Friday, April 11, 2014

Santa Cruz Ocean Shore Depot

The Ocean Shore Railroad had precisely one formal depot along its right-of-way, and it was a small little creation at that. While plans were set forth to develop a sprawling, thriving depot near the Southern Pacific's Santa Cruz Union Depot, the earthquake and corporate bickering ended that option. The Southern Pacific successfully blocked the Ocean Shore's path to its proposed depot site, stranding the railroad's operations on the West Side of Santa Cruz near Bay Street. A short hill and Neary's Lagoon seemed small enough obstacles to surmount, but the politics of the day helped doom the Ocean Shore Railroad as much as natural disasters and financial collapses.

Thus, the history of the Santa Cruz Ocean Shore Depot was sad, much like the history of the railroad itself. The original temporary depot, a simple 10 ft. by 12 ft. shack with windows facing either way down the right-of-way, was all the Ocean Shore ever built for its primary Santa Cruz location. The depot, while located at 0.0 miles down the Ocean Shore's Southern Division tracks, was about 0.7 miles away from the Santa Cruz Union Depot via a small little switchback track near the larger depot's wye. Indeed, the switch was a part of the northern wye and the Southern Pacific made transfers at this site as difficult as possible, even if most of the rolling stock on the southern division of the Ocean Shore was at least partly owned by the Southern Pacific. The depot's precise location correlates closely today with the large Westcliff Townhomes building beside the old Howe Truss Bridge off West Cliff Drive near Bay Street. Originally, there was a footpath for passengers to walk from the end of this bridge to the depot. This location placed it somewhat embarrassingly above the Southern Pacific freight yard, an insurmountable obstacle teasing the Ocean Shore Railroad every day of its existence.

Santa Cruz Ocean Shore Depot around 1910. The engine is facing the wrong way, which was one of the many problems with the lack of cooperation with the Southern Pacific Railroad. The engine could be reversed at the S.P. wye, at Swanton, or possibly at the San Vicente Mill at the end of Delaware Street. (Louis Stein, Jr., via Rick Hamman)
The depot served its purpose for a good fifteen years before the Ocean Shore Railroad shuttered operations in the area. After 1920, the San Vicente Lumber Company was responsible for maintaining the tracks, and likely was given more access privileges on the Southern Pacific tracks than the Ocean Shore had ever been allowed. Since the line shifted strictly to freight (and employees), the likelihood is that the Santa Cruz depot was abandoned around 1920. Traffic for employees probably ended at Garfield Avenue, where streetcar access was readily available. Business transactions were conducted elsewhere while the San Vicente Mill was located deeper into the West Side of Santa Cruz. The tracks in front of the old depot remained until the route was scrapped in 1923. The fate of the physical depot building is unknown.


  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Chris Hunter, Images of Rail: Ocean Shore Railroad (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2004).
  • Duncan Nanney, et al., private notes and correspondence.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Garfield Avenue Flag-Stop

The Ocean Shore Railroad had a gold vision when it began plotting its railroad along the coast. Compared to the Coast Line Railroad which was built alongside it in Santa Cruz County, the Ocean Shore had double the stops and freight stations. Predictably, they were all of a marginal nature, unfortunately, and many ceased operating fairly soon after the earthquake when the Ocean Shore Railroad began its slow decline.

One such stop was on Garfield Avenue in Santa Cruz, built around 1906. Located 0.9 miles north of the Ocean Shore's Santa Cruz Depot, the station structure itself consisted of an 8' x 10' shelter with two windows on the side walls and an open front facing the tracks. Despite the rather poor quality of this shelter, it ended up being one of the more-developed of those along the route, one of only five shelters built for the myriad flag-stops and freight stations along the 15.5 mile route. The station was located near the intersection of Ocean Shore Avenue and Garfield Avenue. At some point after 1924, Garfield Avenue was renamed Woodrow Avenue in honor of President Wilson. Ocean Shore Avenue became Delaware Avenue, probably after the railroad was leased to the San Vicente Lumber Company in 1920. Unlike many of the other stops along the Ocean Shore's route, this stop was purely for residents with no heavy industry accessible in the immediate area. After 1906, most of the commuters would be workers from the cement plant or from the various farms and mills in North County spending their evenings and weekends in Santa Cruz. The importance of this stop was heightened by it being the only Ocean Shore stop with direct access to a streetcar line—the Mission Street line to be specific.

As to be expected, nothing remains of this little flag-stop. When the Ocean Shore ceased operations in 1920, the railroad continued to pass the site for another three years and employees of the San Vicente Lumber Company likely still used it considering its proximity to the streetcar lines. The area remains a residential community now as it has since 1889 when Garfield Park was first organized as a subdivision.  This author has found no photographs of this stop nor are pictures of it likely to be forthcoming. Garfield Avenue Flag-Stop is just another sad footnote in the short history of the Ocean Shore Railroad.

  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Duncan Nanney, private research.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Public Announcement

Me in front of the southern portal of the Mountain
Charlie tunnel in summer, 2013.
Since 2010, I have been researching the historic railroad lines of Santa Cruz County. It should come as no surprise to anybody that the intent of this research all along has been to write a book. In fact, I hope that someday two books may come out of this research. For the time being, however, only one book is planned: Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

This book will be a roughly 250-page reference book documenting the history of the various lines between the Santa Cruz wharves and Vasona Junction near Los Gatos. It will focus primarily on the stops, trestles, and tunnels along the route, though it will also include a section devoted to those wishing to explore the right-of-way as it currently exists. Furthermore, the book will include GPS coordinates for every location mentioned in the book (where possible) and information regarding access rights to those locations. Finally, there will be photographs. LOTS of photographs. What is a railroad history book without pictures, right? I've been working closely with the staff of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, the San Lorenzo Valley Museum, the Los Gatos History Museum, and local historians in obtaining new and previously unpublished photographs of the route, including pictures of the state of the route during its unfortunate closure in 1940. Many of these have already been posted to this site, but there are many more to come in the future.

To help support this project, I have opened up a new blog at which will be where I post progress reports, updates, and new discoveries, as well as questions for the public. Unlike my primary blog at, this new blog will be more of an open discussion forum for local railroad and regional historians. Feel free to comment on any related subject to any post in the blog. I will try to keep people apprised of my research and writing in the meantime.

This website, as always, will continue to be updated beginning this month with new content regarding the Ocean Shore and Coast Line Railroads, the Santa Cruz Railroad, the Aptos Branch, and the private lumber lines along all of the aforementioned lines. This website will continue to expand over the next few years until every station, stop, spur, siding, railroad company, connected logging mill, trestle, tunnel, wharf, and pier is accounted for. This website is not complete until the entire Santa Cruz County network of railroads is documented.

So stay tuned and hang on for a long and winding ride through the history of Santa Cruz County railroading. And follow my progress blog which will soon have a home at the top of my primary site. Thank you loyal readers and keep giving me all you've got!

Derek Ryan Whaley

P.S. Feel free to email or snail mail me with information, as well, if you do not feel comfortable publicly posting information or material.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

West Shore Railway Company

West Shore Railway survey map blueprint, 1896.
(UC Santa Cruz Digital Map Collection)
An enthusiastic attempt at nothingness. That is all that can really describe the short-lived West Shore Railway Company. Incorporated on July 11th, 1895 (registered with the State July 26th), the West Shore Railway Company sought to be the first railroad to bridge the gap between San Francisco and Santa Cruz via the coastline route, an estimated 80 miles of track. The plans in place included a standard-gauged trunk line along the coast stopping at such places as Half Moon Bay and Pescadero, with spurs and sidings at appropriate places. At least three surveys were made prior to incorporation, with one especially peaking the board's interest. The board of directors consisted of C.M Sanger (president), Behrend Joost (vice president), R.S. Thornton (treasurer), J.W. Eisenfurth (secretary), Louis F. Dunand (attorney), K.J. Willets, and R. Herman. San Francisco was the headquarters of the $2,000,000 company, though at the time of incorporation only $80,000 was subscribed. The remainder was promised by Joost, but the origin was never explained nor, apparently, the amount deposited. This may have been a foreshadowing of its troubled future.

The reasons for their failure is not entirely known. The San Francisco Call in 1894 was the first to report on the railroad, a year before incorporation. They outlined the basic route of the train, its start at Potrero Avenue and 25th Street to its initial terminus at Spanishtown. Five tunnels, including two within the city of San Francisco, were planned between the two points. While it is stated here that grading had already commenced on the railroad, this is highly unlikely. Final plans, likely after resolving disputes concerning San Francisco right-of-ways with the Southern Pacific, were in place to begin construction in late September 1895 with portions of the construction materials already in place. The northern section of the route was anticipated to pass around the bluffs at San Bruno before circling around toward Colma and then passing through a tunnel into the San Pedro Valley before entering a pair of tunnels, likely near San Pedro Point, and entering the Half Moon Bay region. The route would then continue an additional eight miles before ending at Spanishtown. The company planned to run ferries to locations throughout the bay from a depot in the Potrero District of San Francisco. Though quoted at 80 miles, the West Shore Railway anticipated cutting the route between San Francisco and Santa Cruz by ten miles, while significantly increasing the scenery of the route. Naturally, tourism was the primary concern for this line, though freight was always anticipated as the moneymaker.

Regardless of the promises, the railroad never happened. The Ocean Shore Electric Railroad followed much of the same route when it first graded around 1904 while the Coast Line Railroad, owned by the Southern Pacific, began its own attempt at the route in 1905. The last mention of the West Shore Railway is on a survey may submitted by the railway on August 24th, 1896. This has since been collected by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History with the original blueprint held by UC Santa Cruz's Map Collection. The outlined route remained little more than a dream.

  • John Vonderlin, "West Shore Railway", 4 July 2009. Accessed 25 March 2014. <>
  • West Shore Railway Company, "Articles of Incorporation", 11 July 1895, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Santa Cruz Count Records, Folder #235.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Upper Los Gatos Creek Trestles

An 1879 survey map of the Upper Los Gatos Creek basin,
oriented with the Summit Tunnel (originally Tunnel #3)
at the bottom and the creek heading roughly north.
(Bruce MacGregor)
Much like the meandering San Lorenzo River north of Felton, Los Gatos Creek required South Pacific Coast Railroad builders to erect multiple trestles between Wright's and Los Gatos Town. Not including the trestles outside the aforementioned towns, the right-of-way crossed over Los Gatos Creek six times in the Los Gatos Creek valley. Four of these crossings were between Aldercroft and Wrights while the remaining two straddled the town of Alma. Additional trestles were built to bridge the various feeder creeks in the canyon, including trestles at Hooker Gulch, Limekiln Creek, Soda Springs, among others. A progression of trestles is thus (from the south, heading north):

– Wright's Trestle South
– Wright's Trestle North
– Hooker Gulch Trestle
– Call of the Wild Trestle
– Aldercroft Trestle South
– Aldercroft Trestle North
– Alma Trestle South
– Alma Trestle North
– Soda Springs Trestle
– Limekiln Creek Trestle
– Cats Canyon Trestle

One of the trestles crossing a gulch on its way to Los Gatos, 1895. The identity of the feeder creek is unknown, though this author suspects it is Limekiln Gulch and that the town site of Lexington is across the creek. Los Gatos Creek can be seen in the foreground, showing this is not one of the major crossings. (Bruce MacGregor)
Unfortunately, historical photographs of all of these trestles except for one have not been discovered by this author. Their early history, though, can still be derived from South Pacific Coast records. The original redwood-built narrow-gauged trestles were all constructed between 1877 and 1878. Gauging from the extant photographs of the Wrights and Los Gatos Town trestles, these were built following the standards of the day, with wood pilings acting as piers and crossbeam supports holding up the rail bed. The South Pacific Coast Railroad was generally a frugal organization and these trestles would have been made with the cheapest available supplies of the highest quality, likely locally milled redwood. The photograph above shows an eight-pier wooden trestle in 1895, a fairly standard design along the route during its narrow-gauged years. These trestles were slowly replaced with standard-gauged trestles throughout the mid- to late-1890s when the Southern Pacific Railroad began upgrading its entire Santa Cruz division.

Alma Trestle South, repurposed for the
San José Water Company to support
pipes running from Lake Elsman.
(Brian Liddicoat)
Evidence of these later trestles is a bit more forthcoming due to the use of the right-of-way by the San José Water District. At least one of the trestle piers have been repurposed to suspend water piping coming from Lake Elsman. All of the trestles are visible except the Alma Trestle North, which is inundated, and the Soda Springs and Limekiln Creek trestles, also inundated. Having not visited these trestles, this researcher is relying on observations made by Brian Liddicoat during his own expedition along the historic right-of-way in 2009. The trestle at left is that of Alma Trestle South, located just north of Alma Bridge on Alma Bridge Road. The trestle was supported by two large concrete piers with curbs to support what can only have been a Pacific Bridge Company prefabricated trestle span. This span would have been a simple steel girder built to support ties and rail. It's repurposing to support pipes shows the durability of the span, though the span is also quite short and did not appear to require a central support pier.

According to Brian, piers or curbs still are present at the sites of every one of the three concrete trestles north of Alma Trestle South, though he did not photograph them. The one remaining trestle, the Call of the Wild Trestle, was apparently made of wood and was very short, with a gap in the right-of-way the only clue to the trestle's existence. Most of the trestles are hidden in brush along the banks of the creek or difficult to access as the San José Water District access road does not cross the creek when the tracks do unless necessary. All of these trestles except Alma Trestle South are on San José Water Company land and trespassers have been fined before for attempting to access them. That being said, the right-of-way through this area is unreliable and parts of it may be accessible via other means than simply following the water company's access road.

Wright's Trestle North in ruins along the bank of Los Gatos Creek. (Brian Liddicoat)
Further up the creek, Liddicoat photographed what can only be described as a poor excuse for a trestle. The Wright's Trestle North once brought the right-of-way back to the west side of the creek after it crossed at Wright's. Why this trestle collapsed when virtually no others along the entire South Pacific Coast right-of-way have is somewhat of a mystery. Clearly inferior construction is partially to blame since this portion of the creek is not prone to particularly violent flooding. The pier was hexagonal in shape, a type more unusual to the region though not unknown. Still, the concrete nature of the pier suggests it supported a steel trestle of some sort, though without seeing the curbs, it is impossible to determine the type of trestle.

The trestles of Los Gatos Creek remain a testament to the history of the region, though their relative obscurity makes them difficult to study and their history largely lost to the elements.


  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • De Leu, Cather & Co., "Santa Cruz - Los Gatos Rail Corridor Feasibility Study: Draft Final Report", prepared for the Joint Policy Board (December 1994).
  • Bruce MacGregor, South Pacific Coast: A Centennial 
  • Bruce MacGregor, Narrow Gauge Portrait: South Pacific Coast

Friday, February 21, 2014

Zayante Spur

Right-of-way according to Rick
Hamman's map. (Rick Hamman)
When the South Pacific Coast Railroad first proposed its passage to Santa Cruz, the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company likely had a say in its eventual right-of-way. Just as Frederick Hihn ensured that the route passed through his Laurel holdings, so too did the Doughertys ensure it passed through their Zayante Creek holdings, which had suffered since 1877 due to a lack of access. Once the new right-of-way was agreed upon, the Doughertys built there mill. The only problem: the right-of-way was a hundred feet above it!

While the precise location of the original Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company mill in the Zayante Creek basin is not entirely known, it seems most likely to have been located at the junction of Zayante Creek with Mountain Charlie Gulch where today a fire road climbs up to the railroad grade. This fire road would have been the primary means of reaching the railroad, except for freight, which would need a more even grade to get to waiting trains. Rich Hamman, in contrast, positions the mill much more closely to the start of the spur and on the east side of the creek, with only a narrow-gauged line continuing past the mill. Yet the existing photograph of the mill suggests that the mill was located in a basin near the creek, with no extension line going beyond it. Furthermore, the east side of the creek in the area he notes was too steep for a large-scale mill to operate. The Dougherty mill on Zayante Creek only existed between 1880 and 1887, when it burned down and was moved to Riverside Grove north of Boulder Creek.

Remains of the Zayante Spur Trestle located
 off of Western States Drive, 2014.
This Zayante Spur's purpose after 1887 remains unknown, though it makes logical sense that other small-scale milling operations in the area may have used the old spur for their own purposes. The steepness of the railroad grade meant that the junction of the spur with the mainline was nowhere near the SCVM&L Co. mill. Rather, it was located near Meehan Station off of modern-day Western States Drive. The actual site of the switch was actually near East Creek Drive and Laurel, two roads that nearly cross the right-of-way south of Western States Drive. Property alignments in this area show a right-of-way descending from these roads, closely following a bend in the creek before crossing the creek near Western States. This narrow-gauge spur supported full-sized engines and flatcars, as evidenced by the photograph of the mill showing a single engine, likely the "Felton", parked in the lumber yard. A ruined narrow-gauged trestle that once crossed Zayante Creek still sits at the site, a silent testament to an earlier age. This trestle was a simple design, with a concrete anchor supporting two square pilings on the east side of the creek, and a simple concrete curb on the west side. Crossbeams maintained the integrity of the structure. Unfortunately, any trace of the top of the trestle has been lost so the manner of its further structural support is unknown.

Original right-of-way to mill on East Zayante Road, left, while a newer auto
bridge crosses creek here, and again 1/4" north to bypass mill property.
From the railroad grade south of Meehan Station, the right-of-way descended steeply to the creek level where, at the trestle, it crossed Zayante Creek then continued northward until merging with modern-day East Zayante Road on the modern-day property of 9988 E. Zayante Rd. From there, the right-of-way is roughly congruous with the modern road until passing into the property of the old mill immediately prior to an auto bridge that today wraps around the original mill site. The address for the old mill is 11481 E. Zayante Rd. This route was nearly three miles long from its switch to its end, and it is rumored that a landslide buried an engine in 1884.

Today, the mill site now has a home sitting upon it, while the right-of-way has mostly been turned into a road. Not surprisingly, this is one of the most evenly graded and least twisty sections of East Zayante Road, though there are parts where small trestles may have rounded out curves during its original run.


  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).

Friday, February 14, 2014

Upper San Lorenzo River Trestles

North of the Turkey Foot in Boulder Creek, the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company line criss-crossed the ever-shrinking river six more times before Waterman Switch. Those trestles built north of Waterman Switch are uncounted and no real remnants remain of them. Of the six, two have known historical photographs while one of those also has contemporary photographs taken by Rick Hamman in the 1980s.

Wildwood Trestle looking south down the right-of-way, c. 1916. (Rick Hamman)
The first trestle north of the Turkey Foot, and the first of those with historical photographs, is the Wildwood Trestle that passed through the Cunningham Mill and, later, the Wildwood subdivision. The photograph shows two ladies and a child walking down the tracks toward the trestle. The trestle appears to be a Howe Truss design, though further details are uncertain at this distance and angle. The Dougherty Extension Railroad passed through Wildwood in 1889 crossing the river just across from River Drive. The tracks were pulled in 1917, though at least this trestle may have been disassembled rather than simply abandoned. Remnants of the trestles have not been confirmed, though a rumor exists that portions of it survives near the river bed just to the west of Pleasant Way.

Dougherty Mill #2 at Riverside Grove, with two trestles barely visible in the photograph. The San Lorenzo River Trestle is at left beside the ox bridge while a second trestle is visible at right heading over a small creek. (Rick Hamman)

Remnant trestle at Riverside Grove as of 1980. (Rick Hamman)
The only other photographed trestle was one of the three Riverside Grove Trestles, specifically the one that passed through the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company mill site. This trestle was a short span that sat beside a ox and mule bridge and is barely discernible in its historical photograph taken of north of the mill in 1895 (above). The trestle itself would have been built around 1889 when the Dougherty Extension Railroad was advancing up the valley. Details regarding the southernmost trestle are unknown.

Around 1980, Rick Hamman took a photograph of one of these trestles, likely the most northernly of the three, while he was preparing his book California Central Coast Railroads. The photograph shows that this trestle was a basic log-build trestle with rows of three large trunks acting as piers supporting two smaller and longer trunks that supported the ties and narrow-gauged rails. In 1980, the entire southern end of the trestle was still intact sans the ties and rail. As with the rest of the line, the rail was sold for scrap in the months leading up to World War I in 1917. The ties likely fell off over the subsequent years. While the continued existence of this trestle has not been confirmed, a rumor states that it was washed out in the floods of 1982. The three trestles were located across from the end of Either Way, directly beside the Either Way auto bridge, and near the end of Bean Avenue, all three roads being of of Teilh Drive north of Boulder Creek.

The fifth crossing over the river was at modern-day Fern Drive, just where the road now crosses the river. Though it's original purpose has been lost, the area around Fern and Hillside Drives developed in the years after the railroad left. The clearing may have originally been a logging collection area much like McGaffigan's Mill, especially since the Chase Mill was located further up the hillside from this area. If any remnant of of the trestle here survives, it has not been brought to the attention of this author.

The sixth and final crossing caused by the San Lorenzo River was immediately across from the entrance to the Saratoga Toll Road within Castle Rock State Park. This trestle served to bring the trains to Waterman Switch and probably dates to a slightly later time, perhaps as late as 1897 when the logging camp moved to the headwaters of the river. Unlike the other trestles, this one did not cross the river itself but was forced to cross a lowland created by a pond adjacent to the river. Unfortunately, all evidence of this trestle was destroyed when CA State Route 9 was built, crossing the river at nearly this very spot. While the right-of-way is visible on both sides of the highway, the crossing did not survive. In any case, it was likely a very small trestle.

The Dougherty Extension Railroad continued up into the valley for another 1 1/2 miles before finally ending near the headwaters in Castle Rock State Park. In its path sat the ever-winding San Lorenzo River, which at this place was little more than a stream during most of the year. Just north of Waterman Switch, the railroad crossed the river at least once, and perhaps three times. It crossed two more times roughly 3/4 mile north of the Switch, and then crossed it at least once more before ending near modern-day Beekhius Road at the junction of the two feeder creeks that join to form the river. The scant evidence of these crossings are only visible by their absence when the right-of-way suddenly ends where the river crosses. In parts, even the right-of-way is difficult to discern from the toll road, other service roads, and the overgrowth of the all-consuming second growth redwood forest.


  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railroads (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wright's Trestle

The small town of Wright's along the South Pacific Coast Railroad's right-of-way to Santa Cruz once sported a trestle right beside the town. It crossed over Los Gatos Creek to the north and was photographed multiple times over the years, though few, if any, photographs of the later standard-gauged trestle have surfaced.

The town of Wright's in 1895, showing the primary artery trestle. (Courtesy Bruce McGregor, A Centennial)
Right half of a panoramic image of Wright's in 1885, just months before
the original town would burn and move across the creek. This is the
earliest known image of the Wright's Trestle. (Bruce MacGregor)
When Wright's was first laid out along the right-of-way, it was understood that a trestle would have to be built prior to the right-of-way heading through the mountain. The track passed over Los Gatos Creek multiple times south of Alma, and it was forced to take one last turn over the creek before it could enter the Summit Tunnel, then under construction. The trestle is well-displayed in numerous photographs, with its unique curve over the creek. When it was first built as a narrow-gauged bridge in 1878, it was constructed over both a creek and the Los Gatos Flume, visible beneath the trestle in the above photograph. The trestle was simply built, with evenly-spaced redwood piers supported by perpendicular beams. The support structure for the track was entirely made of a wood platform. Originally, space was provided only on the west side of the tracks for pedestrians, with vertical beams acting as railings. Sometime in the 1890s, a second railing was added to the opposite side of the tracks. At the southern end of the trestle, the track separated into a freight siding.

A busy market day at Wright's, with the Sunset Spur visible in the background, c. 1890s. (Brian Liddicoat)
A train on the Sunset Spur passing the Wright's Trestle in 1907. The trestle is
crowded with parked cars and construction equipment for the repair of the
Summit Tunnel after the earthquake. (Rick Hamman)
The standard-gauging of the trestle came about in early 1903 when the entire branch line to Alameda was converted. Wright's, therefore, acted as an early transfer station for goods coming from Santa Cruz via the narrow-gauged right-of-way. Interestingly, all photographs of the trestle after 1903 still show the same structure, only with broader-gauged tracks. If the original structure was retained, that would be a relatively unique trait of the Wright's trestle. Physical evidence also argues against it. What is more likely is that the old trestle was standard-gauged and that it was replaced following the earthquake. The structure itself did not get damaged during the quake, but the nearby Summit Tunnel was significantly damaged and the town was converted into a construction yard during the three years it took to rebuild the line. The Summit Tunnel was given top priority, and extant photographs of the trestle show flatcars parked on it with a parallel track in operation. Considering that the older trestle was not wide enough to support two tracks, it seems likely that a second trestle was initially built beside the original to help in the reconstruction efforts. The older trestle was then removed, probably around 1908, when the reconstruction of the tunnel was completed.

Wright's Trestle during its days as a dual-gauged trestle, c. 1903 to 1906. (Jim Cirner)
A photograph of unknown age. Bruce MacGregor states this is of 1915, but Los Gatos: Gem of the Foothills state it is from 1904. The buildings and state of the tracks both side with the 1904 date. The trestle appears nearly identical to its earlier forms, though it may be a different span. (Bruce MacGregor)
The sign on the pier at Wright's. (Brian Liddicoat)
The only photograph of the later trestle available to this historian unfortunately shows the trestle mostly obscured by brush from the creek. It appears similar to the older trestle, with a wood railing along a somewhat wider, possibly two lane bridge. Like before, the opposite side has different railings than the closer. However, the bend seems significantly reduced from before and the overall look appears newer. This trestle was removed in the summer of 1940 after the Southern Pacific Railroad had abandoned the line over the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Physical evidence of the site shows that at least two concrete piers sat beneath this later trestle, proving that it was a new construct from its predecessor. An extant sign on one of the piers still reads "DANGER: Keep out from under bridge as rocks etc. might fall from passing trains." The two bridge piers that once supported the trestle are all that remain of this site. The trestle remains are accessible via Wrights Station Road off of Summit Road. At the bottom of the hill, Los Gatos Creek meanders under an old bridge. The trestle remains down the creek roughly 100 feet north of the bridge. The road passes through the town site of Wright's, though little evidence of any settlement remains today. The entrance to the Summit Tunnel is accessible via the small meadow to the left of the road just before crossing the auto bridge. Warning: This area is patrolled by the San José Water District and they have been known to ticket trespassers.


  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Bruce McGregor & Richard Truesdale, South Pacific Coast Railroad: A Centennial (Pruett, 1982).

Friday, January 31, 2014

Grover Planing Mill

At the elbow of Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz once sat the Grover & Company Planing Mill, a sprawling facility built alongside the South Pacific Coast Railroad's tracks to the Santa Cruz Railroad Wharf. S.F. Grover was the president of the company, with D.W. Grover as the treasurer and secretary. The company's board of directors were rounded out with the widow of J.L. Grover, and Mrss. S.H. Brown and May L. Halstead. The Grover Company owned multiple mills throughout Santa Cruz County during its existence, with the Enterprise Mill along Soquel Creek and the El Dorado Mill in Scotts Valley. Additional mills were acquired south of Lorenzo in the San Lorenzo Valley and built in the thereafter-named Grover Gulch (now Glen Haven). In addition to lumber enterprises, the Grover & Company operated a shingle mill and a mercantile store. The residences of the D.W. and Mrs. J.L were both noted for their elegance.

1883 Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the Boulder Planing Mill (UC Santa Cruz Digital Collection)
The specific date of when the Pacific Avenue facility was first built is not known, but it was in full production by 1883 when it is recorded on a Sanborn Fire Insurance Company survey map. The mill had three dedicated spurs to its lumber yard and directly to its planing mill, with a fourth spur continuing on toward the neighboring Centennial Flour Mill and Oliver & Forester Planing Mill. The mill itself was a relatively small rectangular structure with a engine room. Three outbuildings, primarily for storage, were just south of the mill. The two spurs led off of the main spur and led between finished lumber and railroad ties. All the tracks were narrow-gauged.

1886 Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the Boulder Planing Mill (UC Santa Cruz Digital Collection)
By 1886, the facility had expanded somewhat, but the access to rail transport had decreased to a single spur ending at the planing mill. Lumber still was stacked where the old spurs had once led, but Cedar Street had crept into where the Centennial Flour Mill spur once sat. The mill itself had expanded since 1883 to include a now-linked set of outbuildings and an expansion to the western side of the mill. Finished lumber was now primarily stacked beside the tracks heading into the mill, rather than alongside the absent spurs. During this time, Pacific Avenue climbed up Beach Hill along what is now Front Street, while Mill Street sat at the bottom of the hill. For the first time, the mill is noted as being "old" in the Sanborn maps, suggesting the facility predates 1883 by a number of years.

1888 Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the Boulder Planing Mill (UC Santa Cruz Digital Collection)
Little changed between 1886 and 1888, when the next survey came out from Sanborn. The enlarged map shows that the Grover & Company kept its large reserves of finished lumber beside the tracks in long rows, just as it had when the spurs were there. This begs the question: why did they remove the spurs? Regardless, the facility looked just as it had in the previous survey, including with the note "old" written beneath the name of the mill.

1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the Boulder Planing Mill (UC Santa Cruz Digital Collection)
1892 saw changes to the Grover & Company operations in Santa  Cruz. The old mill had been abandoned and was remaining only until a new facility, built behind it, was completed. Still, lumber lined the Grover Mill Spur and at least one row of lumber still sat in the yard near the South Pacific Coast's main line. Yet this photograph is the last to show the spur. The Grover Planing Mill continued operations in its new facility, but it seems rail access to the site was removed following the renovation, which was noted as occurring soon after this map was drawn.

Grover & Company closed down operations by 1901, as accounted by the sudden closure of all its facilities in the county. It is not known at present why the sudden closure, yet it meant the end of the planing mill off Pacific Avenue. The next available Sanborn map of the area is from 1905 and shows no mill or spur at the site. By this date, the line has also been upgraded to standard-gauge, suggesting the spur was removed no later than then.

Today, the site of the mill is roughly the Bay Front Inn and South Pacific Apartments complexes at the end of Pacific Avenue just before the roundabout. This area remained relatively desolate for many more years after the Grover mill closed down operations, but it remained an industrial area until the early 1990s.


  • Edward Sanford Harrison, History of Santa Cruz County, California (1892).

Friday, January 24, 2014

Los Gatos Planing Mill

Los Gatos was never a heavy logging town despite its close proximity to the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Perhaps this was because the railroad could get much closer to the source than the town, or perhaps it was because Saratoga and other more northern towns were able to take in the bulk of the supply. Regardless, by 1888, the Lindon & Silverton Lumber Company had begun using the vacant lot behind the Southern Pacific Railroad's engine house to build a box factory and planing mill. 

The facility appears to have been short lived, coming into existence in 1888 according to a Sanborn Fire Insurance survey map from the same year. The box factory and planing mill were built immediately west of the railroad right-of-way through Los Gatos with an attached barley and grain mill. Goods were loaded directly onto boxcars waiting on the main track. A large lumber yard sat along a spur west of the fruit packing spur where awaiting lumber could be loaded onto freight cars.

Sanborn Fire Insurance survey map showing the Los Gatos Planing Mill, 1888. (UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections)
By 1891, the planing mill was open, though all mention of the barley and grain mill disappeared. The lumber yard moved to a more convenient home east of the mainline along a new spur built specifically for the lumber yard and planing mill. When the line was standard-gauged in 1903, the spur was extended further north. 310,000 board feet of lumber could be stored alongside the track here. The planing mill was seasonally open. A second mill owned by Tice and Gregory was just across Mullen Street, though there was no spur supporting this smaller facility.

Sanborn Fire Insurance survey map showing the Los Gatos Planing Mill, 1891. (UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections)
1895 saw the transfer of the facility to the Western Mill & Lumber Company, a slightly enlarged that appears to have given up on box-making. The vast lumber yards across the tracks were expanded to support more lumber and a second lumber yard was placed just beside the engine house to the west of the main line.

Sanborn Fire Insurance survey map showing the Los Gatos Planing Mill, 1895. (UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections)
The planning mill did not last long. By the time the route was standard-gauged in 1903, the planing mill was gone. Sanborn maps dating from 1905 and afterwards show the new turntable and roundhouse sitting on the site of the mill. The lumber yard remained on the west side of the tracks and the spur was enlarged into a longer siding that lasted until at least 1940. Whether the lumber was still maintain by Western Mill or some other lumbering operation is not known to this author. With the end of the planing mill around 1903, no further logging interests heavily utilized the railroad in Los Gatos.

The planing mill was located down Mullen Street a half-block down from Santa Cruz Avenue, behind the businesses. It is now in a parking lot bisected by Station Way. Regretfully, Los Gatos: Gem of the Foothills by George G. Bruntz does not deign to even mention the short-lived lumbering industry in Los Gatos.