The SBHRS started in late 1984 as a small group of disgruntled members of the San Jose Society of Model Railroaders (SJSMR). This group got together with the intent of finding a bigger, better, and cheaper place to build model railroads. The SJSMR was located, at that time, at 711 Lincoln Street in San Jose. The place was small and the rent was high. After the rent was paid, there was little money left to build a model railroad. A group of about twelve members met to form a new organization and attempt to relocate to the old Santa Clara Railroad Depot.
At that time, the depot belonged to the State of California. It was in a bad state of disrepair and the current tenant was being requested to leave. Early in 1985 some of our founding members met with then Santa Clara County Supervisor Rod Diridon to request his support in the SBHRS efforts to acquire usage of the depot. He willingly agreed to work with us and provided a contact point within CalTrans/Caltrain. A meeting was held between Burch Bachtold of CalTrans and Robert Dolci, Ed Peterman, Bill Trudeau, and Doug Gross to discuss the possibilities. Because we could not afford rent on the depot, a proposal was made to restore the depot as an offset to rent. A draft proposal was prepared along with a meeting requested to present it. The SBHRS organizers met with CalTrans/Caltrain officials, the State Historian, and the State Architects Office which resulted in an agreement after several meetings. The SBHRS would be able to used the historic building and receive rent credit for restoration efforts. This was a unique situation in that the SBHRS was the only volunteer organization designated to renovate any of the Caltrain depots. To qualify for the agreement, the SBHRS was required to incorporate as a nonprofit public benefit corporation. This occurred on May 10, 1985.
The goals set forth in our agreement with the State and our corporate charter were the renovation and preservation of the Santa Clara Railroad Depot along with the establishment and operation of a railroad museum and library. The original agreement called for the restoration of the building exterior, excluding the deck, to be done in stages, which provided for our first five years of rent.
The City of Santa Clara was instrumental in our early dealings with the State. The City provided sponsorship for a federally funded grant of $25,000 to help us restore the depot. We also received a $5,000 grant from the City for building materials.
After the first five years, a new agreement was reached with the State to restore the decking, both interior and exterior, along with shoring up the foundations. We also came to an agreement as to what modifications we could do to the interior to meet our organizational, museum, and scale model railroad display needs. Funds from this new 6-year agreement covered our rent until February 1997.
We have now negotiated with the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB), our current landlord, a new 10 year lease to cover our rent until the year 2007. To fulfill our obligations we will need to do a number of maintenance and renovation activities that include painting the exterior every five years.