Author Statement

This website is a constant work-in-progress, with articles updated regularly throughout the site. Much of the information comes from local railroad fans such as yourselves. If you have information regarding local railroads, photographs or railroad documents, or you feel a mistake has been made or information omitted from an article, leave a comment on the appropriate page or email me at This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Friday, August 17, 2018

Bridges: Zayante Creek

The route of the South Pacific Coast Railroad down Zayante Creek to Felton had very few natural obstacles. Only one solid granite outcropping required tunnelling and early bridges along the eastern ridge above Zayante Creek were quickly filled and the seasonal streams culverted after the initial track was installed in 1880. By the time the Southern Pacific Railroad took over the route in 1887, there were a total of three railroad bridges that crossed Zayante Creek, two along the mainline and one on the Boulder Creek Branch. Smaller structures undoubtedly existed to bridge the countless minor tributaries above Zayante Creek, but no evidence of these has survived to the present.

The northernmost bridge over Zayante Creek as it stands today, 2013.
[Derek R. Whaley]
About a mile north of Felton along the mainline, the most northernly of the Zayante Creek bridges is colloquially named the Jackass Flats bridge, after a the adjacent property. It is unclear what the original narrow-gauge structure looked like, but it was probably built entirely out of redwood beams. It is unclear when the standard-gauge bridge replaced the original structure, but it likely predates the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake since the foundation aggregate material appears to have a heavier concentration of lime than the other piers and abutments in the area, which all date to after 1906, when the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company undoubtedly provided the cement for construction. 

The current structure is a 245-foot-long standard-gauge bridge with three cement supports, one in the creek and two on either end. A driveway to the Jackass Flats property passes under the bridge on the south end, while the former East Zayante Road passed under the northern end, although it is heavily overgrown with poison oak now. The center of the bridge is supported by an open-deck steel Warren truss span that bridges the creek. Remains of access ladders hang beneath the truss on both ends. On the northern side, a redwood open-deck girder connects the abutment to the truss. On the southern side, a shorter open-deck steel girder links connects a redwood open-deck span to the truss by crossing over a concrete pier installed beside the Jackass Flats driveway. The southern abutment has been repaired extensively over the years to counter its slow cracking and decay. This bridge also has endured significant stress caused by sixty years of sand trains passing over it almost daily.

The northernmost bridge over Zayante Creek, as viewed from the north looking south, 2013. [Derek R. Whaley]
Today, the bridge is in an advanced state of decay. While owned by Roaring Camp Railroads since 1985, it is very rarely used and, when used, only the lightest service equipment pass over the bridge. Many of the ties are rotten and the tracks themselves are rusting. In recent years, Roaring Camp has expressed interest in restoring the bridge for full use, but little has been done yet to accomplish this goal. The primary reason it remains intact is so that Roaring Camp can retain property rights to property north of the crossing.

Postcard showing the bridge over Zayante Creek near Mount Hermon, c. 1908. [Mount Hermon Association]
Just south of Mount Hermon, the railroad crosses over Zayante Creek a second time. Like most of the early bridges in the area, it is unclear precisely what the original narrow-gauge structure looked like, although it was very likely a redwood-frame truss bridge of some sort, much like the structure that replaced it around 1907. This second structure is composed of a 335-foot-long steel open-deck truss bridge with short redwood timber trestlework on either side. The truss is mounted atop two concrete piers with redwood abutments on either side to return the track to the grade.

A group of picnickers passing over the bridge heading toward Felton Depot, c. 1910s. [Mount Hermon Association]
Due to the presence of Mount Hermon just to the north of this bridge, the original structure was designed with pedestrian walkways on either side of the track and wooden railings. Photographic evidence shows that this bridge was heavily trafficked in its early years by campers and vacationers staying at Mount Hermon. 

The bridge over Zayante Creek near Mount Hermon as it appears today, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
Unlike the more northernly Zayante Creek bridge, this bridge remains in regular use by Roaring Camp. During the summer, special excursions of the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railroad crosses the bridge to pick up campers at Redwood Camp and take them to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. As such, the bridge has been continuously maintained since it was first erected. At some point, the wood railings were replaced with metal wire and the wood decks with metal grates, but otherwise the structure remains the same.

Photo of Southern Pacific Railroad locomotive 2088 crossing over the trestle at the eastern end of the lower Zayante Creek bridge, c. 1908. [Aram Family – SLV Museum]
A woman standing on the new Graham Hill Road Bridge around
1930. The bridge is clearly visible behind her with telephone

wires spanning overhead. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
The southernmost bridge over Zayante Creek was not located on the mainline but rather on the Boulder Creek Branch (originally Felton & Pescadero Railroad and, subsequently, Felton Branch). Of the three, it is the only bridge that does not survive, although its pier and western abutment still can be found alongside Graham Hill Road. When the Felton & Pescadero Railroad was first constructed between 1884 and 1885 from Felton Depot to Boulder Creek, it crossed over Zayante Creek just west of the depot, near the southern end of (East) Zayante Road. Like the other bridges over the creek, the original narrow-gauge structure was unknown. However, it must have been designed to a standard-gauge scale since it was not actually replaced until 1917, despite the tracks themselves being broadened in 1907.

The reason for the replacement was likely due to the increased weight the bridge had to sustain as boxcars carrying loads of processed lime began crossing over this bridge in 1909 when the former Old Felton Branch was closed and a new route was built over the San Lorenzo River beside the Felton Covered Bridge. After eight years of regular heavy traffic, the old structure likely required upgrading.

The second structure, measuring 285 feet, was a steel open-deck bridge over the creek supplemented with a long redwood trestle that ran east until meeting grade level. Although the Boulder Creek branch closed in 1934, the track between Felton Depot and the Holmes Lime Kiln remained intact until October 1939, when the tracks were finally dismantled and the bridge demolished.

A water conduit running through the western abutment and over the concrete center pier of the lower Zayante Creek bridge, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
The western abutment with the date "1917" printed on both sides,
2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
The concrete abutment and pier remain today. The San Lorenzo Valley Water District repurposed these at some point for the valley's water system. A pipe now runs through the abutment and atop the pier before going underground on the east bank of the creek. These features can be easily viewed from the Graham Hill Road bridge over Zayante Creek or by parking at Felton Bible Church and walking to the creek. Date stamps for when the abutment was installed can be found clearly defined on either side of it. On the eastern embankment, there are  some remnants of posts hiding in the foliage and the redwood abutment that ended the trestle sits just beside the dirt driveway that leads into San Lorenzo Home & Garden Center (which was once the former Boulder Creek Branch right-of-way).

The eastern abutment of the lower Zayante Creek bridge, partially buried and overgrown across the street from Mount Hermon's physical plant, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
Citations & Credits:

Friday, August 10, 2018

Stations: Mount Hermon

During the days when California was under the control of Mexico, Isaac Graham built a sawmill on Rancho Zayante near a bend along Zayante Creek where Bean and Ferndale Creeks cascade down in a beautiful waterfall. By the time the South Pacific Coast Railroad passed through the area in 1880, this bend hosted a small rural farm but was nothing of note. No railroad stop was established here and passengers saw nothing to catch their fancy. Indeed, the railroad bridge to the south that crossed Zayante Creek over a relatively deep chasm was undoubtedly more exciting. Eventually, the 200-acre property passed to Frederick A. Hihn, who sold it to Thomas L. Bell in 1897. It was under Bell's leadership that this site evolved from a small farm into a destination resort.

Postcard of the Zayante Inn in a newly-branded Mount Hermon, c. 1908. [Mount Hermon Association]
Under Bell's leadership, Arcadia emerged with the deluxe Tuxedo Inn Hotel, built in 1901, as its centerpiece. Around the hotel grounds were cottages, a small store, restaurant, and ballroom. Alongside the tracks, which ran on the west side of the property, Southern Pacific Railroad erected a small shelter station under the name "Campus," which began operating in 1898. Bell wanted to name the station Arcadia, naturally, but the railroad refused due to that name already being in use elsewhere in the division. Thus, Bell adopted the name "Tuxedo," which quickly became associated with the entire resort.

Baggage handlers beside the original Mount Hermon station shelter, 1906. [Mount Hermon Association]
Tuxedo was named after Edward Henry Herriman estate in New York called Tuxedo Park. The word "Tuxedo" itself is probably based on the name of an Algonquin Indian group, and its later use to describe fancy clothing was also based on the lavish parties held at the Herriman estate. And just like the East Coast Tuxedo, Bell wanted his resort to shine. He installed 200 lights throughout the property, many of which went toward lighting a large ballroom and dining area beside the hotel. He also dammed the creek to create an artificial lake for boating and fishing. Anticipating future expansion, Bell purchased 200 acres across Zayante Creek, which were integrated into Tuxedo in 1904.

The original Mount Hermon shelter with waiting passengers, 1906. [Mount Hermon Association]
Bell was always looking for the next project and by 1905, he appears to have grown tired of Tuxedo and began planning a subdivision on the south side of Felton. On December 12, 1905, a group of evangelical Christians held a summit in nearby Glenwood and initiated plans to purchase a property in the Santa Cruz Mountains for use as a seasonal retreat. Tuxedo was a perfect fit and Bell was all too eager to sell. On April 14, 1906, the Mount Hermon Association purchased the property and began its conversion into an entirely new kind of mountain resort.

A busy warm day at Mount Hermon Station, 1906. [Mount Hermon Association]
Almost immediately, the site and railroad station were renamed Mount Hermon and the hotel given the name Zayante Inn. The hotel's reputation as a popular gambling and drinking parlor was of no interest to its new owners. The first year proved wildly successful as guest speakers came from around the West Coast to speak at conferences and retreats at the resort.

Vacationers posing beside the new Mount Hermon station, 1915. [Mount Hermon Association]
In May 1907, a post office was added, further increasing the site's visibility. The railroad recognised the location's popularity by upgrading the shelter there to a full depot, which was installed in 1914. This depot not only featured a passenger office and baggage storage room, but also included long covered patios on either side for people awaiting the next train.

Vacationers having fun beside a Southern Pacific baggage car at Mount Hermon, 1918. [Mount Hermon Association]
Zayante Inn remained the center of Mount Hermon until a fire destroyed it and the surrounding area in 1921, at which point the organization relocated across Zayante Creek. The area around the station was largely abandoned except as a picnic and camping area for a number of decades, while the post office was eventually relocated with the rest of the resort across the creek. A new conference center was built there and summer cabins began spreading into the hills above it, permanently shifting the center of the Christian retreat.

Conference-goers posing outside a passenger car at Mount Hermon, 1920s. [Mount Hermon Association]
By this point, tourism via rail was on the decline. Nonetheless, Mount Hermon's station remained on railroad timetables until 1943, when the railroad petitioned for its abandonment. At this time, it was the northernmost station along the southern portion of the former route through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Passenger rail no longer operated within the county except for seasonal specials, so there was no compelling reason to keep this remote station operating.

Mount Hermon station after the abandonment of the original resort grounds, 1930s. [Mount Hermon Association]
The railroad sold the depot to Mount Hermon, which converted it for use as the private cabin of the head male councillor of Redwood Camp. It remains one of only two confirmed narrow-gauge depots still existing in Santa Cruz County, the other being Felton's depot.  The surrounding grounds, once Arcadia and then Tuxedo resorts, are now used by Mount Hermon for summer camps, as well as other retreats and functions throughout the year. Every summer, the adjacent railroad tracks are still used by the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway to shuttle camp groups to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0519N, 122.0632W

Mount Hermon depot is currently owned by the Mount Hermon Association and trespassing is not permitted. Similarly, the tracks through this area are owned by Roaring Camp Railroads and trespass laws are enforced by both Roaring Camp and Mount Hermon in this area, due to the presence of children in the summer. Although the depot structure has undergone numerous additions over the decades, including the enclosure and truncation of both patios into rooms, the basic structure and its location beside the tracks remains unchanged. Other features of the original Arcadia resort are mostly gone, although remnants of the original dam and a few foundation stones at the site of the hotel can still be found.

Mount Hermon station as it appears today in Redwood Camp beside the railroad tracks, 2010. [Derek R. Whaley]
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Freight Stops: Pacific Coast Aggregates

The Pacific Coast Aggregates quarry in the 1970s, with three
chains of hopper cars parked on various spurs and an aggregate
loader visible in the background. [Bruce MacGregor]
It was two sand quarries that saved a significant portion of the Southern Pacific Railroad's route through the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1940. The northern quarry, located just south of Olympia, was owned by the Kaiser Pavement Company. But the first operation, begun in 1928 and located roughly 0.6 miles to the south, was run by the McMillan Company. McMillan's quarry sat on 70 acres of almost pure Margarita sandstone and the site was perfect for quarrying. Surrounded on all sides by sand hills, the quarry could remain fairly close to the railroad tracks and, therefore, did not require as much trackage. By the early 1930s, Atlas Olympia took over the plant and attached it to its Pacific Coast Aggregates (PCA) subsidiary, which was one of the primary aggregate suppliers on the West Coast.

Southern Pacific immediately capitalized on its new freight patron. Because the route through the mountains still operated at the time the quarry opened, all the spurs exit to the north, in the direction that the hopper cars would leave the freight yard. This aspect of the stop would never be corrected, even after the branch lost its northern route. The railroad installed a number of spurs to cater to the PCA facility. Immediately beside the mainline, a 435-foot-long parallel spur was installed that could hold hopper cars awaiting shipment. A de facto freight office was also installed directly across from a loading platform at the end of this spur. A shorter 350-foot-long spur broke off from the holding spur to provide additional storage for filled and empty cars. At the bottom of these, a much longer spur turned into the quarry itself, forking at the end beneath two aggregate loaders. These loaders were fed by a conveyor belt that shifted around the facility to collect sand. As operations moved into the hillsides, the loaders, conveyor, and tracks were probably moved as well. There was also a smaller aggregate dump located beside the quarry spur, although the precise purpose for this is unknown.

This photograph is taken from nearly the same vantage point as the historical photo above, albeit the entirety of the quarry spur can be seen in the older photograph. The railroad infrastructure remains in place, slowly rusting away until Roaring Camp and CEMEX do something with the area. Photo taken in 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]

PCA continued operating the quarry until 2002, by which time it had been purchased by Lone Star Cement Corporation (in 1965) and then RMC Pacific Materials (in 1988). Southern Pacific convinced Lone Star to abandon usage of the railroad tracks in 1982, after a terrible winter storm that year severely damaged large portions of the track further to the south along San Lorenzo Gorge. In response, Lone Star permanently switched to shipping aggregates via truck while the mainline track was purchased by Roaring Camp Railroads. RMC was taken over by CEMEX in 2005, but the quarry had already closed by this time and CEMEX has no intention of reopening it. The property is currently undergoing environmental rehabilitation under advisement by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0623N, 122.0554W

The site of the Pacific Coast Aggregates quarry is now owned by CEMEX and trespassing is strictly prohibited and not advised. The railroad tracks are owned by Roaring Camp Railroads and trespassing is likewise discouraged. All of the trackage into the quarry remains intact, although everything within the quarry itself has been buried by sand. At least one of the switches remains usable and the freight platform is clearly visible. The freight office survived in a dilapidated state until 2012, when CEMEX demolished it. To the north, the small wooden aggregates loader can be seen rotting away in overgrown bushes.

Citations & Credits:
  • Hubbard, Henry G. "Mines and Mineral Resoruces of Santa Cruz County," California Journal of Mines and Geology, January 1943, pages 50-52 <>
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA: 2015.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Stations: Hayes

Advertisement for Central Hotel listing Isaac Hayes as
proprietor, 10 May 1885. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
The Santa Cruz Mountains hosted many small freight and passenger stations over the decades and one such station was Hayes, just south of Eccles. The station catered to the property of Isaac Newton "Jack" Hayes, born in 1836 and originally from Michigan, who was well-known in Felton as the owner of the (Grand) Central Hotel from 1885 to 1900. However, his station was probably installed to support a lumber partnership Hayes had with Thomas Hubbard, another prominent San Lorenzo Valley resident. In the late 1880s, after the Dougherty Mill on Zayante Creek had burned down, Hayes and Hubbard operated as independent contractors for the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, harvesting timber on Zayante Creek tracts and probably shipping the wood uncut to the company's main mill in Santa Clara, although it is certainly possible the wood was taken to the Dougherty Mill north of Boulder Creek for processing.

The Southern Pacific Railroad installed a 98-foot-long spur at Hayes around 1890 along the narrow-gauge sub-division at a point mid-way between what would become the Kaiser Quarry freight spur and the Pacific Coast Aggregates/CEMEX spur, in the vicinity of the Zayante Fire House. Current property lines confirm a wider than usual right-of-way in this area, easily capable of fitting a spur beside the main track. Indeed, the meadow upon which the fire house now sits may have been an assembly or holding yard for the timber. It is unclear if Hayes had a platform or loading device of any type, but it seems likely.

Isaac Hayes died October 23, 1900, suffering from years of rheumatism and going into shock after having a leg amputated. The station remained on station books until 1911. Indeed, the spur may have even been upgraded in 1908 to standard-gauge since a 215-foot-long spur is listed on timetables for the years 1909-1910, but then it disappears from all records. What it was used for during these years or, indeed, all the years after 1900, remains a mystery.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0669N, 122.0562W

Hayes was probably located immediately to the east of the Zayante Fire Station along the tracks now owned by Roaring Camp Railroads. As such, trespassing is not encouraged. There are no remnants of Hayes or its spur remaining, although the standard-gauge tracks still pass through the area on their way to Olympia.

Citations & Credits:
If you have information about Hayes near Olympia,
leave a comment below or email

Friday, July 20, 2018

Curiosities: Zayante-Area Resorts

The Zayante Creek basin runs between the Summit and Felton and includes the Lompico Creek basin, as well. The area has never been densely populated and even today is irregularly-settled, especially at its upper end. However, that never stopped aspiring entrepreneurs from converting their mountain ranches and farms into aspiring resorts. From 1879, when the South Pacific Coast Railroad first built its route above the east bank of Zayante Creek between Mountain Charlie Gulch and "New" Felton, numerous tourist destinations arose, all hoping to coax a few travellers into visiting their humble establishments. The large meadow flanked by sand hills on either side of the creek around Eccles and Olympia provided the most enduring and enticing locales for such ventures. By 1897, interest in resorts in the area were at a fever pitch. A letter to the Santa Cruz Sentinel on September 19, 1897, proclaimed:
"There are rumors in the air of many improvements contemplated along the Zayante. The great number of people who flock to our health-giving mountains is increasing yearly, and to provide adequately for their comfort and pleasure far-seeing men are going to erect new dwellings and provide camping grounds.
"It is very strange that such a beautiful glen as that of the Zayante—lying at the very doors of the metropolis, San Jose and Santa Cruz, should have been so long passed over and neglected. When we have visited some of the so-called romantic resorts we have mused over what wayward subjects human kind are. When we see the trains passing by loaded with tired people looking for health and pleasure, it reminds us forcibly of rushing through Paradise and camping outside the gates. However, that is all over. The premonitory rumbles of our little boom are in the air, and Eccles will be no longer a mere flag station."
Here are some of the more successful resorts that sprang up in the Zayante Creek basin alongside the railroad route through the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Postcard of Forde's Rest, c. 1906. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Forde's Rest (1897-1951)
One of the earliest resorts in the area, Forde's Rest was probably founded in 1897 by William C. Forde near the confluence of Lompico and Zayante Creeks. As the photograph above shows, it had a rather luxurious portico that ran alongside the front of its cottages. Advertisements at the time noted as features trout fishing, bathing, hiking through the redwoods, and picnicking through picturesque wilderness. By the 1940s, the resort included 33 cabins, a 50 by 25-foot swimming pool, badminton and archery facilities, a recreation hall, and a restaurant. The Forde family ran the resort for nearly fifty years before selling it to John A. Cummins around 1944. He built numerous improvements but ended up selling the property to Jack A. Meisenbach in 1946, who continued operating the resort with his wife, Cordella. In 1951, Ivan and Mabel Netoff, owners of the Beach Hill Dining Room, purchased the property and renamed it the Vagabond Lodge, converting the entire property into a restaurant. This business appears to have failed within a few years and all mention of Forde's Rest and the Vagabond Lodge disappear from records.

Camp Olympia (1900-1912)
Established by William C. Forde immediately beside his Forde's Rest resort, Camp Olympia was originally a low-budget campground for those wishing to spend a few nights under the oak trees that flanked Zayante Creek. Advertisements in 1900 noted that campers should bring their own tents and noted activities such as "shady walks, bathing in limpid streams. Games, dance floor, hunting, fishing." In May 1901, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) of California leased the property for a successful retreat that summer. The retreat was heavily advertised between 1903 and 1905, but marketing for it mostly disappeared thereafter. In 1912, an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle still noted that people can "Come and pitch your tent under the most magnificent oaks in the state. Tents and cots furnished. Bathing, fishing, dancing, pianola music." Yet it remained under-advertised and probably just a satellite of Forde's Rest. Nonetheless, the flag-stop that had been established for it remained in place and eventually replaced Eccles as the primary stop for the area, undoubtedly under the encouragement of Forde, who served as postmaster at Eccles and died only a year before the post office moved to Olympia.
Tract plan for a failed housing subdivision on a portion of Marcum land, 1926. [Santa Cruz County Records]
Our Ranch Resort (1911-1953)
Our Ranch was founded around 1913 by Benjamin G. Marcum (or Markham) and his wife on a property between the railroad tracks and Zayante Creek near Olympia Station. Unlike the other resorts in the area, Our Ranch remained throughout its existence a full-fledged farm, selling products to local businesses, tourists, and locals. Throughout the late 1910s and early 1920s, the resort evolved into a popular dude ranch that attracted visitors from around the Bay Area. To attract customers, Zayante Creek was dammed just south of its confluence with Lompico Creek and a swimming and boating pool was created. Nearby, a dancing pavilion and restaurant were built to support guests. In 1926, plans were initiated to parcel off the portion of the property that ran along the railroad tracks between Eccles and Olympia, but this subdivision was never built for some reason.

The second generation of management under Audrey Marcum made the location popular for school dances and community events, ensuring its continued use into the 1930s. During the Depression years, Our Ranch advertised its bed-and-breakfast appeal with its catch phrase: "All the milk you can drink. Oooooh! What a Good Meal!" By the late 1930s, the resort transitioned from a dude ranch to more of an event venue and restaurant, specializing in ranch-style Sunday roasts and chicken and turkey dinners. The family sold the property in 1939, but it was maintained as a restaurant for many years afterwards by Ralph H. and Anna M. Souders.

Although Our Ranch did not suffer heavily from the 1940 storm that destroyed the railroad route, the Trout Farm, located directly across from Our Ranch, was destroyed and was not rebuilt until 1942. In 1941, the post office relocated to the Our Ranch store since there was no longer any need for the office to sit beside the railroad tracks. John Hall and his wife took over the property in 1948 and continued to operate the restaurant. By this time, virtually all of the original Marcum property had been parcelled and only the family home and restaurant, located on one acre across East Zayante Road from the fire station, remained. The home went on the market in 1953 but continued to appear regularly in advertisements, suggesting it was not saleable. The last mention of the property in newspapers is 1964, at which time it was for sale once again.

A group of around 50 girls seated at dinner tables tables at Camp Wasibo, from the April 1926 edition of Evergirl's. [Camp Fire Girls Camp Histories]
Camp Wasibo (1924-1948, 1954)
One of the last retreats built during railroading days, Camp Wasibo was operated by the Camp Fire Girls of San Francisco around 1925. The site, owned by the Ley family of Felton, gained popularity as a cheap vacation destination during the Depression and war years. From mid-June to mid-August of each year, Camp Fire Girls used the camp for extended retreats. It offered many activities including handicraft, weaving, nature lore, drama, outdoor cooking, canoeing, hiking, swimming, and archery. Weekly field trips visited local sights and took campers to Felton and Santa Cruz for shopping and recreation. During World War II, the camp ran four two-week retreats for girls. The Camp Fire Girls abandoned the site in 1948 but the Girl Scouts of America leased it by 1954 (possibly earlier) for use by their older campers, aged 10-16 (younger campers went to parks elsewhere in the county). Although the Girl Scouts signed a five-year lease, the torrential rains and severe flooding of 1955 destroyed the site and it was never rehabilitated. It remains unclear where precisely Camp Wasibo was located.

Ferndale Resort (c1917-1938)
One of the lesser known vacation resorts in the Zayante was named Ferndale, owned by Albert M. Mannell and his wife, Nellie May. For around two decades, the home hosted small numbers of visitors in a bed-and-breakfast style. The home also hosted local events and dinners, such as for the Olympia Whist Club. In 1931, the Mannell's upgraded the property into a full resort, building log cabins, cottages, and tents for guests. The property also included showers and a dance hall. In January 1936, the Olympia branch of the Townsend Society built a clubhouse on the property and they held frequent meetings at the site for the next two years. However, a bad storm in February 1938 damaged the concrete pump house at the resort and all record of the resort and the Townsend Society disappears from public records. In January 1940, the property was seized by the Peoples Savings Bank. Albert died six months later from an extended illness.

Seasonal and Permanent Residential Subdivisions
More generally, multiple attempts have been made to built permanent and seasonal homes within the Zayante Creek basin. Most of those that were built in the days of the railroad advertised rail service and provided at a minimum an open-air dance pavilion and swimming pool, the latter usually formed by damming Zayante or Lompico Creek. Remnants of these dams survive all along the creek, between the former heart of Zayante and Mount Hermon, but most of the dams were destroyed in one of the great flood years, especially 1955 and 1982. The following are the more noteworthy subdivisions that were created or attempted in the Zayante area:

  • Happy Land (1911) – At least ten tracts, apparently along Lompico Creek, although probably just south of its confluence with Zayante Creek.
  • Lompico (1925) – Nineteen tracts proposed along Lompico Creek, but many parcels were located on functionally unusable land.
  • Zayante Lakes (1925) – Three tracts in the vicinity of the Zayante Creek Market & Deli.
  • Our Ranch (1926) – One tract proposed but abandoned between Olympia and Eccles stations just to the west of the railroad tracks.

As has been seen above, the Great Depression contributed tremendously to the downfall of the resorts in the Zayante Creek basin since people could no longer afford to travel. Also, the industrial quarrying of the sandhills above Olympia and further to the south likely contributed to excess noise pollution in the valley. But the final death knell was the closure of the route to San Jose in 1940, which prompted the end of passenger service along the line, followed quickly by the start of World War II, which limited resources such as oil and automobile manufacturing ergo long-distant travelling. Dependence on the automobile locally after World War II meant that people took weekend and day trips to Santa Cruz rather than month-long vacations as before the Depression. Small resorts such as those in Olympia simply had too little to offer. The persistence of some of these resorts was as due in large part to their use by specific organizations and a general post-war desire to travel. By the mid-1950s, though, even those features dried up. With the exception of Mount Hermon and Camp MayMac, there are no longer any notable resorts in the Zayante Creek basin.

Citations & Credits:
  • Santa Cruz Evening News.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Evening Sentinel, and Weekly Sentinel.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Freight Stops: Kaiser Pavement Company

Sentinel photographs of Kaiser quarry machinery, including the mobile conveyors and
the railroad loading dock, February 28, 1941. [SC Sentinel]
The only reason that railroad tracks still meander up the San Lorenzo River to Olympia today is because of the sand quarry built by the Kaiser Pavement Company in June 1936. Henry J. Kaiser purchased a 200-acre tract of sandy hillside land just to the south of Olympia in order to fulfil a long-term contract for the Columbia Construction Company. The quarry provided concrete-grade sand to Columbia and was intended to be used in some of the Works Progress projects funded by the federal government during the Great Depression.

To support this operation, the Southern Pacific Railroad installed a fairly extensive spur track within the quarry grounds. At Olympia itself, a gravel dump was installed alongside a spur that sat beside the tracks. Further south, the long siding reunited with the mainline but also continued as a spur into the quarry. Within the quarry, the spur forked so that mobile conveyors could pour sand into waiting gondola cars. The loading stations were permanently installed, but the conveyors were extended as quarry-work pushed into the hillsides. Back at the main track, filled gondolas were parked on the long siding between the quarry and Eccles.

It was the existence of these two quarries and their relative isolation that convinced the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1940 to retain trackage to a point just south of Eccles, not far beyond where the siding reconnected with the mainline track. Thus, the quarries at Olympia saved the track for posterity. The Kaiser quarry continued to operate through World War II, where up to 300 cars of sand per month were shipped out. Kaiser's spurs could hold up to twenty-five gondolas on its siding at any one time. Around 1968, Hanson Aggregates purchased Kaiser and switched to shipping sand via trucks. The spurs were retained, but were quickly buried. The company remained in operation until 2003. Damage to the railroad route in 1982 caused by an especially fierce winter storm prompted the adjacent Pacific Aggregates (formerly McMillan) to switch to using trucks for shipment, as well. Southern Pacific decided it was time to abandon this stretch of track and Roaring Camp Railroads came in to buy it from them. The track has been owned by Roaring Camp since 1985, although all of the trackage north of Mount Hermon has only been infrequently maintained.
A modern map showing the former layout of the Kaiser-Hanson quarry complex, with modern reference points, 2011. [Water District Watershed Management Plan]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0713N, 122.0547W

The site of the Kaiser/Hanson quarry was purchased by the San Lorenzo Valley Water District in the late 2000s and has become a nature park and habitat rehabilitation area. As such, it can be visited, with access available from a driveway beside the Zayante Fire Station. The railroad tracks remain owned by Roaring Camp Railroads and, although trespassing is discouraged, it is quite frequent by both locals and visitors. The spur begins just north of the fire station and turns sharply into the Water District property, where it is almost immediately buried under sand and underbrush. The siding continues to the north toward Olympia. Until recently, two flatcars (with a third upside down atop one) were parked on the former Kaiser spur, but those were removed in 2017 by Roaring Camp crews seeking to recycle parts and clean up the track.

Citations & Credits:

  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Stations: Olympia

At the turn of the twentieth century, the area near where East and West Zayante Roads meet today was a busy travel destination for the Southern Pacific Railroad. At Eccles, residents and local farmers shipped out goods. On the Union Mill Spur, the milling company shipped out lumber. And in the summer of 1900, Camp Olympia was founded on the hill just above the railroad grade, for which the railroad installed a flag-stop in 1905.

The grade crossing beside Olympia's station site on Olympia Station Road, 2011. [Derek R. Whaley]
For the first decade of its existence, Olympia was an unimportant waypoint along the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains. All important traffic continued to go to Eccles or Felton and only a few local resorts along the future Olympia Station Road patronized the stop. Then, in 1913, Olympia suddenly became a formal station along the line. In April 1915, it superseded Eccles in regional importance and also stole its post office.

The mainline and siding at Olympia, 2011. A spur sits buried beneath the leaves at far left. [Derek R. Whaley]
Most local industries were on the wane at this time so Olympia was definitively a passenger stop, with a small wooden station shelter to support it. However, beginning in 1928, the sand hills above and in the vicinity of Olympia were purchased by the McMillan Company and the Kaiser Pavement Company, two firms intent on quarrying sand in the area. This coincided with the Great Depression, which ended most seasonal tourist service to the area. Thus, in a very short period of time, Olympia transitioned from an exclusive tourist stop to an exclusive industrial stop. There is some evidence that quarrying around Olympia began earlier than 1928, such as the fact that a long 57-carlength siding was already at the station as of 1921, but evidence for this is not forthcoming. A gravel loader used by Kaiser was installed on a spur immediately across from the shelter while another spur also sat nearby.

The gravel loader beside Olympia Station Road, 2011. [Derek R. Whaley]
Because of the quarrying at the site, Olympia was not abandoned with the rest of the route through the mountains in November 1940. The station itself (as well as the shelter) survived until 1942, when the need for such a station location was found to be unnecessary since World War II had caused a significant reduction in passenger service and tourism in the area. However, the extensive siding space at Olympia remained intact for use by the Kaiser Pavement Company, whose quarry operated until the 1960s. When Roaring Camp Railroads purchased the entire line in 1985, they kept the entirety of the track in serviceable condition except for portions that had already fallen derelict, namely those that crossed into the two quarries. The formal end-of-track, where Southern Pacific cut its line that once crossed over the mountains, is just beyond the end of the siding to the north of Olympia.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0736N, 122.0536W

The site of Olympia station is located at the grade crossing on Olympia Station Road. The station shelter was located on the northwest corner of the crossing, while a small resort on the northeast corner acted as a more formalized structure and probably hosted the post office. The shelter was decommissioned in 1942, but may still survive on a nearby private property. The siding and two spurs (one buried) still remain in various states of repair. The gravel loader, now in an advanced state of decay, can be seen directly across the tracks. The end-of-track is accessible just to the north of Olympia. Roaring Camp has long neglected this stretch of track but growing interest among the staff has prompted the company to allocate some funds for the maintenance and rehabilitation of this stretch of track, possibly with the intent of using it for special excursions in the future. Olympia remains a geographic location on county maps, but there are no longer any commercial buildings in the area.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Stations: Union Mill Spur

1889 County Map showing the property of the
Union Mill on Lompico Creek, with the railroad
route at right. Map by Andrew J. Hatch.
[Library of Congress]
Although the Lompico subdivision was never directly serviced by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Union Mill & Lumber Company operated within the Lompico Creek valley from 1881, when the narrow-gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad was still independent. The company was founded on July 15, 1881, by T.B. Hubbard, D.L. and I.B. Kent, William Armstrong, and N.B. Bowes, and the partners began erecting their mill at the confluence of Zayante and Lompico Creeks within days of incorporation. The mill officially opened on the week of September 3 of that year. At this time, Eccles and Union Mill stations became indistinguishable, but in 1891 they officially became separate stops, with the Union Mill Spur 0.3 miles to the south, although that distance is in reality an administrative overstatement since the Union Mill's switch was less than 0.2 miles from the Eccles station platform and the two stops shared a long siding that paralleled the mainline on the east.

In 1884, a unique arrangement was negotiated with the railroad in which they would install and own the first 100 feet of track along the spur and the milling company would install and be responsible for the maintenance of the remaining 2,160 feet. The railroad, however, would remain responsible for shuttling all cars between the mill and the mainline right-of-way. While the precise right-of-way for the spur is unknown, the length of the spur is, which means the route can be estimated based on terrain. When calculated, it appears that the spur terminated near the modern-day junction of Lompico and East Zayante Roads, which matches a parcel owned by the company in 1889 (visible on the map at right). The spur crossed [E] Zayante Road at the bottom of modern-day Zayante School Road (which formed the original right-of-way) and paralleled it on the east bank of Zayante Creek until terminating just after crossing the creek. In all likelihood, the route continued much further into the Lompico Creek valley, albeit as an informal horse-drawn train system, of which no records have come to light. The company also built a steam-driven planing mill in Felton at the end of San Lorenzo Valley flume, where it processed lumber from Lompico and Two Bar Creeks.`

The precise location of the mill is uncertain, but a large clearing on the west bank of Lompico Creek just after its confluence with Zayante Creek is a good candidate. This clearing, undeveloped today, is well-situated at the mouth of the Lompico Creek valley and is almost perfectly the correct distance from the railroad right-of-way. At its height in the late 1880s and early 1890s, the mill was capable of producing 50,000 board feet of lumber per day and the mill was run by a 100-horsepower steam engine. Most of the lower Lompico Creek valley was flooded to create a large mill pond that fed directly into the mill, and steep skid roads high up in the hills brought the felled trees to the pond.

When precisely Union Mill shut down is unknown, but it remained on company records until 1910. This timing suggests that the spur was not upgraded to standard-guage in 1908-9 when the rest of the line was upgraded. As such, it could no longer operate and the stop was abandoned. Very little is known about the history and operations of the Union Mill, unfortunately, and no confirmable photographs appear to have survived. In the 1920s, the lumber tracts of the Union Mill & Lumber Company were purchased and converted into the Lompico residential subdivision.  The mill property itself may have become Camp Wastashi (later Camp MayMac).

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0831N 122.0511W

The site of Union Mill Spur's switch begins at the northernmost edge of Roaring Camp Railroads' property, just south of the southern branch of Zayante School Road. The right-of-way for the spur then passes down Zayante School Road to East Zayante Road, briefly paralleling East Zayante Road on the east bank before crossing it near the junction of East Zayante with Lompico Road. The precise location of the Union Mill is unknown but was probably just north of this intersection on the west bank of Lompico Creek.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Stations: Eccles

Much like Kenville to the north, Eccles station did not begin as anything special. Built on the land of John Sanderson Eccles, the station acted as his private flag-stop for shipping goods and possibly aggregate from the sand hills that were located on his property. Eccles was an Irish gas-fitter who came to the United States in 1856. He moved from New York to Santa Cruz in 1875 and settled along Zayante Creek. Little else is known about the man. In 1878, he deeded 2.5 acres of land to the South Pacific Coast Railroad and grading crews passed through the area the next year. Undoubtedly, the stop was part of the arrangement.

Eccles as a stop appears in Southern Pacific agency books from the very beginning, but throughout its earlier years it was directly associated with the Union Mill on Lompico Creek. The branch for the Union Mill's long spur was located roughly 0.3 miles to the south of Eccles, but Eccles station itself may have been located further to the south as well since the railroad shifted its mile-marker location periodically in employee timetables. Its primary location, though, appears to have been at the place where Zayante School Road crossed the railroad tracks north of Olympia. The railroad installed a spur beside the tracks at Eccles in the early 1890s, presumably to park lumber flatcars while they awaited pickup by a passing train. The spur at Eccles was only 310 feet long, although the station did support a freight platform. A passenger shelter was later built there, possibly as late as 1910.

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 led to the standard gauging of the line and also signalled a demographic shift in the area around Eccles. The Union Mill shut down prior to the earthquake and the company declined upgrading their spur to standard-gauge, abandoning the site instead. Over the previous three decades, a tiny hamlet had developed at and around Eccles, probably populated primarily by seasonal mill and quarry workers, that included a general store, hostelry, and post office, the latter of which opened May 3, 1878. Following the earthquake, the area became an attractive resort location, predating Zayante Lakes to the north, Lompico to the west, and Olympia to the south. Evidence from postcards suggests that a number of small villas and resort hotels opened up in the hills on either side of Zayante Creek, including at the site of Camp MayMac (originally Camp Wastashi). And yet its success as a resort location proved unsustainable.

Eccles station shelter above Zayante Creek, c. 1912. [San Jose Mercury News]
Situated as it was on a hillside near the confluence of Lompico and Zayante Creeks, there was very little room for expansion at Eccles. Furthermore, its very suitability as a residential and agricultural area meant that there was little room for new commercial ventures in the area. Appearing 0.4 miles to the south beginning in 1900, a rival to Eccles appeared in the form of Olympia. For over a decade, this location remained a simple flag-stop, but its potential as a resort area was far better than Eccles' and, in 1913, a coup in the timetables occurred: Eccles was demoted to a flag-stop and Olympia replaced it as the premiere stop for the region. Like Eccles before it, Olympia benefited from access to sand quarries, providing it with an industrial purpose, but there was also much more room to expand since a large meadow sprawled on the west bank of Zayante Creek here and even the east bank provided substantial space for expansion. Two years later, on April 10, 1915, Olympia stole the post office from Eccles and the name Eccles quickly fell into disuse by the community.

The Eccles station sign on display at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. [Derek R. Whaley]
The station appeared and disappeared as a flag-stop on timetables for the remainder of the existence of the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains, but who used the station during this time and for what is unknown. It may well have still serviced a few small resorts in the area as a place where passengers could flag down a train or detrain, but the removal of the spur there around 1910 certainly ended its time as a freight stop. The shelter at Eccles may have been removed as early as 1916 or lasted for decades like the shelters as Zayante and Olympia. The stop was formally abandoned by the railroad August 31, 1942, later than the other stops on the line, suggesting that the railroad may have considered designating it the end of the line before choosing Olympia for that honor. This also suggests the tracks were removed only after that date. A fill just to the south of the Eccles station site connects it to the current end-of-track.

Roaring Camp Railroads' end-of-track just south of the site of Eccles, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0784N, 122.0508W

The site of Eccles is just off the north branch of Zayante School Road. Today, it serves primarily as a parking lot for local residents and no evidence of the railroad except the right-of-way and station site, now a clearing, remains. A sandstone wall at the stop may mark the site of the former freight platform. This site is publicly accessible off East Zayante Road. The station sign for the stop is on display at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History's history gallery.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Stations: Kenville

The probable location of Kenville, today marked by a chain and boulder to
stop cars continuing down the former right-of-way, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
Some Southern Pacific Railroad stations in the Santa Cruz Mountains were major industrial or tourist stops, catering to thousands of people during peak years. Others were of lesser importance. But one thing can be certain, none was less relevant than Kenville. Named after Joseph Sherman Kenville, an early resident of the area, Kenville Station was a private passenger and freight flag-stop catering to Kenville's farm that spanned both sides of Zayante Creek and included much of modern-day Quail Hollow Ranch.

Joseph Kenville was born in Coteau Landing, Quebec in 1823. He moved to Santa Cruz County in 1865 after spending some time as a gold miner and stage coach driver in Nevada. He soon married America Baker (1848-1929) and with her had at least seven and possibly ten children. He homesteaded a 44-acre tract of land just north of Rancho Zayante beginning in 1866. In 1870, he tripled the size of his property to 132 acres by purchasing the homestead of Amos Moon for $2,000. In 1878, the South Pacific Coast Railroad encountered his property as they were grading and leased an easement through it. As a likely perk of this deal, Kenville was probably given an informal flag-stop which he could use to ship out his goods to nearby settlements.

Kenville specialized in growing watermelons, although he also grew other crops on his farm. There is no evidence of any structures at his flag stop other than a station sign, but a platform may have been installed to facilitate the transfer of goods into boxcars. This station only officially appeared in station books in January 1893 and it never appeared in any other official railroad documentation, giving further evidence of its informal status.

Kenville and his unmarried children moved to Santa Cruz in 1902, selling the property to William and Leona Richards from Los Angeles. It is unknown if they ever utilized the stop. Kenville Station remained in station books until 1909, when the reopening of the route through the mountains following its upgrading to standard-gauge likely led to a reduction in the number of old informal stops. Joseph Kenville died at his home in Santa Cruz on January 4, 1911. Some of his descendants still remain in the Santa Cruz area. What would become Quail Hollow Ranch was sold by the Richards in 1910 to Emil and Genie Grunig, who called it Sun Kissed Ranch. They died in an automobile accident in 1936 and their heirs sold the ranch to Laurence Lane, publisher of Sunset Magazine. The railroad tracks at the former Kenville stop were dismantled in 1941 following the abandonment of the line by the railroad the previous November. The only relic that remains on the site other than the right-of-way is a semaphore foundation block that once supported an Automatic Block Signal that regulated traffic through the nearby Zayante Tunnel.

Geo-coordinates and Access Rights:
37.0828N, 122.0483W

The precise location of Kenville is not known for certain due to the fact that station books at this time rounded all station locations to the nearest mile. However, the presence of Old Kenville Road, which follows the former right-of-way for half of its length, gives a clue. Just before the road turns east and uphill, there is a former road to the west that branches off Sylvan Way. It seems likely that this road was one the main access road between the railroad and Kenville Station, since Old Kenville Road would not have been usable prior to the railroad's abandonment. If so, then this former junction probably served as the station point. This is further supported by the fact that there is a long cut to the south and a grade fill and equally long cut to the north. This one point is the only location between Eccles and Tunnel 5 where a station could have been located.

Personal Retrospective:
I visited this site in March 2012 a few months after hearing Brian Liddicoat speak on the topic of local railroads at a University of California, Santa Cruz, history lecture. I reached this location the same way many had before me: by following the Roaring Camp tracks beyond their terminus at a sandhill just south of Zayante School Road. It struck me then how obvious the former right-of-way was. Old Kenville Road was a mystery to me at the time—I had never heard the name before and was not curious in any way regarding its origins. Nonetheless, it was exceedingly obvious that the well-maintained dirt road that extended north from Zayante School Road was, in fact, the former railroad right-of-way. Walking this road was my first adventure—my first journey down a path that I still walk today. By walking down this dirt road, I finally began to envision how the railroad operated, where it went, and why it was important. I no longer saw this as some obscure rural driveway—which it is today—but rather a relic of a bygone era. It was revelatory and changed my entire worldview regarding where I had lived most of my life. On March 7, I setup a Blogger site dedicated initially to the South Pacific Coast Railroad, not yet understanding what journey I had begun (the underlying code for this website remains Over the next day, I began my research, using Kenville as one of my first keywords. I discovered, to my continuing amazement, a completely scanned copy of the Southern Pacific Railroad's 1899 Stations, Officers, and Agents book, which conductors and engineers carried with them to help them determine their locations and station specifications. Even today, this remains an important source since 1899 proved a very eventful year for the railroad. With this limited information, my own on-the-ground research, and a few random websites, I released on March 9, 2012, my first blog post on the subject of local railroads: "Kenville." In retrospect, it was a poorly-researched and exceedingly aspirational article, but without it, I may never have continued to explore the route. This was the first article—now there are well over 300 blog posts, two published books, two more books in development, and many more exciting things for Santa Cruz Trains coming in the future.

Citations & Credits:
  • Find-A-Grave, "Joseph Kenville".
  • Clark, Donald T. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2007.
  • Lehmann, Susan Collins. Quail Hollow Ranch: a history. Santa Cruz, CA: Historic Resources Commission, 1992.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.