California Trolley & Railroad Corporation (CTRC)
Preserving the historical heritage of railroading and trolleys in the Santa Clara Valley of California.

History of CTRC

The genesis of the organization now known as the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (CTRC) was in 1982 at the American Public Transit Association conference in Seattle, WA when then Santa Clara County Supervisor and Transit Board Chair Rod Diridon observed Seattle's historic waterfront trolleys in operation. After 9 years of arduous planning and the approval of a master plan and taxes, the County of Santa Clara had just signed a full funding grant agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation for construction of the Guadalupe Corridor light rail line. Diridon, the chair of the Guadalupe Project Board, felt a historic component would promote community enthusiasm and give the project a heart.

A meeting was called with community leaders, including the publisher of the newspaper, owner of the cable television systems, presidents of local public utilities, a principle building contractor, and others to discuss the concept. In early 1983, the San Jose Trolley Corporation (SJTC) was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit California corporation with a Board of Directors that included many prime community leaders. Diridon was elected President of the Board and has continued to serve in that capacity.

A nation-wide executive search for a General Manager / Master Car Builder yielded Fred Bennett of New Jersey, who continued to serve in that capacity until April 2004 when, in ill health, he moved back to New Jersey to be with his family. The Associated General Contractors of Santa Clara County, with the assistance of other local construction leaders, created a replica of a historic trolley barn, and later over a mile of electrified trolley track, at the large City of San Jose Kelley Park and Historical Museum grounds. Bays for six historic trolleys were created and machine tools, forklifts, and other equipment and materials including dilapidated historic trolleys were donated by historic trolley devotees from as far away as Milan, Italy and Melbourne, Australia.

The Board of Directors raised in excess of $3 million in cash and at least an equal amount in donated hard assets. A committed group of several hundred volunteers have provided the technical skills and staffing under Mr. Bennett&'s management. The result is that the SJTC has reconstructed nine historic trolley cars, one of which is a horse drawn trolley from the 1870's, with all of the others being turn-of-the-century vintage electrically powered traction trolleys.

Five of these beautifully restored historical monuments are leased for one dollar per year to the Santa Clara

County Transit Agency and operate on the downtown San Jose Transit Mall Loop of the Guadalupe Corridor Line. The remaining trolleys are retained at the San Jose Historical Museum Trolley barn and operated as a shuttle for museum patrons. Aggregate ridership, though measured informally, exceeds 200,000 per year.

The Trolley Corporation is in the process of extending the museum track an additional ¾ mile, again using principally donated materials and services. The ultimate track system at the city park will exceed 3 miles, at which time a modest fee will begin to be charge to riders.

The historic trolley barn, electrified track and rolling stock would be valued in excess of $15 million, but cost a fraction of that amount because of the materials and labor donated by the community.

During the creation of the SJTC, another 501(c)(3) California charitable corporation was also evolving within the community. The Santa Clara Valley Railroad Association (SCVRRA) was founded in 1981 to reconstruct a massive Southern Pacific Transportation Corporation Baldwin locomotive given to the County in 1957 and stored as a static display at the County Fairgrounds. The SCVRRA signed an agreement with the County of Santa Clara in 1986 to reconstruct that unique, high speed. "Pacific model" locomotive. The SCVRRA was founded by Charles Aldrich, who became President of the Board, with then Supervisor Diridon as the Board's Chair.

In the early 1990's the County proposed that the SCVRRA also take on the responsibility of a Railroad Museum and County Archives Building on the Fairgrounds. The Southern Pacific Transportation Corporation agreed to donate an extension of their existing track system onto the Fairgrounds as well as to move the historic San Jose roundhouse, turntable, water tower, signal tower and associated trackage and other material to the Fairgrounds site.

A federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act (ISTEA) Grant in the amount of $1 million was successfully pursued to reconstruct the donated SP assets on the Fairgrounds. In addition, almost $500,000 in historic preservation funds have been successfully pursue to construct the County archived building as a replica of the original 1870's San Jose Railroad Depot.

Top contractors and consultants from within the Santa Clara Valley have donated their services as project manager, general contractor, architect, civil and structural engineers, planners, and others to create the pro-bono project team.

In 1993, Diridon proposed a merger of these two organizations which would take advantage of the SJTC's powerful Board of Directors and the SCVRRA's large and highly motivated pool of volunteers. The merger was legally consummated in late 1994, resulting in the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation assuming the non-profit number of the SJTC, with the assets of both predecessor groups merged under one Board of Directors.