known then as County Road, from the heirs of Don Luis Antonio Arguello, the first native-born governor of California during the Spanish-American era.

The Irishmen named their land Menlo Park after their native hamlet in County Galway, Menlough, or "little lake" in Gaelic, and wrote the name over the three-arched gate to their es­tate. (The gate came down in 1922 when a car crashed into it.)

When the railroad came through in 1863, this station had no name, it being the end of the line, but it needed a designation. Initially named “Big trees”, during a discussion about the choice of a name, a railroad official looked at the gates and adopted the name "Menlo Park"

The Depot

1863 -In 1863 was built a small structure with benches that subsequently was moved to Belmont in 1867 upon the construction of the new depot. It was located on the northwest corner of Oak Grove.

1867 -The depot constructed in 1867 by the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Company was originally of the “Picturesque Cottage style”. It was located near today’s location and was a tongue and groove unpainted redwood building, 22 x 41 feet in dimension and consisted of three rooms. The station master / ticket office was in the center, a ladies waiting room on the south, and a general waiting room on the north.

1890 - In preparation of the opening of Stanford University in October 1891, after six years of construction, the depot was extensively modified in 1890.
This included:
- the addition of Victorian ornamentation into its present "Stick-Eastlake and Shingle Style" ( the "Gingerbread" style ).
- the depot was extended 15 feet to the north, and the roof in front was also extended, with a five bay window bay replacing the single ticket window.
- Windows replaced the two doors on the trackside of the depot.
- A double door was added on the north side of the building.
- The eaves had brackets and moldings attached to them, and the gable ends were covered with decorative shingles.
- Canopies were added to all the doors and windows,
- the roof ridges had a scalloped crest added to them.
- There are flat arch drip moldings over the doors and windows.
- The depot was also painted for the first time in a "railroad" green with coral trim and white wood-work
.

An oak tree located to the southeast of the depot was called the "Stanford Oak" since it was where Governor Leland Stanford's carriage would wait to pickup him, members of his family, and guests.
There was also a siding by the station where his private railroad passenger car was kept. (Mrs. Stanford had the Southern Pacific's Sacramento shop build a private "palace" car for $25,000 as a gift to her husband.) In keeping with these guests, the women's waiting room had lace curtains, black horsehair sofa and chairs, and marble topped tables.

1917 -The waiting room was extended 14 feet, and a 10-by-15-foot men's toilet room were added.
A 20-by-30-foot baggage house was biult nearby at the same time.
The 18 x 40 foot extension open side shelter with wooden benches on the northwest of the depot was added to accommodate increased traffic generated by the establishment of Camp Fremont in Menlo Park during WWI.
At its peak, Camp Fremont had 43,000 soldiers, and reached from El Camino to Alameda and from the San Francisquito Creek to Valparaiso, an area covering many square miles.
At the time, Menlo Park had less than 2,000 residents in less than one square mile. The residents of Menlo Park, believing that CampFre­mont was a permanent institution, went into a state of stagnation with its abandonment in 1919 until after World War II

1917 - REA building construction : It is believed that the 20 x 30 foot baggage house was built around 1917 to accommodate Camp Fremont soldier's luggage and equipment. It was situated about 50 feet south of the depot and used by the Railway Express Agency (REA). Colored in a two-tone green scheme .

1923 -The first paving of the parking lot occurred in 1923, eliminating the sea of mud that occurred in the winter months.
The depot was refurbished in 1923 by electrification and the addition of water fountains.

1925 -In the early 1925, discussions were held between people in Menlo Park and Atherton about incorporating into one city. Ultimately, the Atherton residents acted in secret to incorporate shortly before the group from Menlo Park appeared at the Redwood City Courthouse to incorporate both areas together

1938 -A photo of the Menlo Park depot in Henry Bender's article about the Menlo Park and Burlingame depots in the November-December 1992 issue of Locomotive & Railway Preservation appears to show the depot painted in SP's standard Colonial Yellow with light brown trim scheme.

1943 -The segregated waiting rooms for ladies and men were obsolete. SP converted the doors on each side of the agent's bay to windows, and built a double door into the general waiting room.

1946 -Some refurbishment and painting of the depot occurred as well after World War II, mantaining the SP standard colors ( Colonial Yellow with ligth Brown trim )

1950 - In 1950 the West Bay Model Railroad Club layout was completed and the club was opened to the public .
FWIW, we have an HO scale model of our own building (REA), complete in the
old two-tone green colors. Rob Sarberenyi

1951- On pages 40-41 of "Southern Pacific in the Bay Area: The San Francisco-Sacramento-Stockton Triangle" by George Drury, there is a series of three photos taken at by Fred Matthews at the Menlo Park station on November 24, 1951. You can see part of the REA structure in the top image, while the bottom photo shows Espee's Menlo Park freight depot and the siding that once ran alongside. The road crossing #2471 is going across is Ravenswood Ave. Just on the other side was a local cement plant served off a spur. Rob Sarberenyi

1959 - The shelter on the north end of the depot was enclosed on two of its open sides, and today is the only portion of the depot used by railroad passengers.

1959-In preparation of close the depot, SP walled two sides of the open shelter..

1959-The Menlo Park agency closed on June 9, 1959.
The passenger depot has been home of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, when Southern Pacific closed the ticket office and leased the building to the city of Menlo Park, who in turn sublet the depot to the Chamber of Commerce.

1965- In 1965, the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce made some modifications for heat and lighting on the north end of the depot, and had students at Menlo Atherton High School create replicas of many of the Victorian details.
Refurbishment of many of the wooden details of the depot occurred.
Damaged finials and ridge crests were replaced with authentic wooden replicas of its many Victorian details.
The depot was painted Southern Pacific yellow with white trim.
The lobby was covered with sheetrock and an acoustical tile ceiling was installed along with heat ducts and florescent lighting.

1983- California Department of Transportation ( CalTrans ) purchased the station from Southern Pacific in 1983 for $1.3 million

1985 – 1986 -CalTrans elected to completely rebuild the Menlo Park station parking lot complex, resulting in significant changes to the station area :
-The former Railway Express Agency redwood depot, used by West Bay Model Railroad Club and for bicycle storage, was moved another 150 feet south (railroad east), closer to Ravenswood Ave.  This is approximately the location of where the former Southern Pacific freight depot once stood, though it had long since been demolished.
- Repainted the (REA) structure after it was moved in 1986, replacing the green with... how do I say this ... more muted tones .Our building's colors changed to more a depot buff with brown trim - Rob Sarberenyi.
This color scheme( historically inaccurate ) brought a storm of local protest.
- A new foundation was added to the depot
- An additional small building to house a bicycle locker was specifically constructed. It follows a similar architectural style as the Menlo Park depot, even down to the use of redwood for the rain gutters.
- A bus parking was added.
The parking lot was reconfigured and increased from 180 to 233 spaces.
- At this time the depot was painted its present plum and gray colors

1987 –After CalTras investment of $500,000 in 1987, the depot became the center of a new transit center.

1991–The Southern Pacific sold the San Francisco-San Jose line to the Joint Powers Board of the three counties it serves on December,27. They chose Amtrack to operate the service, starting 27,July, 1992.

2000 -Menlo Park station was reconstructed to have outside boarding platforms with a fence between the tracks, and a new north bound boarding platform on the Alma Street side. The station now has 242 parking spaces.

After 128 years, the trains still carry passengers up and down the Peninsula, and they're more frequent, with hourly service insthead a train every two hours mid-day.

RR Depot Colors Timeline
1890 - painted for the first time in a "railroad" green with coral trim and white wood-work
1938 -SP's standard Colonial Yellow with light brown trim scheme
1946 - After World War II – painted ... ( mantains the SP Colonial yellow - ligth brown scheme )
1965 -Southern Pacific yellow with white trim
1983 -Plum walls and grey trim

REA building Colors Timeline ( former Railway Express Agency redwood depot)
1917 -Ligth green walls with "olive" green trim
1985 - Plum walls and brown trim ( same as RR depot )


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Last update :
Nov 2009

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