There are many other historic Southern Pacific depots along the Amtrak line from San Jose to Colfax. You will find them at San Jose, College Park (a passenger shelter shed), Santa Clara, Agnew, Berkeley, Crockett, Martinez, Suisun City, Davis, Sacramento, Loomis, Auburn, and Colfax.

After communities lost their passenger trains, depots were often relocated or converted to non-railroad uses. Some of these depots are at Alviso, Niles, Sunol, San Leandro, East Oakland, Oakland 16th St., Pleasanton, Livermore, Danville, and Walnut Creek. Alternate uses include homes, restaurants, museums, and businesses.

Like most major railroads, Southern Pacific adopted "Common Standards" for their fixed facilities, as well as for locomotives and cars. They used standard designs for depots, bridges, water tanks, roundhouses, dormitories- as well as standard colors in which to paint them. Even the station signs were standard, with the size and style of lettering, and its placement and colors precisely spelled out by company drawings.

Facing the need for literally hundreds of depots spread across thousands of miles of track, Southern Pacific wasn't about to employ an army of architects to design them. From 1877 through about 1894, the Southern Pacific carefully developed more than two dozen standard designs "in house" using their own drafting department. Their designers addressed needs a railroad understood well. A one-story depot was chosen if the station agent and his family could find suitable housing in a near-by town. A two-story depot contained compact living quarters on the second floor, and the station agent - and family - simply moved in. Other areas of the design efficiently performed functions that were almost universal to railroad depots: a ticket sales counter, an area to check baggage, a telegraph "bay", and a small attached warehouse for freight were all incorporated into most of Southern Pacific's standard designs. All of these functional areas were part of the original plan for the Centerville depot.

For almost seventy years, Southern Pacific painted its wooden depots in the standard colors of colonial yellow, dark yellow, and medium brown, the roof in moss green, and the window sash in white. Depots painted in these colors became "trademarks" for the Southern Pacific. So familiar were these colors that the railroad did not see the need to place the railroad's logo or Southern Pacific name on each depot. The restoration plans for the Centerville depot included repainting the depot in these historic standard colors.

The most common depot of standard design built by Southern Pacific in California was its "Two Story Combination Depot No. 22". Of about ninety built between 1894 and 1916, less than a dozen survive and none are used in active service today. The existing Southern Pacific Depot at Pleasanton was built in 1901 according to this design. So well known was this depot design in California, a new depot was built in Roseville in 1994 based on the original plans.

In the East Bay, there were once nine different examples of standard-design Southern Pacific depots- at Newark, Decoto, Hayward, Lorenzo, Warm Springs, Niles, Livermore, Sunol, and Pleasanton. Of these original nine structures, only the latter four survive.

From 1912 to 1914, Southern Pacific's company photographers traveled the length of the railroad and photographed its depots, using the massive pictorial record as an inventory of its property. Today, this extensive collection of photographs offers us a "moment-in-time" view of depot life and activities, and on the facilities that Southern Pacific provided to the small towns that later became a part of Fremont. To serve the needs of these early towns, Southern Pacific maintained depots at Niles, Warm Springs, Irvington, and of course at Centerville. But there were also small depots and passenger waiting shelters for places that were smaller than towns, for example Arden, a waiting shed that served the Patterson Ranch (today's site of Ardenwood Regional Preserve). The Drawbridge depot served an Island out in the marshlands of San Francisco Bay, just north of Alviso, where duck hunters' cabins and clubs could only be reached by train. The railroad also built small shelter sheds at Mattos, Overacker, Pabrico, and Albrae. Only the depots at Centerville and Niles remain today.

 

Southern Pacific Niles freight depot.

Constructed before 1900, 1941 photograph.

Note 70' open shed extension on right end of building and two-tone paint scheme that matches 1901 passenger depot. The wood frame freight platform (dock) measured 33' wide by 246' long. The freight house (enclosed portion) measured 18' wide by 97' long. The open shed extension on the north end measured 18' wide by 70' long. The construction date is unknown because SP's records were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The freight depot could be as old as the original 1870 Niles passenger depot. Because the construction date is unknown, the freight depot may have been constructed by the Central Pacific. SP retired 3,440 sq. ft. of the frame platform and 35' of the open shed on May 29, 1953. The remaining 35' of the open shed was retired on March 31, 1954. Only the original enclosed freight house portion remains.

Nearby Southern Pacific Depots

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