Friday, May 11, 2012

Ardenwood Historic Farm, Freemont California

Today we did our second "Day Trip", driving 120 miles southwest to Ardenwood Historic Farm in Freemont California.  Freemont, as described in Wikipedia, was "incorporated on January 23, 1956, from the merger of five smaller communities: Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Mission San Jose, and Warm Springs. The city is named after John Charles Frémont, "the Great Pathfinder."  Not that Freemont is that great of a place, however, my mother did spend some of her teenage years in the area.  But the draw was not from my mother's family, but from my dad's side of the family.

In 1881 a new "train" started serving the people of Centerville and Newark, and it was started by my father's grandfather, Charles Huntington Burdick.  The uniqueness of this train was its engine...or the lack of an engine.  For this train was powered by horses.  "A single horse pulled a small four-wheel horsecar for passengers, at 10 cents per trip.  Two or even three horses - hitched in tandem - pulled full-sized narrow gauge freight cars.  A ride on the branch line took thirty minutes, one way, and the horsecar made regular connections three-times-a-day with the steam-powered passenger trains that arrived daily at Newark." (link)

Charles did not last long with the horse train, being replaced eventually by his brother Henry, who operated the train for around twenty years.  In 1909 the horse train was replaced by steam engines and the new link to the San Francisco Peninsula with the opening of the Dumbarton Bridge.  Henry moved to the Berkley train line due to his seniority over other railroad workers after the horse drawn train was put into retirement.

However, the family link does not end there.  Charles and Henry's father and mother, Edwin Franklin Burdick and Lydia Healy Burdick, owned a hay ranch near the tracks at Newark and provided the "fuel" and a place for the horses to rest and sleep.  Below is a picture of Henry standing next to his father (my 2nd great grandfather) with Lydia in the background on the train.
(it is not the best picture, I have a much better picture in my genealogy collection which is still back at the Library in Pine Bluff)  I can only assume that this was taken at the farm, which looks like it might be in the back ground...although that is only a big guess.

Below are a few more pictures of Henry and the train which I found on the Internet and for which I have better copies back in the Library.
Now for today's visit.  We went to Ardenwood Historic Farm because my father had been there before, and he knew that they had a historic reconstruction of a train station, and a horse drawn train pulling old train cars from the early 1900 era.  Mom told a worker how my dad was the grandson of Charles, and the worker immediately called his boss, Randy.  He came to the station and met us, and rode the train with us and a group of kids who were on a school tour.  He was as excited to meet us, and we were excited to ride the historic train and hear about our ancestors.  

The park is large, and the train ride just goes through a short area.  We were more interested in the train than the rest of the park, but they do have a lot to offer. Here are some pictures from today....

Above is a layout of the farm.  The train essentially goes around to the left of the farm, and along the top where it stops, they turn the horse around, and it goes back.

The three pictures above shows the information found inside the "train station"
 Above the train is coming to the station....below it is entering the station.

When I graduated with my Maters Degree in Library and Information Science, my parents gave me a gold railroad pocket was the watch given to Charles Huntington Burdick when he retired from the Railroad, January 1924.  I have that watch...but I did not bring it on the trip to Ardenwood today.  I regret that...but I did take a few pictures of it to share.
It is a Waltham railroad watch
The face opens up.  There is a lever, just above the number 1, which must be pulled out before the time could be changed.  Timing on the train was very important, and if one was to change the time by accident while they wound it up, it could be devastating.
On the back (sorry for such a bad picture) they inscribed C H B for Charles Huntington Burdick.  However, if you look at the initials closely, you can see that there is space within each letter.  That space has little lines through them like railroad ties along the rails.
And inside the back they inscribed the following:  To Conductor Charles H. Burdick from his Friends on a Limited train carrying Unlimited Good Will.  January 1924.

It was so wonderful to visit this historic site....a site which has such importance within my family linage.  It is a pleasure to be able to share this moment with those who follow our travels.

Next week Marcia and I are taking mom and dad up to Lake Tahoe for a three day, two night stay.  We will not be taking the motor home, however, because it will be so much more comfortable staying in a cabin up there.  As for the watch, it goes back to the safe deposit box...don't want to lose it on the crap tables at Harrah's.   (lol -- just a joke, we don't gamble)


  1. Hi Dave. Great stuff! I was wondering if i can use a couple of the above vintage horse/rail road shots for pro-horse project I'm working on. Would that be ok? Thanks Matt

    1. Matt,

      Sure, I have no problem with that at all. --Dave


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