Friday, August 29, 2014

San Vicente Transfer Yard

The San Vicente Lumber Company was quite possibly the largest redwood logging operation in Santa Cruz's history. Tapping approximately 615,000,000 board feet of lumber along Little Creek, Big Creek, Mill Creek, Chandler Creek, Berry Creek, Winter Creek, Scott Creek, and San Vicente Creek, it is somewhat surprising that it took the company only 15 years to completely decimate the redwood sources here.

The company was founded on May 8th, 1908, and it perhaps singlehandedly ensured the survival of the Southern Division of the Ocean Shore Railway for the next twelve years, though the railroad did go bankrupt during that time. The company was privately financed but had substantial backing. It's planning mill was a huge sprawling facility built on Moore Creek at a site called Rapetti on Ocean Shore charts. To get to the heart of the redwoods, the company convinced the Ocean Shore to extend its track from Scott Junction due north on the east bank of Scott Creek about a mile north of the planned Folger subdivision. The Ocean Shore agreed but the San Vicente Co. had to help pay for the extension and was required to extend the line another 1,000 feet to the village of Swanton. But the lumber company got a deal, with reduced freight rates out of North County and near-exclusive service during much of the year.

The heart of the railroad operation on the northern end was at the San Vicente Transfer Yard located 14.5 miles north of the Santa Cruz Depot on Bay Street and, more importantly, 12.5 miles north of Rapetti. At the top end of the Transfer Yard, the lumber mill had Little Creek Switch, also often known as San Vicente Junction. This was positioned at 15.3 miles north of Santa Cruz, meaning that the Transfer Yard was roughly 0.8 miles long and was composed of a long double siding. It was from here that privately-owned lumber trains hauled redwood logs and split stuff down from the mountains. The Ocean Shore wisely decided that all tracks between the southern end of the Transfer Yard and the northern San Vicente Junction would be joint use by both companies.

Members of the Mattei family posing on an Ocean Shore engine at the Transfer Yard. The first split in the tracks is visible in the background while a second rail-stop is visible at right marking the end of the second spur.
(Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History – Mattei Collection)
For twelve years, the Transfer Yard served its purpose well. Rick Hamman includes an interview with an old Ocean Shore brakeman in his book, California Central Coast Railways, in which the man explains the entire relationship between the two firms. Regarding the Transfer Yard, he notes that the San Vicente Lumber Company would leave loaded flatcars on the siding and mixed Ocean Shore trains would come and pick these up and deliver them to Rapetti and the mill there. On the return trip, empty flatcars would be returned to the siding for the process to repeat itself. He notes that the Transfer Yard was parallel to Scott Creek between Archibald Creek and Winter Creek and included two sidings: one for loaded cars and one for empties. It should be added that Little Creek was only 85-feet north of San Vicente Junction, thus the only question remaining regarding locations is where precisely the right-of-way sat.

As a brief aside, there are eight creeks that the San Vicente Lumber Company directly worked off of (as well as numerous streams). Archibald Creek, the most southern of the eight, was named after James Archibald, a Scottish farmer who briefly owned Rancho Agua Puerca y las Trancas in the 1860s. He also lived along Archibald Creek in Rancho San Vicente. The junction of Chandler Creek with Little Creek was the site of the lowest of the San Vicente Company logging camps and it functioned as their main assembly area for many years. It was named after Lewis Chandler, another farmer who owned a small portion of Rancho San Vicente. Berry Creek was a feeder of Big Creek and it was named after Andrew Warren Berry, an early Massachusetts homesteader. San Vicente Creek has already been discussed in previous articles and is named after Saint Vincent, taking that name either due to the Portolá Party or because the spouse of an early Mexican grantee was named Vicenta (the feminine form of the name). Big Creek and Little Creek are both descriptive names. Winter Creek may have originally been named Enos Gulch, after Matthew Enos, a Portuguese lumberman who settled in the area in the 1880s. The name "Winter Creek" is likely descriptive of that fact that the creek only flows after the winter rains. Mill Creek, largely harvested by another company, the Loma Prieta Lumber Company, was a descriptive name based on the mill. Lastly, the history of Scott Creek was explained in the Scott & Scott Junction article. These eight creeks formed the heart of the San Vicente logging operation and also supplied all of the water for its steam-operated machinery.

Today, the entire Transfer Yard and the site of San Vicente Junction sits under fields. The track leading up from the junction followed Little Creek on its east side for a little while, but extensive switchbacks and trestlework make the final route of the logging railroad unclear. Most of the property today is either privately owned or used by California State University, San Luis Obispo, as a part of their Swanton Pacific Camp that operates for students seasonally.


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

Friday, August 22, 2014


The Ocean Shore Railroad was an ambitious project when it began in May 1905. It drew interest from many different crowds, and James Athearn Folger II, the owner of J.A. Folger's Coffee Company, was one such party. As vice president of the Ocean Shore Railway Company in the late 1900s, Folger also had the privilege of having a proposed community named after him.
The original layout of Folger according to a Santa Cruz County assessor's map from 1935.
The proposed street names were all after trees: Redwood at the top, Cypress at the bottom.
The railroad right-of-way was no longer present in 1935 but, oddly, this parcel map survived
the axe of the assessor's office for reasons unknown. The "Coast Road" is Swanton Road.

Located 13.9 miles north of the Ocean Shore depot on Bay Street in Santa Cruz along the Swanton spur, Folger was never destined to exist. The plan for the town was negotiated in 1908 by the Shore Line Investment Company, a companion corporation to the Ocean Shore focused on property development. The property was originally taken from a small portion of Rancho San Vicente. As first envisioned, it was to be just another community along the main line to San Francisco, placed at a convenient wye in the track making it accessible even while not being inundated with regular train traffic. 324 lots were listed for sale in 1908, all of then 25' by 100' in dimensions. But the town never was built and only a few scattered homes ever were built there. The center of the town was near the confluence of Little Creek into Scott Creek. The homes mostly serviced the lumber workers that operated the mill further up the valley. In an ironic twist, it did see its fair share of railroad traffic since the realignment to Swanton meant it was directly on the main line. But the area where Folger was planned remained heavily agricultural and continues to be so today.

Perhaps a more important purpose for this little used platform station was its function as the northern end of the heavily used "Scott-Folger Wye". The wye—a triangular section of track that allows engines and trains to turn around—linked Folger with Scott Junction 0.5 miles south of it. It was used extensively between 1908, when the San Vicente Lumber Company began operations along Little Creek and Scott Creek, and 1923, when that company finished operations in the area and pulled up the track. The wye was also extended into a full spur that year, with regular traffic extended to Swanton 2.1 miles north of Folger. Swanton, thereafter, would serve as the northern terminus for the Ocean Shore, and Folger quickly fell to the wayside as a community.

The site was utilized as a picnic stop for university students in the ensuing years. The University of California (Berkeley) in 1908 was the first to visit when they had a picnic and engineering surveyor's camp for students. In later years, other schools used the site for research with the California State University at San Luis Obispo (CalPoly) currently owning the property and operating it as the Swanton Pacific Ranch. The original site of Folger is along Swanton Road just after it it descends down into Scott Creek's valley. Swanton Road was originally the county road and the properties were plotted between the road and the creek on the west side. A small collection of buildings associated with the ranch are located there, but the remainder is agricultural fields. It is uncertain where exactly the old Ocean Shore right-of-way through the area was since the fields have regularly planted atop it, though the route likely stuck close to the creek where the grade was most level.

  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Al Smith, "The History of Swanton", transcribed July 1990, California State University, San Luis Obispo: Swanton Pacific Ranch, <> (Accessed 20 Aug. 2014).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Scott & Scott Junction

Right-of-way near Scott Creek according to an Ocean Shore Railroad
survey map from 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
The troubles that assailed the Ocean Shore Railroad after the 1906 Earthquake were not immediate. The company survived, albeit with serious problems on the Northern Division. On the Southern Division, construction continued as planned until the tracks approached the formidable Scott Creek, which sits quite a bit lower than the right-of-way. Then the financial panic of the late 1900s set in and everything fell apart. Construction continued just past a site aptly named "Scott" to a point promisingly named "Scott Junction". Unfortunately, the name became a curse as Scott Junction became the unofficial end-of-track for the Southern Division. A spur line—in effect, the main line—branched off to the northeast until it terminated near the small community of Swanton.

Scott Creek and Scotts Valley are both named after Hiram Daniel Scott, a man from Maine who settled in Santa Cruz in 1846 and returned in 1852 after trying his luck in the gold mines and living in Stockton. In 1850, Scott purchase Joseph Ladd Major's Rancho San Agustín and Scott and his family moved into the property in 1852 to start a cattle business. His home in Scotts Valley still exists and is known as the "Scott House". In 1852, Scott also purchased a small portion of Rancho Agua Puerca y las Trancas on the North Coast, though it seems he never did much with this land. The lasting legacy of this tract of land was the creek that was named after him and the two Ocean Shore Railroad stops that lasted for less than two decades. Scott died in 1886 on a mining expedition in Arizona. When the Scott family relinquished the land is unknown.

Hiram Daniel Scott [Scotts Valley Historical Society]
The Ocean Shore Railroad had great plans for the Scott Creek area north of modern-day Davenport. A proposed subdivision called Scottville was laid out in the area, though never built. The large beach at the mouth of the creek was picturesque due to its large sand drifts. The official stop for the proposed community was at Scott, located 12.8 miles north of the Oceans Shore Depot in Santa Cruz. The site offered a long 15-car siding which probably catered to local dairy and logging businesses during its short life. It does not appear on the survey maps of the route from 1912 due to a mistaken cropping of the map between Davenport and Scott Creek.

Scott Junction, on the other hand, was more of a fictional stop and a depressing one at that. It's location is not certain and there is little evidence that any switch was located at the site. From all records available to this historian, the tracks just continued through Scott Junction without the option of a formal end-of-track on the non-existent main line. The junction was located 13.4 miles north of Santa Cruz, a surprising 0.6 miles north of the fictional Scott community. There is no evidence of a siding, spur, or platform at Scott Junction, though photographs of the station sign are extant. From the junction, the tracks continued north on the east side of Scott Creek.

Scott and Scott Junction saw little service except for use as periodic freight stops and the occasional excursion stops. They were certainly closed as formal stops by 1920 when the Ocean Shore Railroad shut its doors, though both may well have closed earlier than that date. In all likelihood, Scott Junction was more of a reminder to passing trains that the railroad once aspired toward something greater. The tracks were removed in 1923 and centralized community ever developed near the mouth of Scott Creek. California State Route 1 follows mostly the same route as the Ocean Shore Railroad between Davenport and Scott Creek. The Swanton Berry Farm is in the general vicinity of Scott station today while the site of Scott Junction is near the place where Highway 1 crosses Molino Creek—the abandoned right-of-way is visible on satellite maps just west of the highway here. All of the property on the west bank of the right-of-way today is part of Scott Beach County Park, a popular surfing locale though swimming is not recommended.

  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2007).

Friday, August 8, 2014

Davenport Landing & Bluegum

Davenport Landing and Blue Gum according to an
Ocean Shore Railroad survey map from 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
The settlement that Captain John P. Davenport founded on the North Coast of Santa Cruz County was not Davenport, but rather a smaller community known as Davenport Landing. Settled in 1867 by Davenport, a Rhode Island mariner and local whaler, he and John King built a short 400-foot pier at the mouth of Agua Puerca Creek near El Jarro Point on the border of Rancho Laguna and Rancho Agua Puerca y Las Trancas.

Aqua Puerca Creek served as the southern boundary of Rancho Agua Puerca, the most northern rancho in Santa Cruz County. First named Rancho El Jarro in 1839 when it was granted to Hilario Buelna, it was never settled and was reclaimed by Ramón Rodriguez and Francisco Alviso in 1843 under the latter name. The history of this rancho is little documented, but it undoubtedly served as a dairy ranch as did most properties along the North Coast. While the property was patented in 1867, it seems that a portion was almost immediately sold to Captain Davenport for his fishing and whaling business.

Davenport's settlement may have acted as a whaling station for a few years, though the records are inconclusive on that matter. The town itself grew up over the following two decades, peaking with two hotels, two general stores, a blacksmith shop, and a butcher shop around 1875. Only four homes were in town, but the village did support a small harbor beside El Jarro Point. Besides the possible whaling and definite fishing operations, the town shipped out lumber from the mountains, grain and dairy products from the coast lands, and wine from local vineyards. A post office was established in 1874, simply named Davenport. Its closure in 1889 signaled the decline of Davenport Landing. That decline had already begun prior to then, however: the pier was abandoned in 1880 due to decreased business, and the Davenport family moved back to Santa Cruz in the early 1880s. Davenport himself died in 1892.

By the time the Ocean Shore Railroad passed through the village in 1905, most of it had fallen into disrepair or outright abandonment. The opening of the cement plant just south of town in 1905 sparked a new frenzy of settlement, but most of it was established south of the plant above San Vicente Creek rather than Agua Puerca. The post office was reestablished in 1906 but in the new town rather than the old dilapidated village. Some light rural sprawl did spread toward the Landing in the late 1900s, but it never joined with the old settlement.

Captain Davenport, c. 1852 [SC Library]
The Coast Line railroad terminated just south of the village at a site named Bluegum by the Ocean Shore. This northernly terminal, located 11.9 miles north of the Ocean Shore's Santa Cruz Depot, allowed the Ocean Shore to occasionally service the cement plant via 660-foot siding and 428-foot spur, but use of this siding seems to have been rather periodic rather than regular. The strange name derived from the prevalence of eucalyptus trees that had been planted in the area to form windbreaks, many of which can still be seen beside State Route 1 today. The Coast Line had a large wye built immediately opposite Bluegum to turn its engines around without the need for a turntable, but otherwise their operations were about a mile south of the site at the plant itself. The Ocean Shore stop included a 10' x 18' open front passenger shed and platform, likely to ferry plant workers back to various points along the line to Santa Cruz.

Just 0.3 miles north, the Davenport Landing stop serviced the small remnant community at the village. It included a small 8' x 12' open front platform and shelter and, like the Bluegum stop, likely ferries local workers back to Santa Cruz and other stops. It may also have serviced any remaining lumber, produce, dairy, or fishing industries remaining in the area. Unfortunately, a fire swept through Davenport Landing in 1915, destroying most of the remaining infrastructure that had supported the small village. Whether the stop remained in service after that year is unknown, but the line closed down in 1920 either way and the tracks were pulled in 1923.

Davenport Landing Beach and its handicap access ramp.
Today the northern terminus of the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railroad (previously the Coast Line or Southern Pacific) is at the site of Blue Gum. The Ocean Shore tracks have long been gone but the old S.P. tracks dead end into the dirt, having seen periodic service until 2011 when the cement plant finally closed down. The entirety of Cement Plant Road is the old County Road while the Cabrillo Highway (CA State Route 1) is the right-of-way of the Ocean Shore Railroad. Cement Plant Road eventually crosses the highway and becomes Davenport Landing Road—this is the site of the former station, just north of the crossing on the west side of the highway. The road continues westward where it passes through the American Abalone Farms, the former site of the village of Davenport Landing. Here there is also a small beach that is handicap accessible and generally less crowded than other local beaches. Nothing of the old village remains but most of the surrounding area is owned by the County of Santa Cruz, though the village site itself is privately owned.

  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Alverda Orlando, "Early History of Davenport", Santa Cruz Public Libraries <> (Accessed 7 August 2014).

Friday, August 1, 2014

Davenport Town & Cement Plant

Davenport according to an Ocean Shore Railroad survey map from 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
Despite it's name, the modern town of Davenport was not founded by Captain John P. Davenport. The good captain founded Davenport Landing, a site just north of the current town. The town's origins only date back to 1905, and the very reason for the Coast Line Railroad's existence was the cement plant that was built there in that year. Noting the competition presented by the Ocean Shore Railroad, the Coast Line was founded by the Southern Pacific specifically to reach the site of Davenport, even though they claimed their goal was a route to Pescadero and, eventually, San Francisco. Indeed, the grading work was already in its preliminary stages north of Boulder Creek to connect the town to Pescadero via a long tunnel under Waterman Ridge. This route would then loop back to Davenport. The Ocean Shore's plan was always to reach San Francisco, but Davenport was the most profitably commercial venture along the North Coast.

William J. Dingee was the entrepreneur who saw the potential of Portland cement production on the western slopes of Ben Lomond Mountain just north of San Vicente Creek. He took control over the small Santa Cruz Lime Company that was located on the bluff overlooking the creek in 1905, and also purchased around 100-acres of land from the Coast Dairies & Land Co. Construction started immediately at the briefly-named town of San Vicente on what would soon be christened the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company. The Ocean Shore Railroad reached the plant just around the time that construction was completed, and for the better part of a year, the Southern Division of that railroad profited off of the cement output that was shipped via Santa Cruz Depot. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, unfortunately, caused a change in direction for the nascent cement plant. Recognizing the increased need for Portland cement in San Francisco, they negotiated a contract with Southern Pacific, fearing that the damaged and ill-equipped Ocean Shore would be unable to ship the needed loads of cement to San Francisco in sufficient quantities. The Coast Line, thus, was given precedent at the plant and the Ocean Shore loading dock was forced further north at a site to be named Blue Gum.

On the north and south sides of the cement plant, the town of Davenport sprang up. The "old" town was located between San Vicente Creek and the plant. Needing more space for workers, the company purchased additional land from the Coast Dairies of J. Morretti and initially named the flat north of town Morrettiville, but it quickly became simply "new" town. Davenport got its name in 1905, but the post office had been called that since 1889 because of the Landing two miles north of town. It moved in 1906 to the town and remains there today.

Davenport town, c. 1908, by Ole Ravnos. (Alverda Orlando &
The Ocean Shore Railroad, despite lacking freight access to the plant, maintained a siding and spur at Davenport. It also had a passenger shelter that measures 20' by 10' with the side facing the track open. The four-car spur serviced San Vicente Landing, a loading dock for the Santa Cruz Lime Company which was a subsidiary of the plant. It was located just opposite the town on the west side of the tracks. Service to the station began on June 15th, 1906, and continued right until the closure of the line in October 1920 (afterwards, San Vicente Lumber Company trains passed through without stopping until 1923). The Ocean Shore right-of-way continued northward for another three miles to Swanton, and then beyond on private logging rails.

Davenport Station in 1948. [William Whittaker via Jim Vail]
The Coast Line Railroad, meanwhile, established their line in August 1907 and set up a station directly in town just beside the County Road on the east side of the tracks. The Coast Line, having access to the plant, maintained extensive sidings, many of which still exist today, though they are no longer in use and haven't been since 2011. In 1912, Davenport's cement plant sidings numbered four plus the mainline. At least two spur lines were later extended into the plant itself, servicing loading docks. The Ocean Shore station was located 10.8 miles north of the Ocean Shore Depot in Santa Cruz while the Coast Line station was located 11.5 miles north of the Southern Pacific Depot in Santa Cruz. The Coast Line's end-of-track was just north of the plant and remains that way today.

Tourist train at Davenport Station in the 1940s or 1950s. [Jim Vail]
Hoppers parked alongside cement plant, c. 2005. []
Passenger service along the norther routes was never strong, and it mostly serviced laborers at Davenport and north of Swanton. Coast Line passenger service was hardly existent after 1908, and the Ocean Shore demoted Davenport to a flag-stop around the time it reincorporated in 1911. In the end, Davenport became just another forgotten station on both lines, with the buildings finally being demolished as disuse and disrepair forced their condemnation. The cement plant continued operating until 2010. Rmc-Lonestar took over the plant in 1970 and then CEMEX took over operations in 2005. The future of the site is uncertain and rail traffic has not resumed to the town since the tracks were cleared in 2011.

  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railroads. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Alverda Orlando, "Davenport Cement Plant – The Early Years 1903-1910", North Coast Faces: Pictorial and Oral History of Davenport and the North Coast of Santa Cruz County. <> (Accessed 7/31/2014.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Liddell & San Vicente

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 18, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, July 11, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 4, 2014

Enright & Majors

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, June 27, 2014

Gordola & Scaroni

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

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

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

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

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


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