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, May 18, 2018

Stations: Zayante

Zayante's station shelter beside the standard-gauge mainline, 1938. Note
how the road wraps around the back of the shelterbefore crossing the tracks
to head up to Glenwood. [Wilbur C. Whittaker]
High above the confluence of Zayante Creek and Mountain Charlie Gulch sat the eponymous Zayante Station. Unlike most other stations along the former South Pacific Coast Railroad grade between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, this location lived through three entirely different lives before quietly disappearing from memory.
In fact, when it first appeared, it was not called Zayante at all! The station probably existed from the very beginning, around 1879, as an informal flag-stop for employees who worked at the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company (Doughertys) mill far below the railroad grade. Although the railroad had its own stop a mile to the south, that catered primarily to freight transfers onto the spur to the mill. It was much more convenient for work crews to trudge up the double switchback road to the grade and flag down a passing train. At the time that the mill closed and the Southern Pacific Railroad took over the line, both events occurring in 1887, there was still no formal recognition of a stop at the top of the switchback. Such a location only appeared in the February 1891 stations book under the name White Flag Spur, a lazy name that says much. Although the purpose of a spur at the site in 1891 is unknown, the existence of a white flag indicted that people could flag down a train here. It was a probably a name for the stop that had been used informally for over a decade but was only picked up by the Southern Pacific after it had completed the takeover of the former South Pacific Coast properties.

The name Zayante, a reference to the Ohlone Native American tribe that had once inhabited the San Lorenzo Valley, was not immediately attached to this location due to a naming conflict with another station further to the south. In 1890, Southern Pacific had renamed the old Dougherty's Mill station "Zayante," since the mill had closed and the term was anachronistic. But in 1891, the railroad added a new stop 0.4 miles to the south under the name "Doughertys Spur," while retaining Zayante as the name of the nearby station. By July 1892, the station name had become Meehan and White Flag Spur was designated Zayante, a name it would retain for the next forty-eight years.

For the next decade, Zayante lived out a meager existence as a flag-stop far removed from any significant settlement. A few houses may have been located on the former mill site below the station, but there is no evidence for other homesteads in the immediate area. However, the switchbacked road that went to the grade continued to the top of the hill, from where it could reach Glenwood and Scotts Valley, suggesting the stop may have been situated at a convenient shortcut between the Upper Zayante-Summit area and the Branciforte-Bean Creek highlands. Later photographs of the stop consistently show a grade crossing beside the station, suggesting at least infrequent use of this shortcut. The spur implied by "White Flag Spur" may have serviced local farmers who needed a place to ship out goods, although no actual evidence for this exists. When the location finally was registered as a full station in December 1905, the spur was noted as being 315-feet-long, a not insignificant length that could park a number of passenger or freight cars. One thing is certain regarding Zayante: it was the only station in the area with direct vehicular access, albeit via a very steep switchback.

Gibbs Resort on the top of the ridge over the railroad grade, c. 1910.
Following the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the subsequent standard-gauging of the line, the spur at the station was lengthened to 400 feet. This expansion of the station's infrastructure was inevitably due to the opening of Gibbs Resort located far up on the ridge. Alfred W. J. Gibbs had owned the large, sandy, chaparral parcel since at least 1878 and leased a tiny portion of the property to the South Pacific Coast for use in the railroad's right-of-way. It was probably Gibbs who first connected the switchback at White Flag Spur through his own property to Mountain Charlie Road (later Glenwood Highway / Drive). A current resident of the resort property claims this road was named Alameda Boulevard, after the railroad's northern terminus. Portions of this route were upgraded in the late 1990s for use as a fire road for local residents.

When Gibbs first opened his resort is not entirely known, but on November 28, 1900, a post office opened at his ranch under the name Gibbs. From 1900 to 1906, the post office operated continuously, and it ran seasonally until 1916. The ranch thrived on its rustic nature, although it also had a great view of the Monterey Bay. It was primarily a campground and  supported with a general store and post office, a cookhouse, a dance hall, and cabins. The photograph above also shows a home and a barn, probably both for Gibbs's personal use. The railroad also increased its support for the resort, installing a small station shed beside the tracks and road in 1901. Gibbs personally ran a stage coach between the station and the resort throughout this time.

Gibbs appears to have closed in the mid-1910s. The post office relocated in 1916 to some other location, possibly another small resort in the area. There is no evidence that a post office or commercial structure was situated at Zayante station itself, although a mailbox is often shown beside the station shelter, which probably still served as the postal distribution point. Wherever the post office was located, it finally shut its doors in April 1938. The spur disappeared from station plats of Zayante around 1909 but continued to be listed on timetables until 1930, so its continuing existence is uncertain. Photograph evidence proves that it was gone by the late 1930s. By 1936, the station served only 10 local families, although there was continuing traffic to the stop provided by local resorts, such as Camp Wasibo, run by the Camp Fire Girls.

The remote location and the severe decline in rail traffic through the 1930s actually contributed to Zayante's final moment of glory. In the spring of 1937, the Universal Film Company and Hollywood glitterati descended upon Santa Cruz County to film an action movie deep in the mountains entitled West Bound Limited. Hotel Palomar in downtown Santa Cruz became the temporary home of celebrity director Ford Beebe, famed art director Ralph DeLacy, associate producer Henry McRae, and popular actor Lyle Talbot. Other actors, such as Henry Hunter, Polly Rowles, Henry Brandon, and Frank Reicher, joined them, spending their free time at the Boardwalk and other local sites.

Train approaching the artificial station set for West Bound Limited, 1937. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Cast and crew stop for lunch between Zayante's shelter and
a passenger train during the filming of West Bound Limited,
1937. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Zayante Station was chosen as the primary location for external scenes due to its remoteness, the nearby sounds of rushing water, and ease of accessibility. A special studio train brought in production materials and shuttled the crew and actors from Santa Cruz to Zayante, where a temporary station structure was erected across from the actual Southern Pacific shelter. Interior scenes were filmed at Felton Station, while others scenes were completed at Big Trees, Olympia, and Inspiration Point on State Route 9, all along the track. Production lasted roughly a week and involved the studio borrowing a passenger and a freight train from the Southern Pacific. Al G. Hemmerstram from the railroad remained on site to ensure the authenticity of all railroad scenes.

The film follows the story of Dave Tolliver (Talbot), the local railroad agent for the fictional town of Hargraves, who is hoodwinked by a man posing as a corpse who then steals the Bonanza Gold Mine payroll. Tolliver tries to retrieve the payroll, but unwisely abandons his post in the process, resulting in a deadly railroad collision. He is imprisoned for manslaughter but escapes, after which he eventually exonerates himself in a story of mystery, suspense, and romance.

Production was hampered by intemperate weather, a low-flowing stream, and numerous landslides along the tracks. Additionally, a special lightning effect nearly exploded unexpectedly, but Talbot and Beebe were able to defuse it before it injured or killed any of the nearby and unaware crew. Zayante’s remoteness kept down the usual number of visitors to the filming location, but dozens of local extras were employed in scenes in Felton and elsewhere. Filming wrapped on May 3, only days before a Federated Motion Picture Crafts strike was scheduled to begin. Cast and crew were feted at one final well-attended dinner at Hotel Palomar before heading back to Hollywood. The film premiered in Santa Cruz on July 11, 1937.

Following completion of filming at the site, Zayante formally remained in operation until March 1941, although the railroad route had unofficially closed after the disastrous winter storm of February 1940. The shelter was presumably scrapped and the site abandoned.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.105˚N, 122.023˚W

The site of Zayante Station is accessed at the top of the switchbacked City of Santa Cruz fire road located at the confluence of Zayante Creek and Mountain Charlie Gulch. Trespassing is not encouraged, although it is also rarely enforced. The actual shelter location is still quite visible beside the former right-of-way on the creek side of the fire road. The fire road to Weston Road, formerly the road to Gibbs Resort, is directly across from the station site behind a gate. At the resort itself, only the original cookhouse survives, although it is now used as a private residence that goes by the name "Gibbs Station," as stated on its entry sign. DVD copies of West Bound Limited are available at the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park store.

Gibbs Station, home to the Gibbs Resort cookhouse, on Weston Road near Glenwood, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
  • 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, 2007.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1900 to 1937.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Stations: Tank Siding

High above Mountain Charlie Gulch only 0.4 miles from Virginia to the east and 0.6 miles from Zayante to the west sat unassuming Tank Siding. Nowhere else along the Southern Pacific Railroad line through the Santa Cruz Mountains was a station name so blunt, so obvious. Serving as the half-way point between Wright and Felton—the two other stops along the line that hosted water towers—Tank Siding was located conveniently beside a natural spring that provided a constant source of water for passing locomotives that were struggling to make it through the mountains. Although the stop never appeared on South Pacific Coast Railroad timetables, its entry in the first Southern Pacific timetable of the route in 1888 suggests it was an original, albeit undocumented, station along the line. The original water tower was gravity-fed from a holding pool up on the hillside that delivered water to the tank via a short redwood box flume. Following the upgrading of the tracks to standard gauge in 1908, the water tower and the box flume and box flume were replaced. The larger tank was fed via a pipe that was drilled directly to the water source.

March 1, 1940, Southern Pacific survey photograph showing significant sinking in the area across from the Tank Siding water tower. The eastern edge of the siding can also be seen here, which wraps around the next curve in the photo below. The station sign is visible center-right. [Bruce MacGregor]
For such a remote and seemingly straightforward stop, Tank Siding actually had multiple sidings and spurs, as well as a freight patron. Extant photographs from 1940 show a siding splitting off to the west immediately in front of the water tank, which continued for some distance. Meanwhile, a freight spur was on the other side of the water tank, terminating just before it, which originally had a 96-square-foot platform running alongside it for freight loading. The freight patron was the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company, which operated a clay quarry in the gulch. Immediately after the route between Santa Cruz and Tank Siding was cleared after the San Francisco Earthquake, around 1908, the quarry began operations, shipping loaded clay gondola cars to the cement plant in Davenport, which had opened in 1906. The company also briefly operated a lumber mill here, with accompanying support structures, although those disappear from records within a few years.

Another Southern Pacific photograph from March 1940 showing the double track just to the west of Tank Siding, curving around the sandstone hillside. [Bruce MacGregor] 
How long the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company operated at the site is unknown, but it was no longer using the station by the 1930s. Throughout much of the station's history, it acted as an official flag stop of the line and appeared on both public and employee timetables, as well as all agency books. Abandonment records for the line in 1940 show that around 40 people still lived within the vicinity of the station and, at least hypothetically, were potential customers. However, Tank Siding's stated purpose as a fuel stop declined as locomotives became more efficient. With the upgrading of the tracks to standard gauge in 1908, the water tower there was reclassified for emergency use only. How frequently locomotives used it in either period remains unknown.

Photograph looking west from beyond the end of the double track, with a large sink area beside the tracks emphasised by Southern Pacific surveyors, March 1940.
[Bruce MacGregor]
A different angle of the stretch of track in the above photograph, 1940. [Bruce MacGregor]

Like the rest of the line in 1940, the station was abandoned and the water tower scrapped. Indeed, quite a lot of the damage to the line in the February storm occurred in the Tank Siding area due to the sedimentary nature of the topsoil. Sinks appeared under the tracks in multiple places and the constant run-off from the water tower certainly did not improve the situation. Southern Pacific Railroad survey crews photographed this area extensively and a number of these photographs survived to provide the images of the station above. No earlier known photographs survive—the image used on the cover of Bruce MacGregor's original South Pacific Coast book was misidentified and is, in fact, Camp Teller in Northern California. The natural spring that once fed water into the tank at the site also appears to have either dried up or been closed due to some natural event, possibly the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.103˚N, 122.014˚W

The site of Tank Siding is owned by the Santa Cruz City Water District and trespassing is not allowed, although rarely enforced. There are a few relics of the railroad at the site, including a telephone pole and pipes in the hillside. Metal detectors would doubtless discover more material just beneath the surface. The site is easily identifiable by the wide clearing on either side, the creek side of which has sunken significantly.

The site of Tank Siding along the route near the end of the Santa Cruz Water District property, c. 2010. [Brian Liddicoat]

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • MacGregor, Bruce A., and Richard Truesdale. South Pacific Coast: A Centennial. Boulder, CA: Pruett Publishing, 1982.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Stations: Virginia

For a station that sat on employee railroad timetables for twenty-four years, Virginia is one of the least conspicuous, most remote, and undoubtedly least used stops along the Southern Pacific Railroad's line through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Located midway between Tank Siding to the west and Clems to the east, the site itself served as a construction camp when the Mountain Charlie Tunnel was first built in 1878. However, it was only three decades later, in 1905, that the stop was first registered in timetables under the name Virginia, after the Virginia Timber & Lumber Company. The company operated out of West Virginia but in mid 1899 purchased a large tract of timber that likely included at its southern end Mountain Charlie Gulch. It is probably around this time that the company first started operating off the South Pacific Coast track in the area, possibly at Tank Siding, although there is no evidence to support this at present. By September 1903, the company was involved in a lawsuit with the Glenwood Lumber Company, which operated along nearby Bean Creek, suggesting it had been operating in the area for at least that year, if not earlier.

There is very little documentation of this station. It first appeared on the December 31, 1905, Coast Division employee timetable as a full station 67.2 miles from San Francisco via Alameda Point. It had no passenger service but did have a spur that measured 98-feet-long. This was a narrow-gauge spur since the line was not converted to standard-gauge until 1908. After the conversion, the spur was extended tenfold to 952 feet, which would have allowed a number of freight cars to park beside the mainline track. This massively extended spur can probably be explained as a result of the massive need for building materials required to rebuild San Francisco. Virginia was indisputably a freight stop specialising in lumber exports, although it is not clear whether the lumber shipped out of the station was shipped to a planing mill or whether it was planed on site. What is strange, however, is that the spur's length is reduced to a more reasonable 271 feet by the end of 1909, suggesting the longer length may have simply been an administrative error. Although it began as a freight-only stop, by the early 1910s it was designated a flag-stop along the Santa Cruz Limited passenger train, which catered to all local stops in the mountains. This service seems to have ended in the early 1920s, when all scheduled traffic to the location ceased. The spur at the station, meanwhile, disappeared from timetables in 1917, suggesting the Virginia Timber & Lumber Company had abandoned operations at their mill there. Considering the company's lack of coverage by the Sentinel and other news outlets, it seems likely that this was always a relatively small milling operation in a region that had already been heavily logged in the 1870s and 1880s. Nonetheless, the stop remained on the books until January 1930.

The Virginia Timber & Lumber Company slowed its operations by the late 1910s and ceased entirely by the 1920s, if not earlier. Through the course of the 1930s and 1940s, the company divested itself of most of its lands in the Bay Area, including vast tracts that ran along Skyline Boulevard through San Mateo County. No known photographs exist of the station or the operation along Mountain Charlie Gulch.

The present-day site of Virginia above Mountain Charlie Gulch, 2013. Railroad right-of-way crosses from the left of the photo to behind the tractor. [Derek R. Whaley]
Official Railroad Information:
Virginia was located 67.0 miles from San Francisco via the Mayfield Cut-Off and 13.0 miles from Santa Cruz. It included a 98-foot-long spur which was used by the Virginia Timber & Milling Company. The class-B status of the station implied that there was a siding at the stop, but no platform or other facilities were noted there.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.102˚N, 122.004˚W

The site of Virginia is just west of the eastern portal of the Mountain Charlie Tunnel (Tunnel #4) where the railroad right-of-way crosses a private driveway. While the right-of-way across this private road is owned by the Santa Cruz Water District, it is unmaintained and generally hosts a pile of debris from the nearby residents. Trespassing is not advised but explorers are unlikely to be fined by the water district.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Maps: Summit Tunnel to Mountain Charlie Tunnel

The scenery along the Santa Cruz Mountain portion of the Southern Pacific Railroad's route between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz was rather rudely interrupted for over four miles between Wright's Station and the small stop known as Virginia, when two tunnels stretching over a mile each plunged passing trains into seemingly eternal darkness. But between these tunnels, and a shorter one further down the line, small towns welcomed visitors and did their utmost to attract the Bay Area elite to stay, if only for a weekend. The hamlet of Laurel, high upon a narrow cleft over Soquel Creek, served as the transfer point for hotels and resorts and also the main staging area for the F.A. Hihn Company lumber mill, located in the valley below. A mile further down the line, travellers found the larger village of Glenwood, featuring attractive picnic grounds and water holes, resorts dotting the hills, and vineyards flanked by a wide meadow. Both of these places still exist today as remnants, bereft of their commercial buildings and community centers but nonetheless vibrant and alive with activity. The trains established them and now they live on, eight decades after the last locomotive passed through their hearts.

Bridge over Soquel Creek at Laurel, c. 1902. [MAH]
Storm damage along the tracks at Laurel, April 9, 1940.
[Bruce MacGregor]
Map of Southern Pacific trackage between the Summit
Tunnel and Mountain Charlie Tunnel, c. 1905-1940.
 [US Geologic Survey, 1919 map]

Boxcars outside the station at Laurel, c. 1910.
[George Pepper]
Glenwood Tunnel's west portal looking out at Laurel,
c. 1910. [MAH]
A view of Glenwood from the hillside, c. 1920.
[Edward Fenn]

Glenwood Magnetic Springs, c. 1895. Photo by
 Carleton E. Watkins. [Bancroft Library]
The double-track heading west, away from Glenwood
station, c. 1920. [MAH]
General Store at Glenwood, as viewed from across the tracks,
c. 1920. [MAH]
Tracks near Glenwood, c. 1930. [Margaret Koch]
Southern Pacific survey photo of the Mountain Charlie Tunnel's
west portal, February 28, 1940. [Bruce MacGregor]

Friday, April 13, 2018

Tunnels: Mountain Charlie (Tunnel 4)

Eastern portal of the Mountain Charlie
Tunnel, c. 2010. [Brian Liddicoat]
Just west of Clems along the former railroad route between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, the South Pacific Coast Railroad bored a short tunnel beneath Mountain Charlie Road, the former main highway between Lexington and Scotts Valley. At 913-feet-long, Tunnel 4 was unremarkable to the people who built it in 1878. The tunnel was constructed by Osborn & Company at the same time that the Glenwood and Summit tunnels were under construction. It opened to through traffic on Christmas Day, 1878, although it would be another year before tracks were installed by Muer & Redfield.

The tunnel walls were composed largely of sandstone, which meant that the chance of cave-in was high. Closely-placed redwood bents and beams were installed along its entire length, with strong redwood portals on either side. About 300 feet of the western portal, above Bean Creek, Clem & Company eventually had a stop installed. About the same distance from the eastern portal, above Mountain Charlie Gulch, the Virginia Timber & Milling Company installed a stop. Both stops supported a siding that allowed trains to wait outside the tunnel, although more standardized systems were in place to avoid such problems. Unfortunately, no photographs of the original tunnel seem to exist.

Southern Pacific survey photo of the western portal of the Mountain Charlie Tunnel, March 1, 1940. [Bruce MacGregor]

The tunnel did not sustain significant damage during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake but it was nonetheless standard-gauged two years later by the Southern Pacific Railroad. The interior of the tunnel was widened to support larger trains, with all the support structure being replaced with more evenly-spaced redwood bents and beams. The sandstone walls and ceiling proved incredibly stable, so less support was required inside the bore. On either side, new concrete portals were installed, both of identical design with tall concrete buttresses angled toward the right-of-way on either side of the entrance itself. Because of the remoteness of the tunnel and how far below Mountain Charlie Road it was situated, no railings or other protective devices were installed. However, a guard rail was installed along the track throughout the tunnel to mitigate damage caused by derailments. The railroad renumbered it Tunnel 3, since the tunnel on Los Gatos Creek (Tunnel 1) was daylighted during the upgrading of the track. Photographs taken from 1940 show that the tunnel repair car was stationed outside the western portal beside a small supply shack. 

As with the Summit and Glenwood tunnels, Tunnel 4 was abandoned in November 1940, after disastrous storms in February of that year disabled the route. After Southern Pacific crews went through to pull the rail in mid-1941, H.A. Christie & Sons was hired to remove the timber from the tunnel and seal the portals. Charges were placed and the portals closed in April 1942 with assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers. Due to the nature of the concrete portals, the explosives were detonated about 15 feet within the portal, just beyond the reach of the concrete and brick ceiling.

A photo of the interior of the Mountain Charlie Tunnel, c. 2005. [Ross McLenahan]
Unlike all the other demolished tunnels along the line, the Mountain Charlie Tunnel defied its closure. The demolition of 1942 collapsed the ceiling completely just inside the eastern portal, but this inadvertently caused the sandstone ceiling to weaken within the tunnel itself. By at least the 1970s and probably earlier, a hole had appeared above a portion of the tunnel, accessible to people climbing over the eastern portal. Over the years, this hole enlarged until the entire right-of-way within the tunnel was accessible to daring explorers. People who have explored the interior have found that much of it remains intact, with human-sized piles of sandstone scattered throughout but the walls and ceiling otherwise still holding firm to their original dimensions. Access to the interior was finally cut off in February 2011, after runoff from a powerful winter storm caused a small landslide that filled this hole.

The western portal of the Mountain Charlie Tunnel, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Eastern portal: 37.101˚N, 121.999˚W
Western portal: 37.098˚N, 121.997˚W

Although neither portal of the Mountain Charlie Tunnel can be accessed legally, the eastern portal can be approached with relative safety since it is located on Santa Cruz Water District land and rarely patrolled. The easiest way to reach it is via the fire road located at the point where East Zayante Road becomes Upper Zayante Road. The switchback fire road ends at the right-of-way, at which point explorers should turn east and follow the former railroad grade. Warning: there are three gates that must be hopped to reach this portal. Just after the third gate, there will be a private driveway that crosses the grade, walk across the driveway (do not follow it) and the path will quickly become overgrown. Just when you think you have somehow missed the turn, you will encounter the portal in all its glory. The western portal is now on private property protected by a security gate. Trespassing without permission is not advised. Unlike any other portal along the line, this one is almost freestanding since the sandstone hillside behind it has eroded substantially over the years. A number of small trees are now growing just outside the portal.

Citations & Credits:
  • Ausbuchon, Vaughn. "Santa Cruz, CA Railroad Tunnels." California Nostalgia: History Summaries.
  • Liddicoat, Brian. Personal correspondence.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Bridges: Summit Area

Unlike the railroad route through the upper Los Gatos Creek basin, the tracks between the Summit Tunnel (Tunnel #2) and the Mountain Charlie Tunnel (Tunnel #4) encountered relatively few obstacles.

The only major body of water crossed that required a full bridge was over Burns Creek, just outside the Summit Tunnel's eastern portal. The South Pacific Coast Railroad's original narrow-gauge bridge and the Southern Pacific standard-gauge bridge that replaced it around 1907 were remarkably similar. They were both open-deck, redwood trestles composed of four bent-and-post piers evenly spaced across the creek bed. The bridge was neither long nor tall and successfully withstood a number of torrential storms over the years.

Stereograph of the eastern portal of the Summit Tunnel with a train crossing over the Burns Creek bridge, c. 1902. [Gil Pennington]
During the years that the Hihn mill ran along Laurel Creek, the bridge faced an occasional threat of flooding and damage caused by logs since an upper mill pond was installed just below the bridge. An early stereograph of the image, visible above, shows the pond to the right of the tracks, with loads fuel wood stacked on the opposite side of the tracks beneath and beside a small shed. This original bridge appears to have been narrow, with a tall fence on the northern side, probably to keep debris off the tracks, and a shorter fence on the southern.

Left: Photograph of the Summit Tunnel's eastern portal and the standard-gauge Burns Creek bridge immediately in front of it, c. 1930 [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]; Right: The ruins of the Burns Creek bridge, specifically a row of posts, looking west toward Laurel, 2010. [Brian Liddicoat]
The later standard-gauge bridge, built around 1907, was a significantly wider structure, with footpaths on either side of the tracks and short railings lining either side. Guard rails were installed across the entirety of the bridge, probably because the curve was fairly sharp for large locomotives and the slope toward Santa Cruz was downhill.

Last known photograph of the Burns Creek bridge while it was still intact, taken February 29, 1940. [Bruce MacGregor]
When the line was demolished in 1941, the bridge was only partially removed. The deck, ties, rails, and footpaths were scrapped but the bents and posts were left behind, where they remain today. Visible immediately across from the Summit Tunnel's still open eastern portal, this bridge stands as a testament to the durability of redwood coated in creosote.

The half-trestle nearest to Laurel, with a train atop it, c. 1920. [Santa Cruz MAH]
The other two half-trestles northeast of Laurel,
c. 1930s. [Rick Hamman]
Further remnants of trestlework survives along the right-of-way to the west, although there were no proper bridges along this stretch. When the South Pacific Coast Railroad crews first constructed their path alongside the hillsides over Soquel Creek, they found it much easier in most cases to build half-trestles. Half-trestles are actual full trestle bridges, but they are only slightly raised off the ground, usually to provide stability on terrain that is impossible to completely level or that is prone to washouts. The latter was the predominant reason for why they were used here. A total of three such trestles were required between the Burns Creek bridge and Laurel station.

In the photograph to the right, two of the three half-trestles can be seen (the third is in the photograph above). Generally, the tracks were raised above the ground on posts and a large flat beam is placed atop the posts to provide a level surface upon which to install the ties and rail. The half-trestles in the Laurel area did not have any boardwalks for pedestrians—presumably they could walk below them, as seems to be the case in this photograph—and they were all open-deck plans, meaning they required no ballast.

The sawed-off and partially buried remnants of some of these half-trestles can be viewed alongside the private driveway near Laurel that once served as the right-of-way. The driveway meanders in-and-out of the original track alignment, but the posts give a good idea where the route originally passed.

Even less bridgework was required in the Bean Creek area around Glenwood and Clems, and no photographs survive of anything that was required. The only actual bridge built was a very short structure over Bean Creek just beyond the Glenwood station grounds to the south. Indeed, it is unclear whether there was actually a structure here or whether the creek was simply culverted under the right-of-way. Regardless of its original construction, it was certainly culverted around 1911 and remains so today, passing under both the right-of-way and Glenwood Drive.

Approximately 0.3 miles to the south, Bean Creek crossed back under the road and right-of-way through a larger concrete culvert, which likely replaced an earlier wooden culvert. Considering how far beneath the roadbed this culvert is located, it seems unlikely that a bridge was originally erected here. Between this second crossing and the Mountain Charlie Tunnel, the railroad grade ran along an extremely steep hillside, forcing the railroad to once again resort to using half-trestles to ensure an even and stable grade. Although no photographs and only limited documentary evidence for these half-trestles survives, remnants of these half-trestles can be easily viewed across Bean Creek along the 0.5-mile-long portion of Glenwood Drive between Stonewood Drive and Tadstone Lane. Like in the Laurel area, the right-of-way here has been repurposed as a private driveway and also realigned into the hillside, but many of the old posts showing the railroad alignment remain.

All of these bridges and half-trestles are proof that building a railroad through the Santa Cruz Mountains was difficult and required a number of costly compromises, but also that it was not insurmountable. Indeed, although the area between the Summit Tunnel and Mountain Charlie Tunnel was some of the harshest terrain the railroad encountered, it relied on relatively few bridges and half-trestles to achieve its goal. The surveyors and grading crews hired by the South Pacific Coast Railroad were experts in their craft, and people today still benefit from their expertise.

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

Friday, March 30, 2018

Stations: Clems

Deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains, not all railroad stations and stops were for tourists, small towns, or large corporations. When Clems first appeared in Southern Pacific Railroad agency books in 1888, the stop was only known as "Tunnel No. 4." But E. A. Clem, the property owner, had plans for this place. Under the banner of E.A. Clem & Company, he purchased a tract of land for $1,5000 and built a small lumber mill in 1881 just outside the western portal of the Mountain Charlie Tunnel (Tunnel #4) and hired thirty lumberjacks to harvest the redwood on his land. The South Pacific Coast Railroad built a short, 186-foot-long spur off the mainline just outside the tunnel and it probably stopped just beside Glenwood Drive, which served as the county highway. Initially, one of Clem's partners, D. Gardiner, ran the mill while Clem and J. E. Doolittle operated a retail lumber yard in Oakland. However, Gardiner committed suicide in 1882 after embezzling money from the company. This quickly led to the collapse of the company. Clem became the gate-keeper of the South Pacific Coast Railroad's wharf at Alameda Point and then moved to Seattle in 1883. For the next fifteen years, Clem's former station on the mountain line was simply an unused reference point.

Postcard photograph of a train approaching Clems flag-stop from the south, c. 1900. [Margaret Koch – Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
In 1897, Clems suddenly appeared on employee timetables under the name Clems as a public flag-stop. At around the same time, a small, open-air, untreated log passenger shelter was erected between the tracks and the hillside across from Bean Creek. A single passenger bench was installed beneath a high shingled roof and a crude wooden deck was built beneath it. Presumably, this structure was meant to be used by the local residents that lived along Mountain Charlie Road and beside Bean Creek Road in this area. Curiously, local resorts such as Mount Pleasant Farm and Summer Home Farm, which were both located just a mile to the south, chose to use the main Glenwood depot rather than arrange transport via Clems, although it is likely guests of both resorts may have used this stop informally since it was within walking distance. The newspaper came to calling the location "Clem's switch" at this time, a name that stuck for the next twenty years.

A train approaching Clems from the north, c. 1900.
Note the standard-gauge ties mixed in with the
narrow-gauge. [Bruce MacGregor]
In 1907, the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company, primarily located in Davenport, began mining at a small clay quarry near Clems. Photographic evidence from this period dose not show a spur or loading area, so it is unknown how train cars were loaded or even where specifically the quarry was located, but they certainly used the trains to ship out their exceedingly heavy product. Newspapers before and after the standard-gauging continue to note the existence of a spur or siding, although where specifically this was located cannot be determined from extant documents. In 1908, William J. Dingee retained ownership of the Clems quarry after losing control of the cement company and he hired fifty miners to work the hills around Bean Creek. Dingee's operation continued well into the 1930s and probably is a reason why Clems station remained on timetables throughout this period.

Regarding the station itself, it underwent major upgrades in 1911. The rustic shelter was replaced with a prefabricated wood box shelter, similar to those found at Olympia, Eccles, Zayante, and elsewhere. In 1915, contractors rebuilding the road bridges over Bean Creek used the siding at Clems to unload materials. The station remained on the books until the end of the line in 1940, although it was demoted to a flag-stop in 1939, suggesting freight operations in the area had ended by then, probably shuttered due to the Great Depression. The shelter was removed in 1941 when the rest of the line was demolished. Its ultimate fate is unknown, but it was probably taken by a local resident for use on their property, as was the case with similar shelters in the area.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.097˚N, 121.996˚W

The site of Clems is entirely on private property, located behind a gate off Glenwood Drive roughly one mile south of the old Glenwood town site. The right-of-way in the area is clear and used as a private driveway for a home. The approximate site of the shelter is virtually unchanged, although the removal of the structure, including its foundation, makes it difficult to mark with precision. Trespassing is highly discouraged.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Logan, Clarence A. "Limestone in California." California Journal of Mines and Geology, Vol. 43, No. 3. July 1947. California Division of Mines, San Francisco, California. Pages 175-357.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

If you have information about Clems near Glenwood,
leave a comment below or email

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:
If you have information about the resorts around Glenwood and Laurel,
leave a comment below or email