Brief background on the process we have taken, thus far, to create our rail museum within our community.
When the Santa Clara Valley Railroad Association was created in 1981, our goals were simple: 1. restore locomotive 2479, 2. build a secure permanent shelter. We were very naive about the hurdles we would face toward those goals. Shortly thereafter, it was decided that the best long term solution would be a facility at the fairgrounds because of the rail access across Old Tully Road. At the time, we recognized that a permanent facility at the fairgrounds would require some level of patience.
Over the next couple of years, our simple shed structure expanded to become a replica of the arcade Bassett Street station in San Jose. This would provide a train shed for the locomotive and the depot structure for a small railroad museum. Recognizing the need for project viability within the county, we developed a partnership with the Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission (SCCHHC) who was looking for a permanent home for all the county's historical archives. As a result, the proposed square footage of the depot structure was doubled to provide the necessary space. With this new proposal, the SCCHHC began to accumulate grant money toward the joint project.
Enter the early 1990's. The Lenzen Roundhouse was abandoned and slated for demolition due to San Jose's enforcement of their un re-inforced masonary building codes. Members of our group and our community quickly petitioned and received the historical designation from the city to prevent immediate demolition. At the time, a few meetings were held to discuss keeping the roundhouse at Lenzen and for a variety of political reasons, this was not pursued more thoroughly. As a result, it was agreed that the roundhouse would become part of our museum at the fairgrounds. In February 1994, Southern Pacific Railroad agreed to donate the structure, water tower, and turntable to Santa Clara County for the project.
Recognizing the need for additional funds, the SCVRRA sought and received for the County a $1M federal ISTEA grant toward preservation of the roundhouse. Additionally, the SCVRRA acknowledged the need for additional community support and, as a result, merged with the successful San Jose Trolley Corporation to gain access to their community minded board members. The new organization was named the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (CTRC). Also about this time, the first contractual agreement between CTRC and the county was signed.
Over the next couple of years, we negotiated with the county for the purchase of additional land to front onto Monterrey Highway. This soon failed because of time limits imposed by the friendly private property owner. About 1997, we had a final layout and plan for the site which soon entered into the architectual and engineering phase. Until this point, we relied heavily on pro bono services for land title searches, soil surveys, conceptual plans etc. The effort went into high gear since the deadline for the ISTEA funds was approaching and CALTRAIN formally announced their plans for a maintenance facility for the Lenzen site.
In June 1999, we sought final approval from the county supervisors for the project to release the ISTEA funds for some of the necessary construction engineering work. Afterwards, the effort went into a higher gear to meet the different valid conditions and concern raised by the county on the project. During this time, our contract with the county was renegotiated, the pro-bono project contractors have had to negotiate new contracts with the county, and the county archives portion was eliminated. The SCCHHC was greatly disappointed with the archives removal from the project. On December 14, 1999, the County Board of Supervisors gave final approval of the project contingent on meeting their conditions outlined in the past June.
In the meantime, Union Pacific Railroad entered final negotiations for selling the Lenzen parcel to the Joint Powers Board (CALTRAIN) for the planned maintenance facility at that location. The CALTRAIN plans included rerouting the main lines through the actual roundhouse site thereby negating any discussions to retention of the historical location. Commencing in June 2000, the roundhouse, turntable and water tank were dismantled to enable relocation to the Santa Clara County fairgrounds. The project manager for UP's deconstruction process was CTRC's own project architect, Marvin Bamburg, for the fairgrounds site.
Negotiations continued between the parties to permit actual construction to commence. The major issue was a performance bonding requirement by the county toward our pro-bono contractors. In early 2001, the county asked that the locomotive and material be relocated across the fairgrounds to the new museum site within 90 days. In meeting this challenge, our volunteers lost valuable time in the locomotive restoration process as nine months were required to facilitize the new location. Despite the appearances of a museum kit ready to be assembled, negotiations continued to stall putting the federal ISTEA grant at risk.
At their regular meeting on June 25, 2002, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to rescind support of the proposed railroad museum at the county fairgrounds. A leading factor in the Board's decision was their desire to use the Fairgrounds land for the "highest and best use" in the form of a commercial development that would generate revenue for the County's stressed general fund. The action included instruction to County staff to work with CTRC to identify another suitable site located on a railroad spur, preferably on county owned land. In addition, the Board of Supervisors voted toward donating all rail material, including 4-6-2 steam locomotive #SP2479 and the roundhouse components, to CTRC upon leaving the fairgrounds. Furthermore, the Board agreed to assist CTRC in relocating the material off the fairgrounds.
Up until this point, CTRC museum supporters had invested over 150,000 hours toward the viability of the Fairgrounds project. A complete environmental impact clearance was accomplished including soils reviews. The reconstruction plans for the roundhouse, turntable, and water tower were designed by pro bono architects and engineers. Completed plans for the depot structure had been finished as well. Over 5000 cubic yards of donated clean fill dirt and 1,800 tons of ballast rock were brought onto the site for the project. Additionally, CTRC acquired a second historic locomotive and four rail cars.
Working with the county staff, CTRC reviewed potential museum locations in Cupertino and Alviso. Although these county-owned locations met the criteria of rail line access, each site was not viable for railroad museum purposes. In June 2003, the Board of Supervisors accepted county staff's findings and instructed CTRC to identify a new location for all rail material located at the fairgrounds. Unfortunately, the continued delay toward museum construction resulted in the loss of the $1M ISTEA grant.
Since the 2003 announcement, CTRC has actively searched with other local entities to identify a new museum location for the project. The entities have included the cities of Campbell, Gilroy, Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara. Compounding the search are the requirements of 4-5 acres minimum with access to an active rail line.