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, 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

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: