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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Last Ghost Town

Posted By on Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 9:08 PM

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"Drawbridge is an abandoned town on the outskirts of San Jose and is slowly sinking into the sloughs of San Francisco Bay. It was created on Station Island in 1876 and consisted of a single dwelling to house the operator of two drawbridges owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad that crossed the Mud Creek Slough and Coyote Creek Slough to connect Newark with Alviso and San Jose.

It eventually grew into a small town consisting mainly of hunting cabins, hotels, and gun clubs. During Prohibition, taking advantage of its location in no man's land between Santa Clara and Alameda counties, it housed numerous speakeasies and brothels. In addition, the police were reluctant to enter as nearly everyone in Drawbridge was armed."

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The sun was beating down on us when we arrived in Alviso at close to two in the afternoon. Our mission was to find Drawbridge, CA, explore and hopefully not get hit by a train while we used its track as a trail.

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Parking next to the track we set out north, following it into a horizon of salt flats and diked sloughs. After about a half mile of skipping along the rocky and uneven path, we found a dead dog laying in the middle of the tracks riddled with bullet holes.
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Not really sure what to think we continued, left and right of us were foul-smelling sloughs, dried fields of packed mud and train debris.
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The lack of a map and formal directions left us second-guessing ourselves, as there was really nothing distinguishable for a landmark.
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But our blind faith paid off as buildings started to form slowly on the horizon. After several miles, several trains flying past we crossed a rail bridge onto Station Island and started to explore the abandoned buildings of Drawbridge CA.
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We spied an old rusted latch and lock, covered in spider webs from years of exposure.

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Looking west toward SF Bay, an old window screen found within of one of the many dilapidated buildings flaps in the wind.
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Hip-deep grass has been enveloping these buildings year after year, as has the bay mud.
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Sloughs criss-cross the tidal land, leaving hazards for the unwary traveler.
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A look through a roof porthole brings a view of the rising floor of mud and grass.

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Roof lathes cast a maze of shadows over the interior walls of one building.
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As the bay foundation gives way, the house frames settle and start to sway.
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Metal links of an old bed frame hang from the bunk that sat in the rafters.
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One of the many trains speed past, this was a double-decker Amtrak.

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Framed within several empty window frames, an Amtrak speeds by the front door of one the shacks.
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These houses have seen many visitors over the years and it seems everybody has taken a little something with them or at least left their mark somehow.
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Lathes and cracked mud floor.
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With the coastal mountains looming in the background, a freight train speeds by, dwarfing the sinking village.
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Joseph Schell


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