Following the Stock Market Crash of 1893, John Center took over the Alum Rock Railway for Richard Quincey. Shortly after he took over the line, John Center sold it for $1.00 to his nephew, Hugh Center.
By 1896, Hugh Center had the line running well and was giving special attention to power. For the first few years, the trains were steam powered and had frequent breakdowns. Center believed the trains could be made to run better. Many train riders also complained about the soot and ash that fell on them as the rode the train. Many riders had holes burned through their clothes from the falling hot embers.
In September of 1901, Center told the local newspaper that he was going to change the railroad from steam power to electricity. The largest gasoline-fueled electric powerhouse on the entire west coast was built near the Penitencia Creek Road entrance to Alum Rock Park.
The change to electricity was completed in April of 1902. Now visitors could ride the narrow-gauge electric (as it was known by locals) from downtown San Jose all the way to the park's main picnic area. The large, comfortable rail cars had 20 big windows for clear views of local points of interest. Some riders even reached out the windows to pick fruit from branches that brushed the sides of the cars as they passed through the Pala Olive Groves.
Alum Rock Park Interpretive Series
San Jose Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services.