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August 27, 2008 > Railroad Fair returns Labor Day weekend

Railroad Fair returns Labor Day weekend

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.

This weekend, the Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources (SPCRR) in partnership with East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), the Patterson House, the Picnic People and the Blacksmith, present its annual Washington Township Rail Fair. This is the eighth year of this festival and as in years past, activities promise to entertain and enlighten young and old about turn of the century transportation throughout the Tri-City area, known at that time as Washington Township. One of the primary attractions will be the 1891 Baldwin steam locomotive, "Deanna."

The Ardenwood location of the Rail Fair has a long history. George Washington Patterson came to California from the Midwest in 1849 hoping to find nuggets of gold in the earth. Instead, he found wealth in the California soil using his strong suit, farming. Starting from scratch in 1850, he worked for farmers in Mission San Jose to accumulate capital. In 1856 he was able to buy land in southern Alameda County.

As his farming enterprises became more profitable, Patterson added to his land. In total, he owned nearly 6,000 acres. As acreage was added, the Patterson house grew as well. Originally housing a parlor, dining room, two bedrooms and a shed-style addition holding a kitchen on the rear in 1857, after two separate additions - one in 1889, and another in 1915 - the Patterson house included two stories, several bedrooms, wrap-around balconies, an office, an upstairs hallway, and a new kitchen. A new addition to the house was discussed in 1920, but those plans remained on paper.

Ardenwood Historic Farm still operates as the farm did over 100 years ago. 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 present. Peacocks can be seen strutting about as well.

On the grounds of Ardenwood, SPCRR operates a limited version of what once was known as the South Pacific Coast Railroad in the 1880s. 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. A fleet of locomotives, baggage, passenger, box and flat cars, and cabooses were manufactured by Carter Brothers in Newark. Along the way, flat cars picked up lumber used in San Francisco and Oakland.

SPCRR volunteers restore equipment of days gone by. The organization has collected rail cars from the 1870s through 1920s - most built by the Carter Brothers. Some of these are being restored using hand tools and nineteenth century techniques. Draft pull horses are used to pull flat cars on a portion of their mile and a half long track.

Ardenwood's Rail Fair features both farm and rail activities that will capture the imagination of all ages. Visitors can rides on steam and horse trains as well as handcars. Other rail equipment will be available for inspection and visitors can observe railcar restoration in process. Musical entertainment will fill the air and children's games will add to the festive atmosphere. The farm will be in operation including tours of the Patterson House; a barnyard with farm animals; blacksmithing; goodies from an outdoor country kitchen; organic farming; farm equipment; and picnicking.

SPCRR General Manager Barbara Culp noted that the Rail Fair has been a big success in previous years. She said that all family members enjoy the activities and the chance to do a bit of time traveling. 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, Aug. 30, through Monday, Sept. 1
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
SPCRR: (866) 417-7277
Ardenwood: (510) 796-0663

Adults (18+): $8; Seniors (62+): $6; Children (4-17): $5.
Free Parking

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