Fetters Springs Railroad Depot

The former Fetters Springs Railroad Depot as it appears today

The former Fetters Springs Railroad Depot as it appears today

Last weekend I made one of my fairly regular visits to Napa. On the way along Highway 12, I stopped off at Fetters Hot Springs to view the remains of Fetters Springs Depot. The former railroad depot, which was constructed in 1913 but is now a private house, is the small building with the large overhanging eaves in the photo above. The railroad tracks that served the depot originally ran across in the foreground of the photo.

There are no longer any railroads in Sonoma Valley, but, a century ago, there were two competing railroad lines, both running approximately North-South along the valley floor. The two railroads crossed each other several times along their routes, and were eventually consolidated into one, which makes tracking their courses today particularly complex.

The two railroads were:

  1. Sonoma Valley Railroad (which eventually became part of the North Western Pacific, NWP)
  2. Santa Rosa & Carquinez Railroad (which eventually became part of the Southern Pacific, SP)

Fetters Springs was a stop on the NWP line, as shown in the map below.

Railroads near Sonoma

Railroads near Sonoma

From the 1880s up to the 1960s, several hot spring spa resorts along Highway 12 were popular destinations. The first of those was Boyes Springs, which is now the location of the Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. Incidentally, the founder of that resort, Captain Henry Boyes, was originally from Hull, England. The development of the Springs area is detailed in the book: Springs, The: Resort Towns of Sonoma Valley.

Until the Golden Gate Bridge was built, the most convenient way to get to the resorts from San Francisco and most of the rest of the Bay Area was via ferry and train, but railroad ridership was already declining by the early 1930s. Passenger trains north of Sonoma were discontinued in 1934, and then, in 1942, all the remaining tracks north of Sonoma were ripped up for wartime reuse in Oakland.

Most of the railroad buildings were of wood, so, even if they didn’t burn down, they were easy to demolish or just let rot away. The depot at Fetters Springs, however, had a tile roof and was sheathed in terrazzo, so it survived and was even worth renovating as a house.

In 1975, the Fetters Springs resort hotel itself burned down, and the ground on which it stood is only now being redeveloped, as shown below.

Site of Fetters Springs Resort

Site of Fetters Springs Resort

The Fetters Springs Apartments (visible in the background above) have been built on part of the site.

Ganton Railway Station: Flashback 40 Years

GantonSignalBox770823cright

Ganton Signal Box and Railway Crossing, North Yorkshire, August 1977

I mentioned in a previous post that during 1977-78, as part of the research for my A-level Art study, I surveyed local road and rail architecture. One site that I visited was that of Ganton Railway Station, on the line from Scarborough to York.

The photo above was taken on 23rd August 1977 (almost exactly 40 years ago), which was obviously a beautiful day. Ganton signal box basks in the sunlit calm, awaiting the next train, with the signalman’s Mini car parked alongside. The signal box was a standard North Eastern Railway Southern Division design of about 1870, but an interesting and unusual feature of it was the large oriel window on the left side. The extra window was provided so that the signalman could have a view up and down the road before closing the crossing gates.

The road that crosses the railway here never saw much traffic, because it leads only to Ganton Golf Course and a few farms. Nonetheless, the crossing was fully guarded and the signal box, which also controlled a block section of the railway line, was manned during operational hours.

Ganton Station had already closed long before my visit, and even at that date the station building itself had been demolished and replaced by a private house (the garden of which is visible on the right in the photo above). The station actually closed to passengers very long ago, in October 1930, along with all the other intermediate stations on the same line.

It was all part of a forward-thinking experiment by the LNER, to streamline operations on the York-Scarborough line by closing all intermediate stations and replacing the stopping services with buses. Much later, during the 1950s and 1960s, such closures and bus replacements became common, but it was quite a new concept in 1930.

All the stations remained open for freight (and occasional excursion trains) until the mid-1960s, when they finally closed completely, and the platforms were demolished.

Even though the railway line remains open, much of the railway architecture along its length has been demolished over the intervening years, leaving an empty and derelict landscape.

GantonSignalBoxSite2007

Site of Ganton Signal Box, 2007

I returned to the site of Ganton Station one dull afternoon in 2007, while back in Scarborough temporarily, seeing my family there. As shown above, what is left is ugly and depressing. The hedges around the private house (on the right) have grown up, but the signal box and all other railway buildings are gone. The crossing is now fully automatic, and there is very little evidence that there was ever a station at the site.

The lack of human presence at the site may be welcomed by the local wildlife, however. During my 2007 visit, a couple of wild rabbits were exploring in abandoned rails in the former coal yard by the side of the track, as shown below.

GantonSignalBoxRabbits2007

Rabbits at the site of Ganton Coal Yard, 2007

The Speeders of August

Speeders in Santa Rosa, 2007

Speeders in Santa Rosa, 2007

Ten years ago, my wife Mary and I spent an enjoyable afternoon traveling on a short stretch of what at that time was the disused North Western Pacific Railroad line in Santa Rosa. The small “Speeder” in which we rode the rails is the dark green vehicle shown in the photo above.

At that time, a group of enthusiasts used to bring their rail speeders to Santa Rosa annually, to ride the derelict line one day per year. The event took place at Santa Rosa’s North Western Pacific Railroad Depot, which, amazingly, has survived from its construction in 1904 (just before the major earthquake of 1906) to this day, as shown below.

Santa Rosa NWP Depot, 2007

Santa Rosa NWP Depot, 2007

The depot building also featured in the 1943 Alfred Hitchcock movie Shadow of a Doubt, which I described in a previous post.

Although the last regular passenger service on the line ended in 1958, freight service continued after that, and the counties bought the track and right-of-way during the 1990s (via the North Coast Railroad Authority). In contrast to the fate of many railway lines abandoned and lost forever as part of the “Beeching Cuts” in Britain, this fortunate act saved the railroad’s right-of-way for its modern renaissance.

That day in 2007, the Speeder owners were offering free rides to the public, so Mary and I hopped aboard. As shown in the picture above, we chose a green Speeder that had custom bodywork to make it resemble a San Francisco cable car. Given that the Speeders have only 4 wheels, the ride is quite bumpy, but it was a fun experience, and one that we will never get the opportunity to try again, at least on that line.

Below is a short video viewed from the Speeder as we were riding in it:

Railroad Renaissance

The good news is that this line is no longer disused, because it now forms part of the SMART line from San Rafael to Santa Rosa Airport. Test trains are already running on the line, and full passenger service is expected to start some time this summer.

The bad news about that is that, because the line is now occupied, we’ll never again be able to ride a Speeder on it as we did ten years ago!

Last Train to British Museum

British Museum Station, London, 1982

British Museum Station, London, 1982

The photograph above, of what seems to be a fairly unremarkable structure, shows the surface building of the London Underground tube station called British Museum. When I took the photo in 1982, I’d already missed the last train to that station… by about 50 years.

At that time, there were threats to close various London tube stations, either because they were little used, or because they were thought to require substantial maintenance work that could not be justified economically. I’d missed British Museum’s closure, though, by virtue of not having being born at the time.

As it turned out, some of the stations that were still open in the 1980s were indeed closed later, but others remain open to this day.

In my photo above, you can see the glazed terracotta faience covering the ground floor exterior walls of the building, which was a characteristic of Central London Railway stations. Originally, the station building consisted only of that one storey, but later an office building was added above it.

British Museum Station was on the Central London Railway (later the Central Line), and was opened along with the line in 1902. The line crossed the Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway (later the Piccadilly Line) near Holborn, but there was no underground connection between the two stations, which was very inconvenient for passengers.

It soon became obvious that a common station was desirable, and authorization to build a new station, on the Central Line, was granted before the First World War, but work was delayed by the war. Eventually the new station was completed, and connected to the existing Piccadilly Line station. British Museum station was then permanently closed in 1933.

While riding the Piccadilly Line during the 1980s, I remember being able to see the remains of British Museum station through the gloom, as my train approached Holborn. The station’s platforms had been removed, but the white glazed tiles of the station walls were still barely visible, underneath decades of grime.

I’m glad that I took that photo of the surface building in 1982, because, in 1989, everything that remained on the surface was demolished, and there’s now no evidence whatsoever that there was a station there, as is apparent in the current Google Streetview of this location.

Department S

Department S Logo

Department S Logo

Strangely, I had a hint of the existence of the long-closed station long before I had even visited London, because it was mentioned (albeit not shown) in a 1968 episode of the ITC thriller series Department S.

In the episode titled “Last Train to Redbridge”, agent Stewart Sullivan is quizzing Jason King about a mysterious location, to which King was abducted and taken in a drugged state. Piecing together his incomplete memories, King makes sense of the details.

Jason King: An Underground Railway Station…

Stewart Sullivan: Old, disused. That would tie in with the murders. Are there any stations like that?

Jason King: Let’s see. On the Central London Line: two. British Museum, which was closed when they opened Holborn, and when they opened St. Pauls, they closed … Post Office

The dialog is partially factual. The description of British Museum and Holborn is accurate, but there is no closed station called Post Office, because the original Post Office station still exists, having been renamed St. Pauls in 1937.

There is also a station called Redbridge on the Central Line, although it’s not a terminus, so trains don’t generally show it as their final destination. Presumably the title image of the Department S episode shows the actual Redbridge Station nameboard.

Department S: Episode Title

Department S: Episode Title

The Department S scenes showing the fictitious Post Office station seem to have been filmed in a real Underground station, as in the scene below. The surroundings just seem too detailed to be a studio set.

Department S: "Post Office" Station

Department S: “Post Office” Station

The station used seems to have been Aldwych, which was still open at that time (albeit only during “peak” hours), but closed later on. I also visited Aldwych in 1982.

Aldwych Station

I mentioned above the Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway, which eventually became the Piccadilly Line. This line was formed from the merger of two earlier schemes, one of which was the Great Northern and Strand Railway.

The southern terminus of the GN&SR was a station called “Strand”, which, due to the merger of the two schemes, was eventually built on a branch from the “main line”.

Aldwych Station, 1982

Aldwych Station, 1982

This tatty-looking area is the end of the track at Aldwych Station, as it looked in 1982. The tiling of the walls here was never completed, during the entire life of the station. Given that all trains terminated here, then reversed direction, only the westerly platform was in use, and the track to the other platform had been lifted as long ago as 1917.

During my 1982 visit, I noticed that, on one of the glazed tile walls of the station, the original name was still partially visible, as shown in the rather blurry photo below.

Aldwych Station: Original Name

Aldwych Station: Original Name

Aldwych was closed to the public in 1994, when the sole lift (elevator) at the station required renewal. The site is now used only for private filming purposes. London Transport even keeps a complete tube train on the branch, for use in filming.

Short Sunderland at the Tower of London

Short Sunderland at the Tower of London, 1983

Short Sunderland at the Tower of London, 1983

One Sunday afternoon in 1983, I was strolling over Tower Bridge in London, when I happened to look down at the Thames. There, moored in the Pool of London, was a vintage Short Sunderland flying boat. The photo above shows the scene from the South Bank (after I’d walked around from Tower Bridge), with the Tower of London in the background.

I learned later that this aircraft, registered G-BJHS, was the last flying Sunderland. It originally carried the military serial ML814, and served with the Canadian and New Zealand air forces before being civilianized. It now resides at Fantasy of Flight in Florida, but hasn’t flown since 1996.

Incidentally, the “Imperial Airways” markings on the aircraft, visible above, were fictitious and were probably applied for movie work. Imperial Airways was in fact defunct before the Sunderland entered service.

The photo below shows the first view I saw of the aircraft, from Tower Bridge. The same Google Streetview today is almost unrecognizable; the only common features seem to be the River Thames and the Tower of London!

Short Sunderland from Tower  Bridge, London, 1983

Short Sunderland from Tower Bridge, London, 1983

In the background you can clearly see the British Telecom Tower, and, in front of it, the blackened twin towers of Cannon Street Station. The top of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral is just visible behind the office blocks on the far right.

This aircraft was already quite the globetrekker that I some day hoped to be, but, back in 1983, my immediate travel ambitions stretched no further than London. The idea that I would soon leave all this behind, and would look back on living in London as a mere stepping-stone to greater things, would probably have been incomprehensible to me.

Of Lost Maps & Lost Towns

East Yorkshire Wall Map, Bridlington, 1977

East Yorkshire Wall Map, Bridlington, 1977

The Map shown above in my 1977 photograph was for many years displayed on a wall that overlooked the Promenade Bus Station in Bridlington. I was recently scanning some old photographs, and that led me to wonder what had become of the map, and indeed the bus station below it.

At the time of my birth, Bridlington was in the county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, then, in 1974, that became part of the unloved county of Humberside. In 1996, Humberside was abolished, and Bridlington found itself once again in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The local bus company in Bridlington was, and still is, East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS), which created and maintained the map. EYMS is perhaps most famous for the unique “Gothic” roofs of its double-deck buses, which were specially shaped to fit through the North Bar in the East Riding county town of Beverley. (See this article for a photo of one of the gothic buses squeezing through the bar.) Built in the 15th century, Beverley Bar still exists today, as shown in my 2007 photo below, and is the only remaining brick-built town gate in Britain.

Beverley Bar, 2007

Beverley Bar, 2007

The photo below shows a general view of Bridlington bus station at around the same time as the color photo of the map above.

Bridlington Promenade Bus Station, 1977

Bridlington Promenade Bus Station, 1977

EYMS built the bus station during the 1930s, and the main building was finished in pleasant blue and cream tiles, reflecting the company’s bus liveries, which also used shades of blue and cream.

Unfortunately, the privatization of the British bus industry during the 1980s made such town-centre sites prime targets for sale and redevelopment, as the privatized companies saw opportunities to “externalize their costs” by selling off their own premises and stopping their vehicles on the streets instead, causing further traffic congestion.

Bridlington Bus Station suffered this fate, and closed down years ago, but I wondered what had become of the site. Looking on Google Streetview, I was initially unable to spot any evidence of the location. Eventually, however, I noticed that, even though the station is gone, the building on which the map was painted still exists, and is now a very tatty branch of Boots. Here is the latest Streetview image.

For convenience, here’s an excerpt from that view. You can see the gable end of the building on which the map was painted, and even the finial is still there!

Site of Bridlington Promenade Bus Station

Site of Bridlington Promenade Bus Station

As you can see, the “Promenades” shopping center has been built over the site of the Bus Station. I’m not sure it’s much of an improvement…

They Keep Losing Towns Too!

The East Riding of Yorkshire actually continues to suffer more significant losses of property than just Bridlington Bus Station and its map.

As a teenager, I was a fairly frequent visitor to Scarborough Library, which had some obscure old books about Yorkshire history.

One of these books was “The Lost Towns of the Yorkshire Coast” by Thomas Sheppard, published in 1912. The book describes the severe coastal erosion in East Yorkshire, south of Bridlington. While Bridlington itself is built on the same chalk that forms the Flamborough promontory, the area southwards to Spurn Point (called Holderness) is a soft glacial moraine, which the sea is eroding away very quickly.

The map below is from the frontispiece of the 1912 book, and shows the medieval and modern coastlines of the county. The loss of entire towns due to erosion is quite obvious.

Lost Towns of East Yorkshire

Lost Towns of East Yorkshire

Short of building a sea wall all the way along the coastline, the erosion process is really unstoppable. In the future, there will presumably be some towns and villages sitting on peninsulas where defences have been built locally (such as at Withernsea), but the remainder of Holderness will eventually just be washed away.

The most recent losses of property have been around Aldbrough, as shown in these photos. See it while you can!

Incidentally, Beverley in Yorkshire has no connection to Beverly Hills in California, although the different spellings do sometimes trip people up!

Stopping by at Melitta Station

 

Wisterias blooming at Melitta Station

Wisterias blooming at Melitta Station

This weekend, I stopped by briefly at Melitta Station, which is a quiet and pretty location by the side of Santa Rosa Creek, to the east of Santa Rosa. If I’d been hoping to catch a train from the station, I’d have had a long wait, because there haven’t been any trains through here since the 1930s. Over a hundred years ago, this was a busy railroad depot, with sufficient population to warrant its own Post Office.

Even among those who live in California, there is a tendency to assume that any non-English “European-sounding” name must be of Spanish origin. However, in the Santa Rosa area there was a significant settlement of Italian migrants, and Melitta is a name of Italian origin.

The Southern Pacific Railroad built a branch from Napa Junction to Santa Rosa through here in 1888. There were significant stone quarries on the South side of Santa Rosa Creek, so a railroad depot was established to transport stone from these quarries. A tramway ran from the quarries down to the railroad depot. Basalt paving stones were sent from here all over California, covering many streets in San Francisco.

Eventually, the quarries were worked out, and in 1934 the Southern Pacific abandoned the railroad. The rails were lifted in 1942 and taken to Oakland for reuse in the docks. Melitta declined to the point that the Post Office and store closed, and all that’s really left of the settlement now is the Melitta Station Inn, which now offers Bed & Breakfast. The owners are apparently British, so they presumably know something about converted railway stations and English breakfasts!

Melitta Station Inn

Melitta Station Inn

In the photo above, looking West, the railroad trackbed was to the left (now Montgomery Drive), and Melita Road is on the right. (The name of the road has a different spelling.) Melitta Station Inn sits in the fork of the junction. However, the railroad always stayed on the opposite side of the creek, so it did not cross the creek or Melita Road, as the modern alignment suggests.

Santa Rosa Creek at Melitta Station

Santa Rosa Creek at Melitta Station

Had the Sonoma Freeway ever been built, this junction would have changed beyond recognition, because the freeway was planned to rejoin the existing Highway 12 near this point. It seems now that all plans to construct that freeway have been abandoned, so Melitta Station looks set to continue its tranquil existence.