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, March 23, 2018

Curiosities: Laurel and Glenwood-Area Resorts

The Santa Cruz Mountains were the haunt of adventurers, rogues, and all manner of frontiersperson, but beginning in the 1870s, it also became a popular tourist destination. The arrival of the South Pacific Coast Railroad through the upper Soquel and Bean Creek basins signalled an important demographic shift from rural ranchers and farmers to small-scale tourism ventures in the mountains. Almost all of these ventures failed by the 1910s, when the railroad was outpaced by the automobile, but for nearly forty years, the mountains were alive with the sound of people enjoying their summer vacations along the untamed creeks, wild forests, and flowing meadows in the Glenwood and Laurel areas.

Advertisements for local resorts across from the Glenwood railroad depot, c. 1905.
Hotel de Redwood (Redwood Lodge) (1851-1953)
Accessible via a two-mile-long stage road from Laurel Station or via the San Jose-Soquel Highway (Soquel-San José Road), Hotel de Redwood was the only resort located above Soquel Creek and it was also the first built in the Summit area. Erected in 1851, possibly be E. Bowker, it original served as the owner's home, a general store, and a small hostelry for passing travellers. It was a unique experience since parts of the hotel were constructed out of living portions of redwood trees, as well as repurposed tree stumps. The resort lived up to the literal translation of it's name: "hotel [made out] of Redwood." Early residents to the hotel enjoyed a nearby sulphur spring and went hunting in the woods or fishing along Soquel Creek.

Stereograph of a horse team hauling a wagonload of tourists beneath the Hotel de Redwood sign, c. 1880. [California State Library]
With the arrival of the railroad in 1880, interest in the resort skyrocketed, possibly buoyed by the fact that there were few other resorts in the mountains at this time. A post office arrived at Hotel de Redwood on June 3, 1879, and it remained there until October 16, 1882, when it relocated to nearby Highland (later Laurel). In 1884, Myron S. Cox purchased the resort and completely renovated it. He built a two-story structure with ten guest rooms and a balcony. The next year, the entire complex burned down. Cox rebuilt and by summer 1886, the hotel could support 110 people between the new primary structure and the adjacent tents and cabins. For the next fifteen years, the hotel thrived.

Another stereograph of a horse team under the Hotel de Redwood entry sign, with the hotel in the back left, c. 1880. [California State Library]
In 1903, the hotel burned down again, this time under the ownership of a Mr. Fitzgerald. Although he rebuilt the hotel again, it was badly damaged in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, when the second story slid off and fell into Soquel Creek. New owners, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Waltz, attempted to rebuild again, but another fire consumed their structure a short time after it was completed. They rebuilt for a fifth time and this structure survived the longest. Over the next thirty years, The Waltz family added a general store, cottage city, and a gas station for passing automobiles. However, the end of the rail line and the completion of State Route 17, both in 1940, signalled the decline of Hotel de Redwood. The ageing hotel struggled through World War II and the early 1950s before succumbing to yet another massive structure fire in 1953.

Nothing of this century-long resort remains except a concrete gas pumping island and a location on maps entitled Redwood Lodge.

Glenwood Magnetic Springs (1877-c. 1912)
Often confused with the Glenwood Hotel, Glenwood Magnetic Springs was located four miles from the Glenwood train depot off Vine Hill Road near Scotts Valley. The resort was established by A. J. Haight in 1877 after a spring was found in the Glenwood Basin that apparently had strange magnetic properties a few years later. The Magnetic Springs spanned across 210 acres and included hotels and cottages totalling 40 rooms for guests. Vineyards and orchards occupied a quarter of the property and provided a secondary source of income for the owners.

Glenwood Magnetic Springs primary hotel structure, c. 1880. Photo by Carleton Watkins. [California State Library]
The most prominent feature of the resort, of course, was the magnetic spring, a famed hot or cold mineral bath that was thought to have curative properties. However, the resort also featured hunting, fishing, tennis, bowling, and a billiards parlor. The two-story hotel structure was called the Mountain House, although it was purpose-built for the resort. It featured a broad veranda which was popular with guests. Visitors arrived at the hotel via a special horse-drawn bus that shuttled people from the train station.

A different angle of the Glenwood Magnetic Springs primary structure, with women sitting on the stairs and in the adjacent field, c. 1880. Photo by Carleton Watkins. [California State Library]
The springs passed through a variety of proprietors and owners over the years. In 1883, Hubert and Luff took over from Haight. In 1891, C. Lindsey ran the resort. In 1895, E. H. Lyon purchased the property and hired J. P. Stockwell to run it. By October 1898, Lajos V. Perhacs and his wife purchased the resort.

The bath houses at Glenwood Magnetic Springs near the main hotel building, c. 1880. Photo by Carleton Watkins. [California State Library]
When the Magnetic Springs shut down is not known, but it was at some point in the early 1910s, when the last advertisements and notices for the resort appeared in newspapers. By 1964, it had been closed for decades and all that remained was an old barn that sat on the northern side of Vine Hill Road in a grove of redwood trees. 

Summer Home Farm (Camp Redwood Glen) (1882-Present)
Named after John M. Bean's original farm which was built at the site in 1851 above the creek that also shares the farmer's name, Summer Home Farm was a purpose-built resort located along Bean Creek three miles to the south of Glenwood. Founded by B. C. Brown in 1882 on 300 acres purchased from J. W. DeWolfe, Summer Home Farm consisted of primarily a campground, a commodious hotel, and cosy cottages. He also seasonally dammed Bean Creek to create an artificial swimming, boating, and fishing lake beside the resort. However, unlike many of the other local resorts, Summer Home Farm remained a functioning farm throughout its time as a vacation spot. Brown planted new crops annually, including orchard fruits and grape vines, while maintaining a healthy herd of Jersey cattle. He even began experimenting with fruit drying in 1885.

A man relaxing in a redwood grove at Summer Home Farm, c. 1890. [Town of Glenwood]
The resort was purchased by the Bernheim family before the summer of 1892 and advertisements for it disappeared from local newspapers. The Bernheims appear to have operated the location exclusively as a farm for the next five years as no information relating to its continued existence as a resort exists for this period. In 1897, J. H. Haesters took over as the proprietor and reopened the resort to the public. Like Brown before him, he continued to run the property as both a farm and a resort. The resort was sold again in 1900 to W. B. Hugus and Harry W. and Mulford Haines, who continued to operate it as before allowing Haesters to remain as proprietor. During this time, he expanded the dining room, added six new cottages, and added twelve new guest rooms to the main hotel. Haesters quit in 1902 to work at Villa Fontenay and Harry Haines took over as proprietor.

View of Summer Home Farm three miles south of Glenwood along Bean Creak Road (former County Highway), 1923. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Summer Home Farm survived in various iterations over the century. In 1905,  the resort was leased by the New Thought ("Now") movement as a summer school venue. The movement turned the resort into "Now" Mountain Home, a health center and summer school venue for its members and interested visitors. By 1909, Summer Home Farm became the primary home of "Now." After the leader of the movement died in 1911, it is unclear if "Now" continued to run the resort, although it was certainly still operating and running advertisements throughout the 1910s. In 1917, the Haines are still listed as the owners, but no proprietor is stated. In 1919, George Reid took over as proprietor. After running the resort for over twenty years, Reid transferred his lease to the YWCA in 1941 for use as a women's summer camp, which ran for the next three years. In 1945, the Salvation Army purchased the resort for use as a boys summer camp and renamed it Camp Redwood Glen. The Salvation Army still owns and operates Redwood Glen Camp & Conference Center and the site can be accessed along Bean Creek Road. More information can be found at:

Glenwood Hotel (1884-1924)
Located on the far side of the meadow above Glenwood, the Glenwood Hotel was the result of Charles Martin's entrepreneurialism. The first resort was actually Martin's original farm house. In 1883, he began expanding and upgrading the structure so that it could support up to 75 vacationers. This hotel opened in 1884. Eight years later, Martin began expanding his hotel into a full resort. Since he owned most of the Glenwood meadow, including either side of Bean Creek, he ran the creekside area as a picnic ground and dancing pavilion for passing trains. In 1892, he built a small cottage city on either side of the creek. Within a few years, he also redirected the creek into a concrete swimming tank, allowing for a pool of adequate depth for swimming in the summer. Beside the hotel, which was further expanded to support more guests, he constructed a baseball diamond and a small woodland theatre for summer plays. Unlike the other resorts in the area, the Glenwood Hotel was immediately accessible to railroad patrons since it was situated in town.

A load of children and women on a Glenwood Hotel wagon, c. 1900. [California State Library]
A major fire in 1899 burned Martin's hotel and prompted him to rebuild it to contemporary standards. He erected on the hillside above the town a large two-story structure. This facility underwent further renovations throughout the next two decades, including the addition of electric lighting in 1920 and the painting of a cottage pink to designate it for honeymooners. The hotel remained under the control of Martin family, first by Charles then by his son William, throughout its existence as a resort. The resort underwent major refurbishment and upgrading in 1910. Management was taken over by P. D. and Florence J. Lowell in the mid-1910s.

Glenwood Hotel in the field across from the Glenwood railroad depot, c. 1900.
The Glenwood Hotel declined throughout the early 1920s, eventually closing in 1924. When the Great Depression set in, the resort property was repurposed as a camp for State Emergency Relief Administration (SERA) workers, who came to the area to upgrade bridges, roads, and other infrastructure. In March 1936, a Dominican group, Sisters of St. Mary's of the Palms, based out of Mission San José in Frémont, purchased the former resort for use a a summer boarding and day school. It opened the following year and was expanded in 1938 with further land purchased from the former resort. The main hotel structure was demolished sometime after 1969.

Mount Pleasant Farm (1886-1919)
Situated near Summer Home Farm, Mount Pleasant Farm was established in 1886 by William B. and Christina Knox. Compared to the other hotels in the area, very little is known about this small resort located along shady Bean Creek four miles south of Glenwood. The Knox family moved to Santa Cruz in 1919 and either sold or leased their property to Pirkut & Viunovich. The latter seem to have been actively logging some of the property in 1921 when a fire swept through and burned three of the guest cabins. In 1923, Edward McCarthy took over, but it is unclear whether he ran the site as a resort. The location is last mentioned in newspapers in 1941, when William Knox passed away. Christina had died in 1932 after a 20+ year ailment.

Villa Fontenay (1901-c. 1912)
The main hotel at Villa Fontenay, c. 1905. [Town of Glenwood]
Located off Vine Hill Road near the Magnetic Springs, Villa Fontenay did not begin its life as a resort. In 1879, French immigrants Henry and Nellie Mel de Fontenay bought the 250-acre property from John Jarvis, a local vintner who was seeking profitable locations to grow grapes. Throughout the 1880s, the Mel de Fontenay family grew grapes on their Villa Fontenay, introducing the first California vines of sauvignon blanc, sauvignon vert, and muscadelle de bordelaise. Henry eventually became the county's wine inspector and won awards for his grapes in 1884. In 1888, the Mel de Fontenay family completed construction of their large home but they were not responsible for converting it into a resort.

In 1901, Frederick W. Billing purchased the property. The house was enlarged and turned into a 14-room hotel, which featured a panoramic view of the entire Soquel Creek basin, with views of the Monterey Bay and Pacific Ocean. The property included large, eight-room cottages, which dotted the surrounding hillside. The initial complex included croquet and tennis courts, a bowling alley, and an amusement hall for billiards. Electric lights were installed across the facility for night-time events. Under the management of J. W. Haesters, who became proprietor of the property the next year, more cottages were added and the dining room and kitchen were enlarged to commercial standards. He also extended lighting along many of the surrounding paths. In Autumn 1902, Haesters added enough rooms to support fifty more guests, increasing the capacity of the resort to 150 vacationers, and in 1903 he added a second bowling lane to the alley.

The two lane bowling alley at Villa Fontenay, c. 1905. [Town of Glenwood]
In 1904, following the death of Haester's wife, management of the resort was taken over by J. E. Moore. The next February, Billing sold the property to John A. Nordin, who hired Rice Harper as his new proprietor. Rice oversaw the addition of two large hotel annexes near the original Mel de Fontenay home. The resort remained popular for another five years, advertised in newspapers almost daily for much of this time. But beginning around 1911, the location dropped off as a resort and became more of a large country home that often welcomed large numbers of guests. At some point in the 1930s, Dr. A. T. Leonard purchased the property and used it as a private home. In 1958, the property was purchased by United Airlines for use as a seasonal employee recreation facility. In 1962, Cave Realty purchased the property and converted it into a housing subdivision. Later that year, the main Villa Fontenay hotel lost most of its roof in a massive wind storm, that led to its demolition shortly afterwards.

Today, the Villa Fontenay area still goes by its historic name and is still used for wine-making, although there is no longer a resort of any manner there. Most of the region is populated by mansions with manicured lawns and swimming pools, thereby retaining its status as a beautiful haven within the mountains.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Stations: Glenwood

Of all the locations between Los Gatos and Felton, none came close to the size and importance of Glenwood. When the South Pacific Coast Railroad's surveyors first reached Glenwood, a small hamlet was already in development. The site was home to Mountain Charlie McKiernan, whose toll road passed by on the west bank of Bean Creek. John M. Bean, whose name was given to the creek, owned a small farm called Summer Home, which often hosted stage coach visitors and early tourists to the area. Charles C. Martin, meanwhile, owned and operated another farm on land purchased from McKiernan in 1851. He worked for Mountain Charlie as the southern gateman for the Santa Cruz Turnpike Company's toll road. Within a decade, Martin built a sawmill and a winery in the area and purchased Summer Home so he could convert it into a full tourist resort. By the time railroad grading crews passed through the area, most of the native trees were probably gone and the Glenwood meadow, still present today, was probably fully realized. But Martin continued to develop. Throughout the 1870s, he built a school and general store. It was he who coined the name Glenwood, with some helpful advice from a friend.

Freight and passenger cars parked beside Glenwood Depot, c. 1890. [Mt. Hermon Association]
The South Pacific Coast Railroad never initially intended to pass through Bean Creek. Original plans for the railroad planned to bore a tunnel to the Soquel Creek headwaters and then direct the route down to Soquel. Frederick Hihn and the Dougherty Brothers, however, wanted the train to pass through the San Lorenzo Valley, thereby making it far easier to transport lumber from the valley to customers in San José and San Francisco. The railroad bowed to pressure and rerouted their line through 1.3 miles of the upper Bean Creek basin. The town of Glenwood, as it certainly was by 1880 when construction was completed, was immediately outside the eastern portal of the Glenwood Tunnel. A station was built right along the main road through town on land donated by Martin. Around the same time, the town's post office opened within the general store, with Martin appointed postmaster.

Early photograph of Glenwood showing detached passenger and freight depots and three sidings beside the mainline track, c. 1890.
As it turned out, Glenwood served an important purpose in railroad operations. Although the town was not at the top of the railroad grade, it was close enough that the steepest portions of the route were already surpassed by the time trains made it to Glenwood. And unlike Highland (Laurel) or Wright, Glenwood had plenty of room for trains to maneuver. Therefore, the railroad used Glenwood as a loading area for lumber trains. They installed a turntable just south of the depot so that switch engines could run back and forth between Glenwood and Felton, which also had a turntable. Multiple train-loads of lumber-laden flatcars would be sent to Glenwood and the four parallel sidings there until no more could be sent, at which point a mainline locomotive would pick up as many cars as it could carry and haul them mostly down-grade to the lumber yards and planing mills in San José and elsewhere in the Bay Area. This practice was continued every day into the 1890s, when more efficient Southern Pacific locomotives were built that could make the entire trip over the mountains. To mark this transition, the separate passenger and freight depots at Glenwood were combined together around 1895 and a Victorian-style ticket window was installed on the side facing the tracks.

Remodeled Glenwood depot showing the combined passenger and freight building with extended platform, c. 1895.
Glenwood was not simply an industrial town, though. Even before the railroad's arrival, McKiernan, Bean, and Martin had been responsible for clearing the meadow of trees and establishing the first hostelries in the area. The railroad accelerated this process. By 1900, numerous resorts had opened in and around the Glenwood meadow including Mount Pleasant Farm, Villa Fontenay, Summer Home Farm, and the popular Glenwood Magnetic Springs Resort & Spa. Whereas picnickers would travel to Bunker Hill Park, Forest House, and Sunset Park for daily picnic trips, tourists would come to Glenwood for full summer vacations. Campgrounds sprang up alongside Bean Creek, and the creek was inevitably dammed seasonally to create an artificial lake. The redwood forests to the north of Glenwood provided ample hiking opportunities, while the wildlife in the region was not yet so tamed that hunting expeditions were out of the ordinary. Glenwood thrived in the decades prior to the widespread adoption of the automobile as a safe and accessible wilderness.

An excursion train at Glenwood, with picnickers milling around the east bank of Bean Creek, c. 1890s. [Jeff Escott]
The broad-gauging of the tracks at Glenwood between 1906 and 1909 had a contradictory impact on the town. A wider gauge meant that heavier-duty trains could transport more people to Glenwood, which is indeed what occurred in the early years of the 1910s. However, the steep decline of commercial logging operations in the area meant that most of the sidings were either outright abandoned or went into disuse and the turntable was torn out and filled with concrete. Further repairs and upgrades made in the 1910s straightened the right-of-way significantly, culverted Bean Creek more efficiently, and generally improved the ride through the Bean Creek area. Thus, even as rider experience and capacity along the line increased, the commercial function of the line, especially in the Glenwood area, became non-existent. For the sake of Glenwood, the railroad became exclusively a passenger affair.

A snowy day at Glenwood, with two passenger trains parked at the station across from the general store, c. 1910s. [Jeff Escott]
Yet even that passenger function came to a quick end beginning around 1916, when California built the Glenwood Highway straight through town. The highway, completed in 1920, connected Santa Cruz and Los Gatos along a mostly new alignment. Martin donated vast tracts of land to ensure that the road passed through his resort valley, and the gamble paid off for the next decade. Motorists began arriving in Glenwood in droves, stopping to refuel at the new gas station installed beside the general store or spending the night in one of the rustic mountain hotels. But the days when affluent families would spent the entirety of their summers in a single resort had come to an end. Resort patronage sharply declined as travelers preferred to take single-day excursions to the Santa Cruz beach. The Glenwood Hotel closed in 1924 and other resorts around the same time.

The Glenwood depot grounds just before the railroad pulled out the remaining tracks, 1941.
The rapid rise of automobile usage also meant that railroad patronage was on the decline. Glenwood's freight depot closed in 1927 and the passenger agency permanently closed August 16, 1939, after which it was demolished. By the early 1930s, the impact of the Great Depression ended any remaining resort operations in the area. Soon afterwards, construction of State Route 5 (later State Route 17) began which would virtually erase Glenwood from the map. In 1934, traffic was diverted to a new road that passed above Glenwood, thereby bypassing the town. The general store and gas station both closed as a result. Trains continued to pass through Glenwood for the next six years, occasionally stopping for waiting passengers, but few probably used the stop. Storm damage caused by winter rainfall on February 26, 1940, led to the permanent abandonment of the route. Within two years, the tracks would be pulled, the block signals removed, and the tunnel portals sealed. Almost all remnants of the town were gone by the time World War II began. The last straggler was the post office, which continued to operate until April 1954, with Martin's great-granddaughter, Margaret Koch, serving as its last postmaster.

California State Historic Landmark plate
at Glenwood. [Derek R. Whaley]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.110˚N, 121.987˚W

The Glenwood townsite is accessible via Glenwood Road. Heading north from Scotts Valley, it is located in a wide meadow surrounded by high hills just north of where Glenwood Cut-Off meets Glenwood Road. The site is California State Historic Landmark #449, a marker for which is at the site of the station on the west side of the road. All of the property in the area, including the entire right-of-way between the Glenwood Tunnel's east portal and the Mountain Charlie Tunnel's west portal, is privately owned and trespassing is not recommended. Very limited evidence of the railroad remains other than the tunnel portals and a single concrete semaphore foundation located near the former station.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. 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, March 9, 2018

Tunnels: Glenwood (Tunnel 3)

The South Pacific Coast Railroad wore its audacity on its sleeve. When they first began surveying potential routes to connect San José and Santa Cruz, one of their last choices was to bring it into the San Lorenzo Valley. Initial plans had drawn the route down Soquel Creek from a location near Laurel. But surprisingly, it was Frederick A. Hihn, the owner of much of the Soquel watershed, that proposed cutting through to the San Lorenzo Valley. This, in effect, meant that the railroad would have to pass through not one but two mile-long tunnels before it could make its way to Santa Cruz. While the history of the Summit Tunnel (Tunnel 2) is well known, much less is known about the construction of Tunnel 3, which would connect the Soquel headwaters with the hamlet of Glenwood. Although the tunnel never had an official name other than Tunnel 3 (Tunnel 2 after standard-gauging was completed in 1909), it picked up the local name "Glenwood Tunnel" because it passed under the Glenwood Highway, which was completed in 1920.

Looking out the Glenwood Tunnel toward Laurel, c. 1905. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Construction began on the wood-timbered narrow-gauge tunnel in May 1879, after grading crews had already built the right-of-way between the eastern portal of the Summit Tunnel and the hamlet of Highland above Soquel Creek. Since the tunnel did not pass through any major fault line and did not include natural gas deposits, it experienced none of the problems of the Summit Tunnel. Two crews worked on the tunnel, one from either side. Those working in the Bean Creek area were able to camp in Glenwood, probably in the large meadow beside Charles C. Martin's property, while those working at the Highland end probably shared a camp with the Summit Tunnel workers. The firm Martin, Ballard & Ferguson was responsible for both tunnels. The material encountered by the boring crews was almost solid granite, which required major explosives but also meant that cave-ins were rarely a threat. Indeed, much of the interior of the tunnel did not require timberwork because the interior walls were so solid. Wood portals were installed on both sides of the tunnel.

The town of Laurel with the Glenwood Tunnel visible in the background, c. 1905. [Whole Mountain Source Book]
Once completed in December 1879, the Glenwood Tunnel measured 5,793-feet (1.1 miles) and was the second longest tunnel after the Summit Tunnel. Railroad operations began officially in May 1880, at which point the tunnel saw regular use by South Pacific Coast trains. There is not much that can be said about the tunnel for the next thirty years. It survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake with minimal damage due to its solid granite interior and the tunnel experienced no known upgrades until 1907, when the line was standard-gauged. Indeed, through service to Laurel from Glenwood continued until mid-1907, when the tunnel was closed for these upgrades.

Colorized postcard of the western portal of the Glenwood Tunnel with a train passing through, c. 1910. [Ken Lorenzen]
Upgrading of the tunnel was relatively straight-forward, but it did entail one detail that the previous tunnel had not: a road above the eastern portal. Although the Glenwood Highway was not completed for over another decade, traffic down what would become that highway arrived earlier. Before 1907, traffic crossed Bean Creek just to the north, but the new tunnel was designed so the road could go directly over the tunnel. On both sides, the wooden portals were replaced with solid concrete faces. At Laurel, the portal only extended about 20 feet into the hillside before the concrete was replaced with redwood timber. Because a natural spring emptied into the tunnel at this end, the railroad installed a pipe that led to a water cistern which was kept above the portal. A small dirt road was built to access this cistern, and it may have continued further behind the tunnel since the hillside was not overly steep here. 

Looking through the Glenwood Tunnel toward Glenwood, c. 1920. [George Pepper]
On the Glenwood side, the concrete portal also only extended about 20 feet so that it could support the road that ran immediately above it. At this time, the road was still gravel, but it would later be paved and repurposed for automobile traffic. On both sides, a metal railing was placed roughly three feet high above the portals to keep pedestrians and vehicles from falling onto the tracks. Within the tunnel, the granite was dynamited further to expand tunnel to support standard-gauge trains. The construction work was completed in March 1909, after which the line reopened to through traffic between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos.

A parade over the Glenwood Tunnel's east portal, c. 1915. Note the road is not yet paved and the lack of automobiles.
As before, the Glenwood Tunnel lived on for another thirty-five years without any issues. As automobile traffic increased, the trains that passed through the tunnel decreased. Glenwood ceased its life as a tourist destination in 1924 and the F.A. Hihn Company left Laurel around 1914. When the winter storm of February 26, 1940 damaged large portions of the right-of-way, Southern Pacific Railroad decided to shut down operations along the line. Throughout 1941, tracks and ties were removed from the right-of-way. A short-lived campaign in January 1941 led by community members suggested converting the tunnel into a one-way road for local traffic to allow people to travel between Laurel and Glenwood, but the project was deemed expensive and unfeasible. In April 1942, the demolition firm H. A. Christie & Sons dynamited the portals on either side, protecting them for future use while sealing them for insurance purposes. On the Laurel side, the railroad ensured that access to the natural spring was maintained, while at Glenwood, heavy steel girders were installed under Glenwood Highway to insure it did not collapse the road in the explosion. Access to the spring was eventually blocked by movements caused by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Southern Pacific photograph of Glenwood Tunnel's west portal after the February winter storm, 1940. [Bruce MacGregor]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
West Portal: 37.117˚N, 121.968˚W
East Portal: 37.110˚N, 121.986˚W

The west portal of the Glenwood Tunnel is still easily accessed. Explorers can venture down to the Laurel townsite off State Route 17. The portal is located directly opposite the beginning of Redwood Lodge Road down a dirt driveway that parallels a home on the south side. It should be visible from the Laurel Road/Schulties Road intersection. The top of the concrete portal is fully exposed and can be walked upon, while the interior is mostly collapsed now. The old piping for the water, in use until 1989, remains in place beside the tunnel. The former road that once ran over the portal is no longer intact and run-off has now eroded the hillside behind the tunnel significantly, exposing much of the concrete ceiling, which can be viewed atop the portal.

Western portal of the Glenwood Tunnel at Laurel, showing the extended face and the remains of the water system. [Derek R. Whaley]
The east portal of the Glenwood Tunnel is easier to find but more difficult to practically access. Driving on Glenwood Road from Scotts Valley, stop at the wagon wheel plaque that tells the history of Glenwood. Walk down the road until it turns sharply to the west. The portal is directly beneath the road at this point (look for the metal railing). Accessing the tunnel requires climbing down into a steep gully (the former right-of-way) that is filled with poison oak. It is impossible to obtain a good photograph of the tunnel due to the abundance of vegetation which blocks the view. The tunnel is collapsed almost immediately at the entrance and there is very little to investigate here.

The eastern portal of the Glenwood Tunnel, as viewed from Glenwood Road. [Derek R. Whaley]
Citations & Credits:

Friday, March 2, 2018

Freight Stops: Hihn Mill at Laurel

The town of Laurel had always had a relationship with the logging industry. Before it was even founded, Frederick A. Hihn, who owned the entire portion of Rancho Soquel Augmentación that included the town, had leased out tracts of timberland to various companies to sell to the South Pacific Coast Railroad. Nonetheless, the town never thrived under these conditions. But the exhaustion of timber resources in Gold Gulch near Felton in February 1899 caused Hihn to look shift his gaze toward his vast tracts of virgin redwood at the headwaters of Soquel Creek.

Main yard at the Frederick A. Hihn mill at Laurel, 1902. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Construction of the mill at Laurel began tentatively in 1900. The initial milling equipment was brought over from Gold Gulch while new timber structures were erected at the site. The mill opened in November and operated the same 45,000 board foot capacity saw that had operated at Gold Gulch. Soon afterwards, a box mill was erected capable of producing 1,000 fruit boxes/day. A shingle mill was also built nearby which could produce 30,000 shingles, grape stakes, and other split stuff per day. A mill pond was formed to the north of the camp, at the confluence of Burns and Laurel Creeks and under the Hotel de Redwood stage coach bridge. To the south of the mill, a large lumber yard sprawled out above Soquel Creek, which was culverted around the site. By the middle of 1902, over 100 people were employed at the mill in various capacities. The single men lived on site in two bunkhouses built between the mill and the cookhouse, and the married men lived in the town of Laurel above in small homes built along the hillsides overlooking town.

Flatcar being hauled up the incline tramway to the railroad grade, 1902. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
In August 1901, construction was completed on a 1,600-foot-long cable narrow-gauge tramway that connected the mill yard with the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks at Laurel. At the top of the grade beside the western portal of the tunnel to Glenwood, a warehouse was built that housed a stationary railroad locomotive attached to a steel drum. A 1-inch-thick cable was wound around the drum and used to pull loaded flatcars up the incline to the railroad grade from the mill. At its steepest point, the railroad grade reached 13%. No railroad locomotive operated along the tramway or in the mill yard—all cars were hauled in the yard by mule and horse teams and taken up the grade by the cable line. Oxen were also not used at the Laurel mill; rather, steam donkeys were moved around the hills as woodcutters harvested timber and moved on. The loads of felled timber were hauled to the mill pond on skid roads by mule and horse or steam donkey.

View of the Hihn mill at Laurel from the front of the cookhouse, 1902. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
This initial mill operated near peak efficiency for over a year, but then disaster struck. On September 1, 1902, a fire broke out and destroyed virtually everything on the site. The cookhouse and mill office were the only structures to survive. Over 1,500,000 board feet of lumber burned in the inferno, costing the F.A. Hihn Company thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Since it occurred so late in the season, the company decided not to rebuild until the next spring, after the end of the rainy season.

The first band saw in California, operating on the top story off the Hihn mill at Laurel, 1902. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Upgraded tramway tracks heading toward the Hihn mill
at Laurel, c. 1909. [George Pepper]
The new mill opened in Spring 1903. The new mill hosted a 50,000 board foot per day capacity band saw, which was the first to operate in California. A new shingle mill was built nearby that could produce 50,000 units per day. Worker bunk houses and other support structures were also rebuilt, with everything operating at full capacity by summer. For the next two years, the mill did not experience any further delays and much of the Soquel Creek basin was logged. By February 1906, plans were in place to extend the tramway track down the west bank of Soquel Creek downstream until it eventually reached Capitola, at which point the line would be upgraded to a standard-gauge railroad route. However, these plans came to an abrupt end in April, when the San Francisco Earthquake struck, completely cutting off Laurel and the Hihn mill there from the outside world.

The F.A. Hihn Company decided to relocate operations to King's Creek since no timber could ship out of the Laurel basin for the foreseeable future. Excess crews were loaned to the railroad to help reopen sections of track between Los Gatos and Wright, and Glenwood and Santa Cruz. In late 1907, the Summit Tunnel finally reopened and over the winter, railroad crews upgraded the track through Laurel to standard-gauge. At the same time, Hihn upgraded the tramway to standard-gauge and replaced his rolling stock with appropriately larger flatcars.

The mill reopened at Laurel in May 1908 with a full complement of workers, but demand for lumber was so low that the mill closed again in June. Half the crew was fired and the other half went to King's Creek. Contrary to popular belief, the Laurel mill did not provide any large quantity of redwood to the rebuild of San Francisco in the first three years after the earthquake. Most of the lumber used in the city came from King's Creek, Aptos Creek, and Little Creek north of Davenport. In 1909, when the entire route through the mountains reopened to through traffic and Hihn reopened the mill permanently.

Skid road heading up Burns Creek from the mill, with top of mill pond in the foreground, 1902. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
For the next five years, the mill at Laurel operated at varying capacity. In 1910, most of Soquel Creek south of the mill had been logged, but the areas above the town remained untouched. Rather than rushing to finish the logging job in the area, Hihn scaled back operations. The shingle mill continued to operate year round, but the mill only operated for a few months each year. Lumber from the mill was used to build the Casa del Rey Hotel in Santa Cruz at this time, but most of the lumber went to the Hihn-Hammond planing mill in downtown Santa Cruz for further processing.  The last big push at the Laurel mill occurred in 1913 and 1914, after which the F.A. Hihn Company abandoned the site and relocated to a small operation off Aptos Creek.

Laurel Mill Lodge as it appears today off Redwood Lodge Road. [Alejandro + Allegra Wedding]
The site of the mill went through numerous permutations in the years after the mill closed. In 1915, the lumber yard was converted into a small orchard, but the business failed to produce commercially viable crops. Two cabins were constructed by repurposing old structural materials found in the old mill pond's dam and elsewhere on site. In 1943, the site was purchased by Alan Medlen, who setup a foster home for boys there. They built a swimming pool and a campground, while also expanding the former site office and cookhouse and the two older cabins. By the 1960s, the location had been upgraded into a small retreat and massage school known as the Redwood Lodge. A second swimming pool and a jacuzzi were added and all the buildings were upgraded and modernized. However, damage from the 1982 winter storms forced the retreat to shut its doors. After repairs were made, the location briefly became a nudist resort, accessible via ropes and ladders installed along Redwood Lodge Road, but that business went bankrupt a few years later. In 1991, it was purchased by Esther Seehof and Bob Kundus, who run the facility as the Laurel Mill Lodge and host events and workshops at the site.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.117˚N, 121.961˚W

The precise location of Hihn's Mill at Laurel is just south of where Laurel and Burns Creeks divide Soquel Creek. It can also be found on a map by locating the sharp curve in Redwood Lodge Road—the mill site is in the center of this curve. At the site, portions of the old mill remain in the creek and the former site office and cookhouse remain a part of the Laurel Mill Lodge. Access to the site is currently restricted, but can be visited by contacting Esther Seehof and Bob Kundus, owners of the Laurel Mill Lodge. The route of the cable tramway is modern Morrell Mill Road, which is also accessible from the Laurel townsite.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, February 23, 2018

Stations: Laurel

When the South Pacific Coast Railroad surveyors and grading crews first traversed the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1877, they ran through a small basin that formed the headwaters of Burns Creek. A work camp was established in a crude clearing on the western side of the basin, just before a hillside that would soon host a tunnel to Glenwood. Once construction officially started on this tunnel, as well as the tunnel to Wright's Station, in late 1878, the location acquired the name Highland, since it was the stop nearest the top of the railroad grade. For the next two years, Highland served as a construction site while the tunnels were being bored. Two local lumbermen, Harold F. Elbone and John Peter Houck, built a lumber mill at the site on land leased from Frederick A. Hihn, who owned the entire valley. They provided ties for the tracks and materials to build the bridges and tunnels in the valley.

When the railroad was completed in May 1880, Highland declined in importance. Elbone and Houck continued to operate their mill for a number of years to provide fuel wood to passing trains, but Glenwood, just a mile to the west, also provided this service so the mill soon closed down. John Martin Schultheis, who lived on the summit just above the railroad grade, built a short road between the Soquel Turnpike and Highland in 1880 to make it easier for local ranchers and farmers to bring their goods to the trains. Another lumber venture, this time by Hihn and Ephraim Morrell, attempted to produce commercial-grade lumber beginning in 1881 along Cleveland Gulch, just to the south of Highland. In 1885, Morrell left and Joshua Barber moved in in an attempt to drill for oil on the millsite. Still, Highland grew slowly, and was virtually a ghost town in the winter, when lumber crews raised camp.

People awaiting a train at Laurel Station, c. 1890s.

Hihn permitted construction of a school in the hamlet in 1882, but it took the name Laurel rather than Highland, probably in reference to a local chaparral tree. That same year, a post office was installed, probably within a small general store located near the tracks, but the postmarks for it read Laurel as well. Even Burrell Creek, which ran below the town, slowly became known as Laurel Creek during this time. Although the South Pacific Coast Railroad resisted the trend to rename the town, the Southern Pacific Railroad, which took over the line in 1887, had no such qualms. From late 1887 to the present, the site has retained the name Laurel while the name Highland shifted up to small settlement along Summit Road.

Laurel township with boxcars, c. 1915. [George Pepper]
Laurel was never a thriving town. Besides the school, it was composed of a general store, a hostelry, and a few other rotating amenities, as demanded. For the entire period from 1887 to 1900, the town survived only because of the freight needs of Summit residents and seasonal interest in the Hotel de Redwood Resort, which was accessed from the station along a long, curvy road along Soquel Creek to the south. Laurel's station was erected by the Southern Pacific in late 1887 and served both freight and passenger service, as well as a Wells Fargo Express office.

View of Laurel looking west toward the Glenwood Tunnel, c. 1905. The large warehouse beside the tunnel portal housed the cable winch for the incline, which passed through the gully to the left. The station is directly to the right of the photographer.

The hamlet's fortunates briefly changed in late 1900. Frederick Hihn had been operating a mill along Gold Gulch south of Felton for the past five years, but it was running out of timber. He had long viewed the upper Soquel Creek basin as a highly profitable source of revenue, but as of yet had been unwilling to tap the vast redwood tracts located there. In 1900, though, demand was high and he finally relocated his operations to a deep gully at the confluence of Laurel and Burns Creeks just south of the Summit Tunnel. To reach his mill, he built a 1,600-foot-long tramway that connected the railroad tracks at Laurel with his mill. A cable winch installed in a large barn beside the Glenwood tunnel's western portal provided the motor power to haul up carloads of cut lumber to the railroad grade. Although a fire destroyed the original mill in September 1902, Hihn rebuilt and was producing lumber at peak capacity when the April 1906 earthquake hit.

A view of Laurel from the top of the Glenwood Tunnel's west portal, c. 1920.

The earthquake trapped Laurel and briefly ended logging operations at the mill there. Blocked to the south due to sinks and landslides and to the north by the San Andreas Fault destroying the Summit Tunnel, the hamlet probably suffered the most commercial per capita of all the towns along the former South Pacific Coast route. For two years, work crews operated in the town, first repairing the Summit Tunnel, which reopened in September 1907, and then upgrading the tracks and the Glenwood Tunnel, which was completed in March 1909. Hihn resumed limited operations at the mill in May 1908, shipping lumber to San José, but the profits were lacking and he soon closed down again. In 1909, operations resumed again and continued intermittently for the next decade. Hihn died in 1913, but his lumber operations continued under the direction of his children for a few more years.

Laurel Station, probably around mid-1940 after the railroad route had been abandoned but before the tracks were removed.
With the closure of all the local mills no later than 1919, the town began to decline. It was not located along a major thoroughfare—Glenwood Highway ran to the west, through Glenwood, and the San José-Santa Cruz Road ran to the east, through Soquel—and interest in remote campgrounds and picnic stops along railroad routes was declining as automobiles became more popular. A gas station was built on the site of Hihn's old cable winch warehouse in the mid-1920s. Meanwhile, the general store and school remained opened and intact for many more decades. But the warning signs were mounting. Passenger service along the line was declining and freight service to Laurel ended in 1920. By 1940, only 35 people remained in the valley. The severe damage to the railroad line in February of that year led to the abandonment of the railroad route through the Santa Cruz Mountains and the closure of the train station the next year. The tunnels on either side of the town were dynamited in April 1942, after which residents converted the Glenwood Tunnel into a water reservoir. The school eventually closed in 1947 and the post office, which operated out of the former station building, closed in July 1953.

Slides and sinks under the tracks across from Laurel Station on April 9, 1940. [Bruce MacGregor]
Laurel Station in 1948 after the tracks had been removed.
Today, Laurel is considered a ghost town. There are no commercial building in the area except the Hotel de Redwood, which serves now as a wedding venue called Redwood Lodge. A dozen or so homes still remain in the area, including one that occupies the former gas station beside the Glenwood Tunnel's west portal. Some buildings remained in place at the site, including possibly the train station, until 1994, when the poor condition of the buildings caused them to be demolished due to public safety concerns. A plaque was erected in 1971 by the Santa Cruz County Bicentennial Commission recognising the historic importance of the town.

The former gas station outside the western portal of the Glenwood Tunnel, 2012.
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.117˚N, 121.966˚W

The site of Laurel can be found at the intersection of Laurel, Schulties, and Redwood Lodge Roads off State Route 17 (northbound). The actual townsite is down a private dirt road, but can also be viewed from above Schulties Road just north of the intersection. Many of the cinderblock foundations of the old structures remain in a clearing just northeast of the road intersection. The dirt road itself is the former right-of-way and trespassing is not advised.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Comstock, Charlie. "A Short History of the South Pacific Coast Railroad" (1998).
  • 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, February 16, 2018

Stations: Edric

Not all of the stops along the Southern Pacific Railroad route through the Santa Cruz Mountains were there from the beginning. Indeed, some appeared quite late. One such location was Edric, located along Burns Creek just across from the Summit Tunnel's eastern portal. The location name was a reference to Frederick A. Hihn, the local property and lumber magnate who owned most of the Upper Soquel Creek basin, including Burns and Laurel creeks.

In 1899, Hihn realized that his old lumber mill on Gold Gulch near Felton had nearly run out of viable timber. At the end of the year, he began the arduous task of relocating his machinery to the confluence of Burns and Laurel creeks with the intention of opening a new mill the following year. By November 1900, the mill was in full swing, producing 45,000 board feet of lumber per day. A cable tramway was installed in August 1901 that climbed from the mill to Laurel town along the railroad right-of-way. But for some unknown reason, this wasn't enough. A second station was required along the railroad grade.

Appearing first in the January 1902 timetable and station book, Edric was little more than a waypoint along the railroad line. It may not have even served the mill, although it was certainly named after the Hihn. The most likely explanation for the stop's sudden appearance in 1902 is that it was established in anticipation of a worker camp which would be situated nearby to upgrade the eastern portal of the Summit Tunnel. Standard-gauge tracks already reached Wright by this point and plans were in place to upgrade the tunnel as soon as possible. The stop included a 134-foot-long spur that ran up the western bank of Burns Creek a short distance. A spur this size was too small for much of anything other than parking a three narrow-gauge cars. While it is possible that Hihn used the spur to load felled trees from above Burns Creek and haul them down to the mill, there is no evidence to support this idea.

Further evidence that Edric was a temporary station designed to park tunnel repair cars comes in 1906. In that year, the San Francisco Earthquake occurred, collapsing the Summit Tunnel, thereby forcing the closure of the entire route. Repairing and upgrading the tunnel became a priority for the Southern Pacific, and the Summit Tunnel was the first item on the list. The spur at Edric was expanded to 234 feet and was probably dual-gauged at this point, meaning it could hold three full-sized flatcars. But this was the station's swan song.

The site of Edric across Burns Creek from the Summit Tunnel's eastern portal, with a tunnel repair car parked on the spur,
February 29, 1940. [Bruce MacGregor]
In October 1909, Edric was erased from timetables and station books. The spur, however, remained, as evinced by a photograph taken in 1940, after the route through the mountains had been permanently disabled by the disastrous winter of that February. The photograph shows clearly that a tunnel repair car sat on the spur, probably permanently stationed there to maintain the tunnel's integrity. No similar car was stationed near the western portal, so this single car was probably responsible for making any repairs to the line.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.126˚N, 121.964˚W

The location of Edric is on private property and trespassing is not allowed. Nothing remains of the site except a small portion of level grade, the remainder of which has been eroded by Burns Creek.

Citations & Credits:
  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Southern Pacific Railroad, Officers, Agencies & Stations, 1902 to 1909.
  • Southern Pacific Railroad, Coast Division Time Tables, 1902 to 1909.
  • Whaley, Derek. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Railroads: Ocean Shore Railway & Railroad Companies

Official Ocean Shore Railroad map, c. 1910s.
The years prior to the San Francisco earthquake of April 1906 were bonanza years for railroads along the Central Coast. Numerous plans were taking shape to settle the coast and connect it with both Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Surveys of the route between the two end points had been conducted in the 1880s and 1890s and already proven the feasibility of construction. All that was left was implementation.

Ocean Shore Railway Company (1905-1911)
While no venture ever succeeded in connecting San Francisco and Santa Cruz, the Ocean Shore Railway Company came the closest. Founded on May 18, 1905, less than a year before the earthquake that led to its ultimate financial failure, the railroad was established with the explicit aim to connect the two cities via a double-tracked, standard-gauge, electric railroad line totalling eighty miles in length. A longer term goal of the company was to link up with other railroads that were under construction or being incorporated to build a new transcontinental line that would bypass the Southern Pacific monopoly on western rail transportation.

Throughout the next few months, land was purchased for use as a right-of-way. The Ocean Shore, unlike other railroads, bought most of its land outright rather than buying rail easements through properties. This allowed them greater flexibility, but it also made everything drastically more expensive. But the Central Coast was still poorly developed, so prices remained reasonable. The railroad also purchased excess land in a number of bays south of San Francisco for future development as resorts, housing subdivisions, and commercial-industrial ventures. Large tracts of lumber in the Pescadero and Butano basins attracted the railroad, while the potentially lucrative cement market developing in Davenport also caught the railroad's eye.
The Ocean Shore office on Bay Street in Santa Cruz, 1906. Annotations by Peter Nurkse. Photo by George Lawrence. [Santa Cruz MAH]
As construction began, it was clear in the south that the Ocean Shore Railway and Coast Line Railroad (a Southern Pacific subsidiary) would be competing heavily for the cement market. The Ocean Shore right-of-way was developed first, heading out of Santa Cruz down Delaware Avenue before turning toward the foothills, where it met with the Coast Line right-of-way just east of Wilder Ranch. The two lines more or less paralleled each other for the next ten miles to Davenport, with the Ocean Shore remaining on the ocean side throughout. This effectively blocked them from accessing the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company plant, as well as a number of farms and homesteads which were located between the Coast Road (future State Route 1) and the railroad tracks. Shattuck and Desmond were hired to build both railroad routes, but Southern Pacific became delayed in late 1905, allowing the Ocean Shore to push ahead to Davenport without competition. Between late October 1905 and January 1906, tracks were laid between Santa Cruz and Davenport and massive wooden trestle bridges were erected over roughly ten deep gulches south of the coastal town. Southern Pacific, risking the forfeiture of their shipping contract with the cement plant, outsourced to Ocean Shore until their line was completed later in 1906.
Extract from "Bird's Eye View of the City of Santa Cruz," 1907, showing the Ocean Shore route through West Side with the proposed viaduct over the Southern Pacific's Union Depot Yards on Center Street. [Bancroft Library]
Progress continued steadily. By April 1906, the Ocean Shore grading crews in the north had reached as far south as Devil's Slide near Pacifica, while in the south they had reached as far north as Scott Creek near Davenport. Plans were afoot to construct a small creekside resort along Scott Creek named Folger, after the investor and coffee magnate. The railroad had also purchased a subsidiary of the Union Traction Company, a streetcar company, in Santa Cruz to convert it to mainline service. A large depot was planned in downtown near the Cooper House that would have put the Southern Pacific depot to shame. And between Bay Street and Garfield Avenue (Woodrow), a sprawling maintenance yard developed that included numerous spurs and sidings, workshops and engine houses, and a wye to turn trains around. But the 1906 earthquake changed everything. Much of its equipment and right-of-way had fallen into the ocean and most of its investors were now struggling to remain afloat. In the south, construction continued after the temblor. Trains began regular service on June 15, while track-building to Scott Creek was finished in October. Fourteen miles of rail had now been placed out from Santa Cruz.
Ocean Shore train assisting in the recovery of San Francisco, 1906. [Bancroft Library]
Things began to fall apart in 1907. A financial panic that years deprived the company of many of its investors. Meanwhile, the recovery from the earthquake was going differently than planned—people were not moving out of San Francisco to the coast. Rather, they were rebuilding within the city limits. The future of the resorts and subdivisions planned along the coast were in doubt. Meanwhile, expenses in recovering lost equipment and rebuilding right-of-way deprived the railroad of much of its limited revenue. And lastly, the Coast Line Railroad was nearly completed. By August 1907, regular service between Santa Cruz and Davenport via the Coast Line began and the Ocean Shore was literally cut off from the main trade on both ends. In Davenport, the Coast Line extended its track to Davenport Landing, where it built a wye and numerous sidings and spurs, effectively blocking any transfer of material to the adjacent Ocean Shore tracks. In Santa Cruz, Southern Pacific extended a spur out to Cowell Beach, blocking the Ocean Shore from entering Santa Cruz through their proposed route. Their alternative—building a massive causeway over the Southern Pacific yard and down Center Street—was rejected by the city council. They relocated their passenger depot from the temporary structure overlooking the Southern Pacific yards to a slightly larger building on Bay Street. It remains a mystery where passengers boarded, but passenger service largely fell off in 1908 and it never recovered. While the Northern Division seemed promising due to steady property sales and sustained interest, the Southern Division was stagnating and trending toward a loss.

The Southern Division only survived due to the fortuitous interest of the San Vicente Lumber Company, which was founded in May 1908 to harvest the timber along Little Creek near the tiny hamlet of Swanton. Since the Ocean Shore had already built track to Scott Creek, it took little effort to convince the railroad to extend a track two miles up the creek to the confluence of Little Creek. The lumber firm build their large mill at Antonelli Pond, midway between the Ocean Shore and Coast Line right-of-ways, which allowed for an easy exchange of train cars between the two lines. At Swanton, the line was extended further to the base of Mill Creek, where the Loma Prieta Lumber Company built a mill.
Ocean Shore Railway passenger train at Devil's Slide, 1910. Photo by Bruno Crenci. [Pacific History Wikispaces]
The Northern Division ultimately reached Tunitas Glen in late 1908, but this would be the maximum extent of the railway line. Twenty-seven miles of partially graded right-of-way still stood between Tunitas and Scott Creek, and this section would never be filled. Storms in early 1909 delayed further construction as portions of the existing right-of-way had to be repaired. Throughout the year, creditors called for repayment and the railroad fell further into debt. On December 6, 1909, the railroad went bankrupt.

Ocean Shore Railroad Company (1911-1934, as a railroad until 1920)
Bondholders of the company purchased the Ocean Shore at auction in January 1911 and reincorporated as the Ocean Shore Railroad Company on October 9. Although the new owners no longer advertised a double track or electric railroad, they did still seek to connect the two ends and ultimately expand further, to Boulder Creek, to Watsonville, and eventually to the Central Valley. Most of the plans for the Southern Division were on long-term hold, pending funds. Passenger service continued, with a Stanley Steamer autobus connecting passengers over the gap between Swanton and Tunitas from 1914, but it is unlikely this service was overly popular or heavily utilised. Most of the revenue in the south came from the San Vicente and Loma Prieta lumber operations above Scott Creek.
Articles of Incorporation for the Ocean Shore Railroad Company, October 1911. [Bancroft Library]
By 1920, competition with automobiles had cut deeply into Ocean Shore pockets, while labor disputes in August across the line forced railroad operations to come to a sudden halt. This proved to be the end of the Ocean Shore Railroad. Both divisions were formally abandoned in October, the Northern Division on the 10th, the Southern Division on the 23rd. The right-of-way (but not property), tracks, and rolling stock on the southern division was sold to the San Vicente Lumber Company on October 27, which continued to use the route for the next three years. The Ocean Shore Railroad did not actually close at this time but rather remained as a property developer that maintained a distant hope that their railroad would someday be realized.

Ocean Shore Railroad Company, Inc. (1934-Present)
After roughly a decade of court proceedings against them, largely over the fact that the company no longer operated a railroad, the Ocean Shore reincorporated once again, this time as the Ocean Shore Railroad Company, Inc., founded in Reno, Nevada on November 16, 1934. Like its predecessors, it was founded with the explicit, though perhaps not genuine, goal of rehabilitating the abandoned Ocean Shore right-of-way. The previous company had spent nearly fourteen years attempting to find the funds to rebuild the line while simultaneously defending its right-of-way from neighbors and others who wished to utilize it for other purposes. The incorporation of a new company was intended to fix some problems but the death in August 1935 of Selah Chamberlain, the new company's chief financier and dreamer, threatened to end this project before it began. In the nine months between incorporation and Chamberlain's death, the entire route was surveyed, new alignments were found, and portions were graded. Two decades later, however, it was found that this work was simply an attempt by the company to appear as if they desired to rehabilitate the line in order to maintain a firmer footing in condemnation proceedings which were being held against them for portions of the right-of-way. On September 28, 1956, it was ruled that the company had no intention to rebuild the railroad line and that condemnation proceedings could proceed against the organization. The company remains a property holder, essentially owning strips of right-of-way between San Francisco and Santa Cruz along the coast, but they have been absent from most public records since their last court cases in the 1970s. Who owns this company, how it operates, and indeed how much land the company still owns is not entirely known.

Citations & Credits:
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Hunter, Chris. Images of Rail: Ocean Shore Railroad. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
  • Wagner, Jack Russel. The Last Whistle: Ocean Shore Railroad. Berkeley, CA: Howell-North Books, 1974.