Friday, July 25, 2014

Liddell & San Vicente

Liddell and San Vicente Creeks according to an Ocean Shore
Railroad survey map from 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
In 1851, George Liddell obtained a parcel of land from the Williams Brothers' Ranch Laguna property. Liddell was a recent immigrant to Santa Cruz, only arriving in the United States from England in 1850. His stay alongside the creek that forever was named after him was one year. In that year he operated a small sawmill, possibly for the Williams brothers. By 1852, he had moved into the mountains where he built a new steam-powered saw mill. Liddell died in 1864.

The lands returned to the Williams brothers and they quickly turned the mouth of the creek into a place called "Williams Landing". For sixteen years—from 1853 to 1869—a ship landing and chute system was employed off the bluff over Liddell Creek. Although the landing was abandoned in 1869, the Williams brothers continued to produce lumber, tanbark, lime, and oil on their rancho. By the late 1880s, they no longer owned the property and George E. Olive & Company purchased the landing for its own use, renaming it "Olives Landing." Olives Landing was upgraded with a longer cable chute, but the venture appears to have failed since there is little mention of the name after 1889.

It is likely that Louis Moretti purchased the land from George Olive at some point in the 1890s. In 1901, Moretti became the senior partner in the Coast Land & Dairy Company, which included five dairies running along the coast south of Davenport. In 1912, a small natural pond along Liddell Creek, known as Liddell Spring, was ceded to the City of Santa Cruz for the purpose of providing water to the city.

It was during Moretti's ownership that the Ocean Shore Railroad passed through the property. The railroad established a small freight station here, though their primary stop was further south at Yellowbank. "Liddell", as the station was named, was a simple flag stop located 9.6 miles north of the Ocean Shore Depot in Santa Cruz and 1.2 miles south of the Davenport station. There is no evidence that a freight spur, siding, or even a platform was located here, and indeed the 1912, at right, does not even mention the stop suggesting it may have disappeared by that year. During its short existence, it likely served as a picnic stop for northbound tourists wishing to dip their feet into the Pacific Ocean. The sign—and any other structures—would have been on the west side of the tracks, the east being controlled by the Southern Pacific's Coast Line Railroad. The Coast Dairies company continued to exist until 1996, but the Ocean Shore Railroad was already suffering by the mid-1910s and small unnecessary stops such as this may have been abandoned early.

The Coast Line also established a northern stop for the Coast Dairies at San Vicente Creek just south of Davenport, though they bypassed Liddell Creek. San Vicente Creek was likely named after Vicenta Rodriguez, wife of the earliest owner of Rancho San Vicente, Blas A. Excamilla. Saint Vincent, after whom she was named and from which the creek ultimately gained its name, was a Spanish fourth-century deacon and martyr of the Diocletian Persecution. Her name was the feminized variant of that name. Blas obtained the rancho in 1845 at the age of 20. It ranged from San Vicente Creek to the future site of Davenport Landing. It was sold in 1853 to Peter Tracy. The creek formed the northern boundary of the Coast Dairies property and served as the northernmost flag stop for Southern Pacific Railroad service to the dairies.

As with Liddell, there was likely one of the five dairies near the mouth of the creek and the stop allowed employees to commute while the site may also have served as a picnic stop for excursion trains. To underly its status, it never appeared in station books or timetables, emphasizing its minor status along the route. It was located roughly 10 miles north of the Southern Pacific Depot in Santa Cruz and only about 0.2 miles south of Davenport's primary passenger station just south of the cement plant. The station platform, if there was any, would have been on the east side of the tracks.

Railroad service to Liddell ceased no later than 1920, since in that year the Ocean Shore Railroad went defunct. The tracks remained until 1923 when the San Vicente Lumber Company abandoned the line. Rail service to San Vicente probably ceased around the same time, though it may have continued to as late as 1959 when the Suntan Special trains ended and passenger service to Santa Cruz County was abandoned. In the late 1990s, the entire property to San Vicente Creek was purchased by various parties and then donated to the state as the Coast Dairies State Park. The mouth of Liddell Creek has been named Bonny Doon Beach for decades, though it was likely called Liddell Beach at the turn of the century. San Vicente Creek's mouth serves as Davenport's primary beach and is usually called simply "Davenport Beach".

  • "Coast Dairies Property: A Land Use History", Coast Dairies Long-Term Resource Protection and Use Plan: Draft Exiting Conditions Report for the Coast Dairies Property, Section 1.0. <> (Accessed 18 July 2014).
  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).

Friday, July 18, 2014


Yellowbank Station according to an Ocean Shore Railroad
survey map from 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
The railroad tracks in the area between Laguna Creek and Liddell Creek hug the ocean quite closely in parts. But no place was closer than the site of the Yellowbank dairy. The dairy was nestled on the bluff above Respini Creek, which was later renamed Yellow Bank Creek, on property of the old Rancho Arroyo de la Laguna. As mentioned in the article on Lagos, Rancho Laguna was originally granted to a certain Mexican settler named Gil Sanchez and then sold to the Williams brothers, early pioneers of the Davenport area. The later name of the creek was due to the yellow (and, to a lesser extent, blue) cliffs made of a certain type of mudstone and sandstone fusion unique to the area (indeed, unique to the world). The beach and the outlet of the so-named creek were also slightly yellowed during certain times of the year because of this sediment.

A Swissman named Jeremiah Respini (after which the creek originally took its name) purchased a part of the Rancho Laguna—probably from the Williams brothers in the early 1880s—and built a small dairy there. Over the next twenty-odd years, it was enlarged to become the Yellow Bank Creek Dairy, a not insignificant operation along the north coast. In 1901, the property of Respini and a neighbor, Louis Moretti, were joined together in a formal incorporation, thus founding the Coast Land & Dairy Company. The company included five separate dairies with around 800 cattle while also growing hay. Their products were sold mostly in San Francisco.

For fifteen years the company thrived under Respini's and Moretti's leadership. The company helped build the town of Davenport and it provided many of the jobs for the non-cement employees. In 1912, they sold a portion of the land to the City of Santa Cruz to provide water to the city (it still provides the city with roughly 20% of its water). But World War I began in 1914 and the two men, who were both Swiss, realized that they had to leave. Swiss men were not allowed to serve in any foreign military, and neither had apparently renounced their Swiss citizenship. Moretti, the senior of the partners, moved with his family in 1915. Respini and others moved soon after. Thus the company found itself with most of its leadership in Switzerland and the property being managed by local supervisors.

The Coast Line Railroad, when it passed through the area in 1906, ignored Yellow Banks, seeking instead to gain the advantage at Davenport. But the Ocean Shore set up a small flag-stop there—named "Yellowbank"—8.9 miles north of Santa Cruz, for waiting passengers and, possibly, waiting boxcars. A freight platform was installed on the west side of the double tracks, though no siding or spur were present. Two picnic stops were also located on the grounds, one at Team Beach and the other at Yellow Bank Beach, both serving passengers wishing to take a dip in the ocean along the windswept cliffs of the North Coast. Most of the Coast Dairies' products were shipped over this line through to the closure of the route in 1920. After this date, products were shipped via auto truck.

The dairies thrived through the 1920s but declined as the Great Depression coupled with stricter health code laws made it increasingly difficult to produce dairy products along the North Coast. The company continued to struggle for the next eighty years under distant Swiss leadership. Various attempts to make money off the land—from oil wells, to a power plant, to the UCSC campus, to a housing development—failed and then state laws came in making it even more difficult to dispose of the land. In 1996, it was finally sold to Bryan Sweeney of the Nevada & Pacific Coast Land Company, but it cost him more than he could chew. Various organizations, working together, freed him of his burden and the entire property became the core component of the new Coast Dairies State Park, one of the newest state parks in the system and one that has yet to be fully developed.

As a footnote, the large bisected beach at the mouth of Yellow Bank Creek was historically known as Yellow Bank Beach. At some point in the 1970s, visitors to the beach noticed on the stripped walls of the cliffs the visage of a black (or blue) cat. In all truth, this image probably appeared in one of the mudstone veins that named the beach to begin with. Nevertheless, the old name was quickly discontinued and the name was rechristened "Panther Beach".


  • "Coast Dairies Property: A Land Use History", Coast Dairies Long-Term Resource Protection and Use Plan: Draft Exiting Conditions Report for the Coast Dairies Property, Section 1.0. <> (Accessed 18 July 2014).
  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Gary Griggs, "Our Ocean Backyard: Yellow Bank Beach", Santa Cruz Sentinel, 6 September 2013 <> (Accessed 18 July 2014).

Friday, July 11, 2014


Lagos Station according to an Ocean Shore Railroad
survey map from 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
The Ocean Shore Railroad maintained a few additional stops between Santa Cruz and Davenport compared to the Coast Line Railroad. One such stop was located on Laguna Creek at a place called "Lagos". Located 8 miles north of the Ocean Shore Depot off Bay Street in Santa Cruz and 2.8 miles south of Davenport, the little Lagos station appears to have had nothing noting denoting it as a stop other than a sign. Records do not mention any platform or shelter, and the importance of the stop was negligible.

The name itself means "lakes" in Spanish, probably referring to the large lagoon adjacent to the tracks. Laguna Creek formed the western border of the Rancho Arroyo de la Laguna, one of the smallest Mexican land grants in Santa Cruz County. The lagoon is the defining characteristic of the area, named in some Spanish sources as Laguna de Palu. During the time of the Ocean Shore Railroad, the lagoon was much larger than it is today.

Property information regarding Lagos is not well documented. The original grantee was Gil Sanchez, the tithe collector of the Santa Cruz mission who petitioned for the property in 1836 and was finally granted it in 1840. Sanchez did not live on the property, though he did build a house there. Like most other ranchos in Santa Cruz County, the property served as a cattle ranch. Sanchez visited the place often but when his horses were stolen in 1847, Sanchez decided to sell the rancho. It went first to  James G.F. Dunleavy and immediately after to James and Squire Williams.

Unlike Sanchez, the Williams brothers lived on the property and operated operated a lumber mill and lime kiln within the rancho. Two other brothers, John and Isaac, also worked there, though they were not owners initially. In 1852, after statehood, the Williamses filed their claim on the property with the California government, which was confirmed in 1855. Problems arose in the 1870s, though, when it was discovered that the "square league" of the property had overstretched to include much of the land between San Vicente Creek and Laguna Creek, and a bit beyond. A patent for the entirety of the land was only approved in 1881, after James had already died.

In 1853, the Williams brothers built a pier at the mouth of Liddell Creek named Williams Landing to help ship their products. This was the  Squire remained on the property until 1882 when it appears to have been abandoned as an industrial center. By 1905, when the Ocean Shore Railroad built its route across the creek, the property was owned by a man named Dennis Cook. Cook appears to have found a small stretch of land that was unclaimed between Rancho Refugio and Rancho Arroyo de la Laguna after the 1881 supreme court decision regarding the Williamses land. He claimed squatters rights on the land, which was designated as tidal overflow and unusable land by the state government. Though he lost his case in 1882, later evidence suggests that he remained on the land all the same and eventually found a legal avenue that allowed him to claim it. Much like its neighbors to the north and south, Lagos likely was a dairy farm in the 1900s and 1910s when the propriety was serviced by the OSRR. No siding or spur was recorded here. Immediately north of Lagos, the Coast Land & Dairy Company, successors to the Williams brothers, owned a large stretch of property reaching all the way to Yellowbank, the next stop on the line.

Today, the entire property is within the Coast Dairies State Park property, located at the end of Laguna Road (the former County Road) via a parking lot. There is a trail opposite the parking lot that crosses the tracks on the north side of Laguna Creek. The original stop, though, was on the south side of the creek just out of a low cut. Multiple trails head down to the large and relatively obscure Laguna Creek Beach. Beware, this is also one of the lesser discussed nude beaches in the county.

  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Leon Rowland, Santa Cruz: The Early Years (Santa Cruz, CA: Paper Vision Press, 1980).
  • Paul Tutwiler, "Notes on the History of Williams Mill and Williams Landing in Bonny Doon, California", Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Accessed 11 July 2014.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Enright & Majors

Enright Station according to the Ocean Shore
Railroad survey map, 1912 (UC Santa Cruz)
The mouth of Majors Creek, roughly 6.9 miles north of the Southern Pacific depot in Santa Cruz, served multiple functions in 1905 when the Ocean Shore and Coast Line railroads drove their right-of-ways through the area. First, there's the present-day Scaroni Road which, back in the 1900s, was the primary county road. The current bluff fill was all but a dream to early highway engineers. Second, it was a small dairy community similar to Wilder three miles to the south. But third and most importantly for this study, the northern bluff above the creek served as a railroad stop for, first, the Ocean Shore, and then later, the Coast Line railroads.

The location and creek were named after Joseph L. Majors and his family. Originally, the creek was named Coja Creek or Eagle Glen. Majors was an early settler to Santa Cruz County having possibly come over with Isaac Graham and other early American pioneers in 1835. Like so many other early Santa Cruz non-Californios, Majors married Maria de los Angeles Castro, one of the wealthiest women in the area. Her Rancho Refugio granted Majors political status in the county, where he eventually became alcalde (mayor) in 1841. Majors also managed to gain Rancho San Augustín and Rancho Zayante, making him extremely wealthy. Majors himself did little along the North Coast, but his son, Joseph Robert Joaquin Majors, and his grandsons, Thomas Ladd and Joseph, operated ranches alongside the early county road in Rancho Refugio for the Enright family.

The Majors boys worked for Joseph D. Enright and the stop was likewise named "Enright" by the Ocean Shore Railroad. The original property owner, James Enright, purchased the land from the Castro family in the 1870s. Joseph D., his son, then inherited the property in 1894. Why the land was noted as being owned by "M.D." Enright is unknown but it was probably a typo referring to Joseph. Joseph's farm was noted as being one of the best dairy ranches in the county, encompassing one thousand acres of land. The land also included a small mine, probably digging for bitumen which was somewhat rich in the area. The Enright station was a short freight platform found on the west side of the Ocean Shore tracks with the Coast Line tracks continuing north without halting. For the Ocean Shore, the stop was 7.5 north of their Santa Cruz Station and just 0.5 miles south of their next stop, Lagos. There was no documented siding or spur there as of 1912. At some point after 1912, the Enright family sold at least a portion of their property to the Majors, though the name of the stop remained Enright for the Ocean Shore. The Enright family today lives in Watsonville.

Things changed with the closure of the Ocean Shore Railroad in 1920. Although the tracks remained in place and ownership transferred to the San Vicente Lumber Company, service to the stop was halted along the old right-of-way. Picking up the slack, the Southern Pacific Railroad took control of the line and renamed the stop "Majors" after the creek and the current owners of the land. The stop remained strictly for freight, at least officially, and it never appeared in employee timetables, only station books. The stop remained small with little more than a freestanding sign to note its existence to passing tourists.

Railroad service to Majors ceased at an unknown date but it was after 1941 when this researcher's collection of timetables ends. A small portion of the Enright property became Coast Dairies State Park while the remainder is private property. The Coast Road, or rather the original county road, turns into the property to briefly parallel the tracks at Majors. The beach below at the mouth of Majors Creek was originally named Majors Beach but has since been named Red, White & Blue Beach, accessible from Scaroni Road.


  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).

Friday, June 27, 2014

Gordola & Scaroni

Ocean Shore Railroad 1912 Survey Map. (UC Santa Cruz)
The Coast Line and Ocean Shore railroads shared very few stops between Santa Cruz and Davenport. One place that could not be ignored, however, was a large dairy owned by the Scaroni family along the North Coast of Santa Cruz County just south of Majors Creek.

Pio Scaroni first settled on his portion of Rancho Refugio in 1868 after moving from Gordola, Switzerland. Scaroni became well known for his butter and cheese, eventually becoming an American citizen in 1884. Pio diversified his properties over the following years and became, in addition to his dairy business, one of the top growers of artichokes in the north county. In 1901, a portion of his properties were also leased to the Santa Cruz Oil Company to enable bitumen mining. Pio died in 1931, though his descendants continued to own the land until 1998.

The combination of agricultural output, dairy goods, and petroleum products brought the two rival railroads straight through Scaroni's property. Rivals until the end, the Ocean Shore got the privilege of naming their stop Scaroni, located 6.6 miles north of the small Santa Cruz Depot building. The Coast Line Railroad, coming to the game late, was forced to use a secondary name for the stop, Gordola, named after Scaroni's home town. Their station was located 4.8 miles north of the larger Southern Pacific depot in Santa Cruz, 85.6 miles south of San Francisco via Santa Cruz and the Mayfield Cutoff.

In the end, the Coast Line won out. At Scaroni, just south of Majors Creek, the Coast Line built a 2,500' long siding, long enough to support 27 waiting boxcars and flat cars, with a second shorter spur adjacent to it.  Since the Coast Line was on the eastern side of the shared right-of-way, its siding and spur were also to the east. The northern end of the siding terminated just before Scaroni Road, then simply a county road that ended at the Scaroni farm house. Meanwhile, the Scaroni stop maintained by the OSRR had no siding or spur and was located on the wrong side of the property for anything other than passenger use. Both railroads had to bridge, and subsequently fill, a small unnamed seasonal creek that was in this area, the culvert of which still sits under the right-of-way today.

The Ocean Shore Railroad closed in 1920 and the San Vicente Lumber Company took up the tracks in late 1923. The right-of-way in this area is used as a farm vehicle dirt road, though it has long lost its ballast and grading. The Coast Line, later Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and now Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway, remains intact but the siding and spur have both been removed with no trace of them remaining. In 1998, the Scaroni family sold this entire property to the state of California and it has since been appended onto Wilder Ranch State Historic Park, acting as its northern coastal boundary.


  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Parsons Beach

Ocean Shore Railway Company survey map, 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
Between Santa Cruz and Davenport, the Ocean Shore Railroad provided more stops for local passengers and freight than the Coast Line. There are many possible reasons for this, but the Ocean Shore was a much more limited line, especially after 1906 when connecting the line to San Francisco was pretty much a lost cause, thus they needed as many patrons as possible. It is in this attitude that they provided a small stop at Parsons Beach where Baldwin Creek flows into the Pacific Ocean.

The beach was named after Dr. George Parsons, the landowner who purchased this small section of Rancho Refugio from José Bolcoff on 1 December 1854. Parsons was an English dentist with an office in Santa Cruz as early as 1850; details before that date are unknown. By 1905, when the railroads were running through the property, M.L. Baldwin owned the property. To the south, C. Lombardi held land, while just to the north, the Scaroni family operated a dairy.

The Ocean Shore Railroad maintained a small spur lagoon near the beach on the west side of the tracks, 5.7 miles north of the Ocean Shore Depot in Santa Cruz. The spur was accessible from the south and terminated at the end of the bluff where a cut was required for the right-of-way. The spur was 390' long and the stop hosted a small wooden shelter. The actual purpose of the stop and spur are unknown, though the former was probably for local beach-goers and the family while the latter was likely for agricultural crops and other freight. Information regarding the career of M.L. Baldwin is lacking from the historical record, leaving the function of the property up to speculation.

When the Ocean Shore ceased providing service along the line in 1920, the stop at Parsons Beach ended service as well. The tracks remained for another three years as the San Vicente Lumber Company used them, but even those were pulled in 1924. The remaining set of tracks through the property are those of the Southern Pacific Railroad (now the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway). Today, Parsons Beach is called Four Mile Beach (because it is located four miles north of the Santa Cruz city limits), though it also is called Tiger Beach occasionally. A somewhat expansive lagoon sits beside the railroad tracks in this area and the original Ocean Shore right-of-way exists as a local access road for farmers. The entirety of the beach is within the bounds of Wilder Ranch State Historic Park, thereby making the beach a state beach. Public access is permitted via a parking area along CA State Route 1 and a short dirt road.


    • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).

    Friday, June 13, 2014

    Wilder Ranch

    The Ocean Shore Railroad and the Coast Line Railroad shared only a few things in common...besides the same right-of-way between Wilder Creek and the Davenport Cement Plant, the same goal of connecting Santa Cruz to San Francisco via the coast, and the same failings that these two things would inevitably bring to each company. One other thing they shared, though, was freight service to the Wilder Ranch property just north of Santa Cruz. But even with this, the two competitors couldn't agree, so Wilder had multiple sidings and spurs—three in fact.

    A barn building at Wilder Ranch (John Pusey)
    Let's step back a bit, though, and explore the history of Wilder Ranch. The property was located not even a mile north of the city limits of Santa Cruz in a region once known as Rancho Refugio. Moses A. Meder was the original owner of the rancho and sold the Wilder portion of it to Deloss D. Wilder and L.K. Baldwin in 1871. It included around 4,000 acres and 2.5 miles of oceanfront property. Baldwin disliked the partnership and, in 1885, forced the division of the property, whereafter Wilder retained the portion closest to Santa Cruz. Deloss was already a dairyman having opened a dairy in Marin County in 1859, but his move to Santa Cruz signaled a new start. Deloss and his heirs continued to operate the dairy until 1935, when they decided to invest in agriculture instead, while also keeping a small cattle and horse ranch.

    The history of the sidings and spurs enter in 1905 when Deloss deeded fourteen acres of land to the Ocean Shore Railroad under the condition that a siding and flag stop would be maintained on their property. When the Southern Pacific came through later that years, Deloss demanded the same conditions of them, which the SP accepted, and he granted them twenty-seven acres of right-of-way. Thus Deloss had his two sidings, gambling that if one railroad failed, the other would continue to use the right-of-way. Construction of the Ocean Shore began by mid-1905 and by 1906, trains were stopping at Wilder collecting freight and dropping off freight cars. The Coast Line, running behind and damaged by the 1906 earthquake, lagged behind even though its right-of-way was completed. The Coast Line's own track, basically shared in the Wilder region since the SP used the Ocean Shore's contractor, Shattuck and Desmond, finally opened to through traffic in early 1907.

    For the Ocean Shore Railroad, the Wilder Siding was located 3.5 miles north of their Santa Cruz Station. For the Coast Line, it was 124 miles from San Francisco via Watsonville Junction and the Mayfield Cut-off. Furthermore, it was 83.4 miles south of San Francisco via Santa Cruz Junction and the Mayfield Cut-off and 7.3 miles south of Davenport. That places it roughly 4.2 miles north of Santa Cruz, but at roughly the same location as the Ocean Shore stop since the Ocean Shore had a more direct line to Wilder. The Coast Line spur included a class C-station with a small platform on the north side of the tracks. The Ocean Shore, on the other hand, had a siding on the south side of the tracks, beside its own right-of-way. Thus the Coast Line had slightly easier access to the dairy property and likely gained more business from the Wilder family because of this. Neither stop had a shelter or building for passengers, though both railroads maintained a formal flag-stop designation for Wilder on timetables.

    Heavily overgrown Wilder Spur beside the Wilder Ranch SHP parking lot. (Google Maps)
    The Ocean Shore ceased service to Wilder in 1920, though through trains to the San Vicente Mill continued on the old OS track until the end of 1923. The Coast Line, consolidated into the Southern Pacific formally in 1915, outperformed the OS throughout its existence and after 1920 was the sole freight hauler for Wilder Ranch via rail. While freight service ceased to the site after 1935, the spur itself still remains between the parking lot and the tracks, heavily overgrown but otherwise serviceable.

    The Wilder family finally sold the property in 1969 with the expectation that it would be converted into a housing subdivision. But after twenty years of property disputes, the State of California finally took it over in 1974 and converted it into Wilder Ranch State Historic Park. Since then, the property has been enlarged with land grants from surrounding areas, stretching all the way up to Bonny Doon. Wilder is expected to be one of the restored stops on the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway if passenger service is restored on the Davenport branch line in the future.

    • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
    • Jack R. Wagner, The Last Whistle: Ocean Shore Railroad (Berkeley, CA: Howeel-North Book, 1974).

    Friday, June 6, 2014

    Wilder Creek Trestle

    As the now-joint Coast Line and Ocean Shore Railroad right-of-way—triple tracked—curved northward out of Santa Cruz on its heading toward Davenport and beyond, it narrowed into a single lane as it passed over its second trestle at Wilder Creek. The creek is an expansive waterway breaking quickly into branches as it travels from Ben Lomond Mountain to Wilder Beach. The largest of these branches required an impressive redwood truss bridge to cross. The trestle began southeast of the Wilder Ranch dairy and ended just slightly southwest of it, spanning roughly 850 feet.

    A freight train heads north to Davenport over the Wilder Creek Trestle, c. 1950. (MacGregor)
    The creek itself had not always named Wilder Creek, nor do all consider it called that today. The earliest name attributed to it is Bolcroff Creek, for an early Santa Cruz settler, while Meder Creek, named after Moses A Meder, was the name it had until the Wilder family moved in to the property. That name is after Deloss D. Wilder, the first Wilder to own the property beginning in 1871. But the government remains inconclusive on the name, often using Wilder and Meder interchangeably, a debate that still quietly continues to this day in paperwork.

    Double-headed excursion train heading toward Santa Cruz, 1948 (Rice & Echeverria)
    Unlike the other trestles along the joint-SP/OS right-of-way to Davenport, the trestle over Wilder Creek was never filled in. First built in 1905, it remained a full-exposed wood-frame trestle right into the present, finally being filled at some point after 1951, probably in the 1970s. It is instantly recognizable compared to other water spans in the county due to a darker wood or heavier tar used in the center of the trestle, as is visible in all three photographs here. Because it was not filled, the trestle was heavily reinforced for use along a line that primarily supported cement trains heading out from Davenport, thus photographs show extensive crossbeams with closely-packed pilings. Though heavily photographed in excursion trips that passed the Wilder property, pedestrians were not encouraged to cross the bridge and no walkway or railings were provided for such a use. A sign in the photograph above looks similar to other signs along the Southern Pacific's routes warning people to stay away from the tracks and trestle.

    A northbound double-header taking an excursion group to Davenport, c. 1950. (Hamman)
    Wilder Creek now travels through three separate culverts under the right-of-way, one under the former trestle near its eastern end, and two east of the former trestle through additional culverts. The filled trestle can be easily viewed from the Wilder Ranch State Park property as a steep hillside just south of the former houses of the dairy farm. No evidence of the physical trestle remains, though the tracks continue to pass over the top of the fill. The right-of-way is currently owned by the City of Santa Cruz as part of its Iowa Pacific-operated Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway project.


    • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
    • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).
    • Bruce MacGregor, South Pacific Coast: An Illustrated History of the Narrow-Gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad (Howell-North Books, 1968).
    • Walter Rice & Emiliano Echeverria, Images of Rail: Rails of California's Central Coast (Arcadia, 2008).

    Friday, May 30, 2014

    Moore Creek Trestles

    As the Ocean Shore Railroad's Southern Division began its northernly turn toward the Southern Pacific's Coast Line tracks, both lines were forced to bridge the first body of water along a route that would be riddled with creeks and lagoons. Fortunately, a corporate agreement between the two companies ensured that this would be the only creek that the two firms would have to bridge separately. In the end, the Ocean Shore won the battle, but the Coast Line won the war.

    At Moore Creek, the border between the northern city limits of the City of Santa Cruz and the vast wilderness of the north coast, the two railroad right-of-ways were within eye-shot of each other, no more than 400 feet apart. Within a quarter of a mile, the two lines would unify as they approached the dairy at Wilder Ranch. The only thing between them was the mill pond and factories of the San Vicente Lumber Company that exclusively used the Ocean Shore's line for lumber between 1909 and 1923. The creek itself was named after Eli Moore, a North Carolinian who moved to Santa Cruz in 1847 and built a ranch on the hill near the current Arboretum. After only a few years on the site, he moved to downtown where he is said to have built one of the first wooden structures in the city (the previous all being made of adobé). Moore died in 1859 but the creek has retained his name ever since.

    San Vicente Mill at Antonelli Pond, c. 1910. Parallel tracks in the foreground
    are the Coast Line tracks and a siding. (Rick Hamman)
    The approximately 225-foot long Ocean Shore Trestle was less a trestle and more of a fill, located along modern-day Delaware Avenue at the southern end of the Antonelli Pond where Moore Creek passes into Natural Bridges State Beach. The trestle was filled very early on, possibly as early as 1905 when the creek was first bridged, and afterwards the creek passed through a culvert under the right-of-way as it did in numerous places along the North Coast. The pond itself was artificial, caused by the earthen works of the fill then used by the San Vicente Lumber Company for its mill pond which serviced their mill located immediately east of the pond. When the lumber company ceased using the Ocean Shore tracks in 1923, the tracks were pulled and the right-of-way was converted into a road named Ocean Shore Boulevard, later Delaware Avenue.

    The San Vicente Lumber Company mill pond eventually was renamed the Mazzoni Pond, after a landowner, before it was finally named the Antonelli Pond, for the Antonelli brothers—John, Patrick, and Peter—who owned the adjacent property. They were known for growing and selling begonias in Capitola and they opened a second garden here. In 1980, the western half of the pond was sold to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County to be built up as a historic landmark.

    Southern Pacific's Moore Creek Trestle, c. 2012. (Google Maps)
    Just north of the Ocean Shore's trestle, the more formal Coast Line trestle over Moore Creek still sits. Constructed of numerous rows (at least 15) of redwood pilings and cross braces, the 325-foot long trestle was erected by the Southern Pacific around 1906, soon after construction began on the route out of Santa Cruz. For whatever reason, the Coast Line decided that the creek was better spanned than filled here, allowing the lagoon to survive to this day. Unlike the more northern trestles, this span was always a single track bridge with no easement allowed for Ocean Shore trains, which were diverted south along their own track. Mike Dalbey, a Wilder Ranch employee, photographed parts of the trestle recently and noted that Roman numerals are printed on the crossbeams, piers, braces, and bulkheads of the all-wood trestle allowing it to be prefabricated elsewhere and reassembled on site here. The trestle stills remains across the creek and can be most easily viewed from Delaware Avenue or accessed from Natural Bridges Drive. It is the only trestle remaining along the North Coast within Santa Cruz County, the rest being demolished or filled over the past century.

    • Donald Thomas Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008)
    • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).

    Friday, May 23, 2014

    Wrigley & Swift Street Sidings

    Along the Southern Pacific Railroad's Coast Line right-of-way just before crossing Moore Creek sits the historic Wrigley Factory and it's sidings near Swift Street. The Wrigley building, located on the north side of the tracks, is one of the largest structures in the city of Santa Cruz. It still sits, partially occupied by small local businesses under the name University Business Park, just east of the the city limits on the West Side of town.

    The entrance to the Santa Cruz Wrigley plant, 26 April 1955,
    with tour guides ready for customers. (Covello Collection)
    The plant was built by the William Wrigley Jr. Company around 1955. Wrigley was founded in 1892 and was based out of Chicago, Illinois, and the chewing gum company built three factories across the United States, with the other two located in Chicago and Gainesville, Georgia. The Santa Cruz factory produced roughly 20 million sticks of chewing gum a day over its forty years in operation and in the 1960s and 1970s it was the largest corporate employer in Santa Cruz County, only being downgraded in subsequent years because of the tech boom. Unfortunately, in mid-1996, Wrigley announced the closure of the Santa Cruz plant due to a significant decrease in demand for gum west of the Rocky Mountains. Company officials reported that the Santa Cruz factory was functioning at less than 60 percent capacity and that the cost of shipping ingredients to Santa Cruz was becoming too high.

    Liquid cars parked behind a diesel engine beside the Wrigley plant, 2010. The
    siding runs under the eaves at left. (1TrickPony at West Coast Rail
    The little-noticed Wrigley Siding sits behind, or rather to the south, of the Wrigley building, occupying the long narrow corporate parking lot for the current University Business Park. The paved-over remains of the siding still hug close to the side of the building, the tops of the tracks visible between asphalt. The siding itself has been disconnected from the adjacent Davenport branch tracks, though the rough location where they connected with the main line can be projected from aerial imaging. The tracks were used for loading freight containers for shipments to local distributors, with direct access to the interior of the plant from the loading docks. Three covered porches visible on Google Maps still marks the locations of those loading docks.

    Cement car and diesel engine on the Swift Street Spur, 2010.
    (1TrickPony at West Coast Rail
    Just to the east of the Wrigley Siding, the siding popularly known as the "Swift Street Siding" sits idle. This siding once allowed Wrigley to park freight cars awaiting pickup on a different stretch of track than their active-use siding beside the plant. This siding may have been more directly connected to the Wrigley Siding in the 1950s and 1960s with freight cars passing from one to the other before passing onto the main track. Unlike the siding beside the plant, the Swift Street siding still exists and in 2012 acted as host to the Iowa Pacific's inaugural Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway train. In recent years, the siding has also been used to park cement and liquid cars bound for or coming from the Davenport cement plant. Freight operations at Davenport ended in 2010 and the siding has seen little use since then, except for the brief event in 2012. The siding is likely to be used again in coming years as local passenger rail projects plan to increase traffic along the North Coast. The siding is located just west of Swift Street off of California Route 1 on the West Side. The Moore Creek Trestle is immediately opposite the western end of the Wrigley Siding.


    • Peter Sinton, "Wrigley's Move Hard to Swallow", San Francisco Chronicle, 1 May 1996 <> (Accessed 23 May 2014).