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 author@santacruztrains.com. This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Friday, July 20, 2018

Curiosities: Zayante-Area Resorts

The Zayante Creek basin runs between the Summit and Felton and includes the Lompico Creek basin, as well. The area has never been densely populated and even today is irregularly-settled, especially at its upper end. However, that never stopped aspiring entrepreneurs from converting their mountain ranches and farms into aspiring resorts. From 1879, when the South Pacific Coast Railroad first built its route above the east bank of Zayante Creek between Mountain Charlie Gulch and "New" Felton, numerous tourist destinations arose, all hoping to coax a few travellers into visiting their humble establishments. The large meadow flanked by sand hills on either side of the creek around Eccles and Olympia provided the most enduring and enticing locales for such ventures. By 1897, interest in resorts in the area were at a fever pitch. A letter to the Santa Cruz Sentinel on September 19, 1897, proclaimed:
"There are rumors in the air of many improvements contemplated along the Zayante. The great number of people who flock to our health-giving mountains is increasing yearly, and to provide adequately for their comfort and pleasure far-seeing men are going to erect new dwellings and provide camping grounds.
"It is very strange that such a beautiful glen as that of the Zayante—lying at the very doors of the metropolis, San Jose and Santa Cruz, should have been so long passed over and neglected. When we have visited some of the so-called romantic resorts we have mused over what wayward subjects human kind are. When we see the trains passing by loaded with tired people looking for health and pleasure, it reminds us forcibly of rushing through Paradise and camping outside the gates. However, that is all over. The premonitory rumbles of our little boom are in the air, and Eccles will be no longer a mere flag station."
Here are some of the more successful resorts that sprang up in the Zayante Creek basin alongside the railroad route through the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Postcard of Forde's Rest, c. 1906. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Forde's Rest (1897-1951)
One of the earliest resorts in the area, Forde's Rest was probably founded in 1897 by William C. Forde near the confluence of Lompico and Zayante Creeks. As the photograph above shows, it had a rather luxurious portico that ran alongside the front of its cottages. Advertisements at the time noted as features trout fishing, bathing, hiking through the redwoods, and picnicking through picturesque wilderness. By the 1940s, the resort included 33 cabins, a 50 by 25-foot swimming pool, badminton and archery facilities, a recreation hall, and a restaurant. The Forde family ran the resort for nearly fifty years before selling it to John A. Cummins around 1944. He built numerous improvements but ended up selling the property to Jack A. Meisenbach in 1946, who continued operating the resort with his wife, Cordella. In 1951, Ivan and Mabel Netoff, owners of the Beach Hill Dining Room, purchased the property and renamed it the Vagabond Lodge, converting the entire property into a restaurant. This business appears to have failed within a few years and all mention of Forde's Rest and the Vagabond Lodge disappear from records.

Camp Olympia (1900-1912)
Established by William C. Forde immediately beside his Forde's Rest resort, Camp Olympia was originally a low-budget campground for those wishing to spend a few nights under the oak trees that flanked Zayante Creek. Advertisements in 1900 noted that campers should bring their own tents and noted activities such as "shady walks, bathing in limpid streams. Games, dance floor, hunting, fishing." In May 1901, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) of California leased the property for a successful retreat that summer. The retreat was heavily advertised between 1903 and 1905, but marketing for it mostly disappeared thereafter. In 1912, an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle still noted that people can "Come and pitch your tent under the most magnificent oaks in the state. Tents and cots furnished. Bathing, fishing, dancing, pianola music." Yet it remained under-advertised and probably just a satellite of Forde's Rest. Nonetheless, the flag-stop that had been established for it remained in place and eventually replaced Eccles as the primary stop for the area, undoubtedly under the encouragement of Forde, who served as postmaster at Eccles and died only a year before the post office moved to Olympia.
Tract plan for a failed housing subdivision on a portion of Marcum land, 1926. [Santa Cruz County Records]
Our Ranch Resort (1911-1953)
Our Ranch was founded around 1913 by Benjamin G. Marcum (or Markham) and his wife on a property between the railroad tracks and Zayante Creek near Olympia Station. Unlike the other resorts in the area, Our Ranch remained throughout its existence a full-fledged farm, selling products to local businesses, tourists, and locals. Throughout the late 1910s and early 1920s, the resort evolved into a popular dude ranch that attracted visitors from around the Bay Area. To attract customers, Zayante Creek was dammed just south of its confluence with Lompico Creek and a swimming and boating pool was created. Nearby, a dancing pavilion and restaurant were built to support guests. In 1926, plans were initiated to parcel off the portion of the property that ran along the railroad tracks between Eccles and Olympia, but this subdivision was never built for some reason.

The second generation of management under Audrey Marcum made the location popular for school dances and community events, ensuring its continued use into the 1930s. During the Depression years, Our Ranch advertised its bed-and-breakfast appeal with its catch phrase: "All the milk you can drink. Oooooh! What a Good Meal!" By the late 1930s, the resort transitioned from a dude ranch to more of an event venue and restaurant, specializing in ranch-style Sunday roasts and chicken and turkey dinners. The family sold the property in 1939, but it was maintained as a restaurant for many years afterwards by Ralph H. and Anna M. Souders.

Although Our Ranch did not suffer heavily from the 1940 storm that destroyed the railroad route, the Trout Farm, located directly across from Our Ranch, was destroyed and was not rebuilt until 1942. In 1941, the post office relocated to the Our Ranch store since there was no longer any need for the office to sit beside the railroad tracks. John Hall and his wife took over the property in 1948 and continued to operate the restaurant. By this time, virtually all of the original Marcum property had been parcelled and only the family home and restaurant, located on one acre across East Zayante Road from the fire station, remained. The home went on the market in 1953 but continued to appear regularly in advertisements, suggesting it was not saleable. The last mention of the property in newspapers is 1964, at which time it was for sale once again.

A group of around 50 girls seated at dinner tables tables at Camp Wasibo, from the April 1926 edition of Evergirl's. [Camp Fire Girls Camp Histories]
Camp Wasibo (1924-1948, 1954)
One of the last retreats built during railroading days, Camp Wasibo was operated by the Camp Fire Girls of San Francisco around 1925. The site, owned by the Ley family of Felton, gained popularity as a cheap vacation destination during the Depression and war years. From mid-June to mid-August of each year, Camp Fire Girls used the camp for extended retreats. It offered many activities including handicraft, weaving, nature lore, drama, outdoor cooking, canoeing, hiking, swimming, and archery. Weekly field trips visited local sights and took campers to Felton and Santa Cruz for shopping and recreation. During World War II, the camp ran four two-week retreats for girls. The Camp Fire Girls abandoned the site in 1948 but the Girl Scouts of America leased it by 1954 (possibly earlier) for use by their older campers, aged 10-16 (younger campers went to parks elsewhere in the county). Although the Girl Scouts signed a five-year lease, the torrential rains and severe flooding of 1955 destroyed the site and it was never rehabilitated. It remains unclear where precisely Camp Wasibo was located.

Ferndale Resort (c1917-1938)
One of the lesser known vacation resorts in the Zayante was named Ferndale, owned by Albert M. Mannell and his wife, Nellie May. For around two decades, the home hosted small numbers of visitors in a bed-and-breakfast style. The home also hosted local events and dinners, such as for the Olympia Whist Club. In 1931, the Mannell's upgraded the property into a full resort, building log cabins, cottages, and tents for guests. The property also included showers and a dance hall. In January 1936, the Olympia branch of the Townsend Society built a clubhouse on the property and they held frequent meetings at the site for the next two years. However, a bad storm in February 1938 damaged the concrete pump house at the resort and all record of the resort and the Townsend Society disappears from public records. In January 1940, the property was seized by the Peoples Savings Bank. Albert died six months later from an extended illness.

Seasonal and Permanent Residential Subdivisions
More generally, multiple attempts have been made to built permanent and seasonal homes within the Zayante Creek basin. Most of those that were built in the days of the railroad advertised rail service and provided at a minimum an open-air dance pavilion and swimming pool, the latter usually formed by damming Zayante or Lompico Creek. Remnants of these dams survive all along the creek, between the former heart of Zayante and Mount Hermon, but most of the dams were destroyed in one of the great flood years, especially 1955 and 1982. The following are the more noteworthy subdivisions that were created or attempted in the Zayante area:

  • Happy Land (1911) – At least ten tracts, apparently along Lompico Creek, although probably just south of its confluence with Zayante Creek.
  • Lompico (1925) – Nineteen tracts proposed along Lompico Creek, but many parcels were located on functionally unusable land.
  • Zayante Lakes (1925) – Three tracts in the vicinity of the Zayante Creek Market & Deli.
  • Our Ranch (1926) – One tract proposed but abandoned between Olympia and Eccles stations just to the west of the railroad tracks.

As has been seen above, the Great Depression contributed tremendously to the downfall of the resorts in the Zayante Creek basin since people could no longer afford to travel. Also, the industrial quarrying of the sandhills above Olympia and further to the south likely contributed to excess noise pollution in the valley. But the final death knell was the closure of the route to San Jose in 1940, which prompted the end of passenger service along the line, followed quickly by the start of World War II, which limited resources such as oil and automobile manufacturing ergo long-distant travelling. Dependence on the automobile locally after World War II meant that people took weekend and day trips to Santa Cruz rather than month-long vacations as before the Depression. Small resorts such as those in Olympia simply had too little to offer. The persistence of some of these resorts was as due in large part to their use by specific organizations and a general post-war desire to travel. By the mid-1950s, though, even those features dried up. With the exception of Mount Hermon and Camp MayMac, there are no longer any notable resorts in the Zayante Creek basin.

Citations & Credits:
  • Santa Cruz Evening News.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Evening Sentinel, and Weekly Sentinel.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Freight Stops: Kaiser Pavement Company

Sentinel photographs of Kaiser quarry machinery, including the mobile conveyors and
the railroad loading dock, February 28, 1941. [SC Sentinel]
The only reason that railroad tracks still meander up the San Lorenzo River to Olympia today is because of the sand quarry built by the Kaiser Pavement Company in June 1936. Henry J. Kaiser purchased a 200-acre tract of sandy hillside land just to the south of Olympia in order to fulfil a long-term contract for the Columbia Construction Company. The quarry provided concrete-grade sand to Columbia and was intended to be used in some of the Works Progress projects funded by the federal government during the Great Depression.

To support this operation, the Southern Pacific Railroad installed a fairly extensive spur track within the quarry grounds. At Olympia itself, a gravel dump was installed alongside a spur that sat beside the tracks. Further south, the long siding reunited with the mainline but also continued as a spur into the quarry. Within the quarry, the spur forked so that mobile conveyors could pour sand into waiting gondola cars. The loading stations were permanently installed, but the conveyors were extended as quarry-work pushed into the hillsides. Back at the main track, filled gondolas were parked on the long siding between the quarry and Eccles.

It was the existence of these two quarries and their relative isolation that convinced the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1940 to retain trackage to a point just south of Eccles, not far beyond where the siding reconnected with the mainline track. Thus, the quarries at Olympia saved the track for posterity. The Kaiser quarry continued to operate through World War II, where up to 300 cars of sand per month were shipped out. Kaiser's spurs could hold up to twenty-five gondolas on its siding at any one time. Around 1968, Hanson Aggregates purchased Kaiser and switched to shipping sand via trucks. The spurs were retained, but were quickly buried. The company remained in operation until 2003. Damage to the railroad route in 1982 caused by an especially fierce winter storm prompted the adjacent Pacific Aggregates (formerly McMillan) to switch to using trucks for shipment, as well. Southern Pacific decided it was time to abandon this stretch of track and Roaring Camp Railroads came in to buy it from them. The track has been owned by Roaring Camp since 1985, although all of the trackage north of Mount Hermon has only been infrequently maintained.
A modern map showing the former layout of the Kaiser-Hanson quarry complex, with modern reference points, 2011. [Water District Watershed Management Plan]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0713N, 122.0547W

The site of the Kaiser/Hanson quarry was purchased by the San Lorenzo Valley Water District in the late 2000s and has become a nature park and habitat rehabilitation area. As such, it can be visited, with access available from a driveway beside the Zayante Fire Station. The railroad tracks remain owned by Roaring Camp Railroads and, although trespassing is discouraged, it is quite frequent by both locals and visitors. The spur begins just north of the fire station and turns sharply into the Water District property, where it is almost immediately buried under sand and underbrush. The siding continues to the north toward Olympia. Until recently, two flatcars (with a third upside down atop one) were parked on the former Kaiser spur, but those were removed in 2017 by Roaring Camp crews seeking to recycle parts and clean up the track.

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, July 6, 2018

Stations: Olympia

At the turn of the twentieth century, the area near where East and West Zayante Roads meet today was a busy travel destination for the Southern Pacific Railroad. At Eccles, residents and local farmers shipped out goods. On the Union Mill Spur, the milling company shipped out lumber. And in the summer of 1900, Camp Olympia was founded on the hill just above the railroad grade, for which the railroad installed a flag-stop in 1905.

The grade crossing beside Olympia's station site on Olympia Station Road, 2011. [Derek R. Whaley]
For the first decade of its existence, Olympia was an unimportant waypoint along the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains. All important traffic continued to go to Eccles or Felton and only a few local resorts along the future Olympia Station Road patronized the stop. Then, in 1913, Olympia suddenly became a formal station along the line. In April 1915, it superseded Eccles in regional importance and also stole its post office.

The mainline and siding at Olympia, 2011. A spur sits buried beneath the leaves at far left. [Derek R. Whaley]
Most local industries were on the wane at this time so Olympia was definitively a passenger stop, with a small wooden station shelter to support it. However, beginning in 1928, the sand hills above and in the vicinity of Olympia were purchased by the McMillan Company and the Kaiser Pavement Company, two firms intent on quarrying sand in the area. This coincided with the Great Depression, which ended most seasonal tourist service to the area. Thus, in a very short period of time, Olympia transitioned from an exclusive tourist stop to an exclusive industrial stop. There is some evidence that quarrying around Olympia began earlier than 1928, such as the fact that a long 57-carlength siding was already at the station as of 1921, but evidence for this is not forthcoming. A gravel loader used by Kaiser was installed on a spur immediately across from the shelter while another spur also sat nearby.

The gravel loader beside Olympia Station Road, 2011. [Derek R. Whaley]
Because of the quarrying at the site, Olympia was not abandoned with the rest of the route through the mountains in November 1940. The station itself (as well as the shelter) survived until 1942, when the need for such a station location was found to be unnecessary since World War II had caused a significant reduction in passenger service and tourism in the area. However, the extensive siding space at Olympia remained intact for use by the Kaiser Pavement Company, whose quarry operated until the 1960s. When Roaring Camp Railroads purchased the entire line in 1985, they kept the entirety of the track in serviceable condition except for portions that had already fallen derelict, namely those that crossed into the two quarries. The formal end-of-track, where Southern Pacific cut its line that once crossed over the mountains, is just beyond the end of the siding to the north of Olympia.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0736N, 122.0536W

The site of Olympia station is located at the grade crossing on Olympia Station Road. The station shelter was located on the northwest corner of the crossing, while a small resort on the northeast corner acted as a more formalized structure and probably hosted the post office. The shelter was decommissioned in 1942, but may still survive on a nearby private property. The siding and two spurs (one buried) still remain in various states of repair. The gravel loader, now in an advanced state of decay, can be seen directly across the tracks. The end-of-track is accessible just to the north of Olympia. Roaring Camp has long neglected this stretch of track but growing interest among the staff has prompted the company to allocate some funds for the maintenance and rehabilitation of this stretch of track, possibly with the intent of using it for special excursions in the future. Olympia remains a geographic location on county maps, but there are no longer any commercial buildings in the area.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. 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, June 29, 2018

Stations: Union Mill Spur

1889 County Map showing the property of the
Union Mill on Lompico Creek, with the railroad
route at right. Map by Andrew J. Hatch.
[Library of Congress]
Although the Lompico subdivision was never directly serviced by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Union Mill & Lumber Company operated within the Lompico Creek valley from 1881, when the narrow-gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad was still independent. The company was founded on July 15, 1881, by T.B. Hubbard, D.L. and I.B. Kent, William Armstrong, and N.B. Bowes, and the partners began erecting their mill at the confluence of Zayante and Lompico Creeks within days of incorporation. The mill officially opened on the week of September 3 of that year. At this time, Eccles and Union Mill stations became indistinguishable, but in 1891 they officially became separate stops, with the Union Mill Spur 0.3 miles to the south, although that distance is in reality an administrative overstatement since the Union Mill's switch was less than 0.2 miles from the Eccles station platform and the two stops shared a long siding that paralleled the mainline on the east.

In 1884, a unique arrangement was negotiated with the railroad in which they would install and own the first 100 feet of track along the spur and the milling company would install and be responsible for the maintenance of the remaining 2,160 feet. The railroad, however, would remain responsible for shuttling all cars between the mill and the mainline right-of-way. While the precise right-of-way for the spur is unknown, the length of the spur is, which means the route can be estimated based on terrain. When calculated, it appears that the spur terminated near the modern-day junction of Lompico and East Zayante Roads, which matches a parcel owned by the company in 1889 (visible on the map at right). The spur crossed [E] Zayante Road at the bottom of modern-day Zayante School Road (which formed the original right-of-way) and paralleled it on the east bank of Zayante Creek until terminating just after crossing the creek. In all likelihood, the route continued much further into the Lompico Creek valley, albeit as an informal horse-drawn train system, of which no records have come to light. The company also built a steam-driven planing mill in Felton at the end of San Lorenzo Valley flume, where it processed lumber from Lompico and Two Bar Creeks.`

The precise location of the mill is uncertain, but a large clearing on the west bank of Lompico Creek just after its confluence with Zayante Creek is a good candidate. This clearing, undeveloped today, is well-situated at the mouth of the Lompico Creek valley and is almost perfectly the correct distance from the railroad right-of-way. At its height in the late 1880s and early 1890s, the mill was capable of producing 50,000 board feet of lumber per day and the mill was run by a 100-horsepower steam engine. Most of the lower Lompico Creek valley was flooded to create a large mill pond that fed directly into the mill, and steep skid roads high up in the hills brought the felled trees to the pond.

When precisely Union Mill shut down is unknown, but it remained on company records until 1910. This timing suggests that the spur was not upgraded to standard-guage in 1908-9 when the rest of the line was upgraded. As such, it could no longer operate and the stop was abandoned. Very little is known about the history and operations of the Union Mill, unfortunately, and no confirmable photographs appear to have survived. In the 1920s, the lumber tracts of the Union Mill & Lumber Company were purchased and converted into the Lompico residential subdivision.  The mill property itself may have become Camp Wastashi (later Camp MayMac).

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0831N 122.0511W

The site of Union Mill Spur's switch begins at the northernmost edge of Roaring Camp Railroads' property, just south of the southern branch of Zayante School Road. The right-of-way for the spur then passes down Zayante School Road to East Zayante Road, briefly paralleling East Zayante Road on the east bank before crossing it near the junction of East Zayante with Lompico Road. The precise location of the Union Mill is unknown but was probably just north of this intersection on the west bank of Lompico Creek.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. 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, June 22, 2018

Stations: Eccles

Much like Kenville to the north, Eccles station did not begin as anything special. Built on the land of John Sanderson Eccles, the station acted as his private flag-stop for shipping goods and possibly aggregate from the sand hills that were located on his property. Eccles was an Irish gas-fitter who came to the United States in 1856. He moved from New York to Santa Cruz in 1875 and settled along Zayante Creek. Little else is known about the man. In 1878, he deeded 2.5 acres of land to the South Pacific Coast Railroad and grading crews passed through the area the next year. Undoubtedly, the stop was part of the arrangement.

Eccles as a stop appears in Southern Pacific agency books from the very beginning, but throughout its earlier years it was directly associated with the Union Mill on Lompico Creek. The branch for the Union Mill's long spur was located roughly 0.3 miles to the south of Eccles, but Eccles station itself may have been located further to the south as well since the railroad shifted its mile-marker location periodically in employee timetables. Its primary location, though, appears to have been at the place where Zayante School Road crossed the railroad tracks north of Olympia. The railroad installed a spur beside the tracks at Eccles in the early 1890s, presumably to park lumber flatcars while they awaited pickup by a passing train. The spur at Eccles was only 310 feet long, although the station did support a freight platform. A passenger shelter was later built there, possibly as late as 1910.

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 led to the standard gauging of the line and also signalled a demographic shift in the area around Eccles. The Union Mill shut down prior to the earthquake and the company declined upgrading their spur to standard-gauge, abandoning the site instead. Over the previous three decades, a tiny hamlet had developed at and around Eccles, probably populated primarily by seasonal mill and quarry workers, that included a general store, hostelry, and post office, the latter of which opened May 3, 1878. Following the earthquake, the area became an attractive resort location, predating Zayante Lakes to the north, Lompico to the west, and Olympia to the south. Evidence from postcards suggests that a number of small villas and resort hotels opened up in the hills on either side of Zayante Creek, including at the site of Camp MayMac (originally Camp Wastashi). And yet its success as a resort location proved unsustainable.

Eccles station shelter above Zayante Creek, c. 1912. [San Jose Mercury News]
Situated as it was on a hillside near the confluence of Lompico and Zayante Creeks, there was very little room for expansion at Eccles. Furthermore, its very suitability as a residential and agricultural area meant that there was little room for new commercial ventures in the area. Appearing 0.4 miles to the south beginning in 1900, a rival to Eccles appeared in the form of Olympia. For over a decade, this location remained a simple flag-stop, but its potential as a resort area was far better than Eccles' and, in 1913, a coup in the timetables occurred: Eccles was demoted to a flag-stop and Olympia replaced it as the premiere stop for the region. Like Eccles before it, Olympia benefited from access to sand quarries, providing it with an industrial purpose, but there was also much more room to expand since a large meadow sprawled on the west bank of Zayante Creek here and even the east bank provided substantial space for expansion. Two years later, on April 10, 1915, Olympia stole the post office from Eccles and the name Eccles quickly fell into disuse by the community.

The Eccles station sign on display at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. [Derek R. Whaley]
The station appeared and disappeared as a flag-stop on timetables for the remainder of the existence of the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains, but who used the station during this time and for what is unknown. It may well have still serviced a few small resorts in the area as a place where passengers could flag down a train or detrain, but the removal of the spur there around 1910 certainly ended its time as a freight stop. The shelter at Eccles may have been removed as early as 1916 or lasted for decades like the shelters as Zayante and Olympia. The stop was formally abandoned by the railroad August 31, 1942, later than the other stops on the line, suggesting that the railroad may have considered designating it the end of the line before choosing Olympia for that honor. This also suggests the tracks were removed only after that date. A fill just to the south of the Eccles station site connects it to the current end-of-track.

Roaring Camp Railroads' end-of-track just south of the site of Eccles, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0784N, 122.0508W

The site of Eccles is just off the north branch of Zayante School Road. Today, it serves primarily as a parking lot for local residents and no evidence of the railroad except the right-of-way and station site, now a clearing, remains. A sandstone wall at the stop may mark the site of the former freight platform. This site is publicly accessible off East Zayante Road. The station sign for the stop is on display at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History's history gallery.

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Stations: Kenville

The probable location of Kenville, today marked by a chain and boulder to
stop cars continuing down the former right-of-way, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
Some Southern Pacific Railroad stations in the Santa Cruz Mountains were major industrial or tourist stops, catering to thousands of people during peak years. Others were of lesser importance. But one thing can be certain, none was less relevant than Kenville. Named after Joseph Sherman Kenville, an early resident of the area, Kenville Station was a private passenger and freight flag-stop catering to Kenville's farm that spanned both sides of Zayante Creek and included much of modern-day Quail Hollow Ranch.

Joseph Kenville was born in Coteau Landing, Quebec in 1823. He moved to Santa Cruz County in 1865 after spending some time as a gold miner and stage coach driver in Nevada. He soon married America Baker (1848-1929) and with her had at least seven and possibly ten children. He homesteaded a 44-acre tract of land just north of Rancho Zayante beginning in 1866. In 1870, he tripled the size of his property to 132 acres by purchasing the homestead of Amos Moon for $2,000. In 1878, the South Pacific Coast Railroad encountered his property as they were grading and leased an easement through it. As a likely perk of this deal, Kenville was probably given an informal flag-stop which he could use to ship out his goods to nearby settlements.

Kneville specialized in growing watermelons, although he also grew other crops on his farm. There is no evidence of any structures at his flag stop other than a station sign, but a platform may have been installed to facilitate the transfer of goods into boxcars. This station only officially appeared in station books in January 1893 and it never appeared in any other official railroad documentation, giving further evidence of its informal status.

Kenville and his unmarried children moved to Santa Cruz in 1902, selling the property to William and Leona Richards from Los Angeles. It is unknown if they ever utilized the stop. Kenville Station remained in station books until 1909, when the reopening of the route through the mountains following its upgrading to standard-gauge likely led to a reduction in the number of old informal stops. Joseph Kenville died at his home in Santa Cruz on January 4, 1911. Some of his descendants still remain in the Santa Cruz area. What would become Quail Hollow Ranch was sold by the Richards in 1910 to Emil and Genie Grunig, who called it Sun Kissed Ranch. They died in an automobile accident in 1936 and their heirs sold the ranch to Laurence Lane, publisher of Sunset Magazine. The railroad tracks at the former Kenville stop were dismantled in 1941 following the abandonment of the line by the railroad the previous November. The only relic that remains on the site other than the right-of-way is a semaphore foundation block that once supported an Automatic Block Signal that regulated traffic through the nearby Zayante Tunnel.

Geo-coordinates and Access Rights:
37.0828N, 122.0483W

The precise location of Kenville is not known for certain due to the fact that station books at this time rounded all station locations to the nearest mile. However, the presence of Old Kenville Road, which follows the former right-of-way for half of its length, gives a clue. Just before the road turns east and uphill, there is a former road to the west that branches off Sylvan Way. It seems likely that this road was one the main access road between the railroad and Kenville Station, since Old Kenville Road would not have been usable prior to the railroad's abandonment. If so, then this former junction probably served as the station point. This is further supported by the fact that there is a long cut to the south and a grade fill and equally long cut to the north. This one point is the only location between Eccles and Tunnel 5 where a station could have been located.

Personal Retrospective:
I visited this site in March 2012 a few months after hearing Brian Liddicoat speak on the topic of local railroads at a University of California, Santa Cruz, history lecture. I reached this location the same way many had before me: by following the Roaring Camp tracks beyond their terminus at a sandhill just south of Zayante School Road. It struck me then how obvious the former right-of-way was. Old Kenville Road was a mystery to me at the time—I had never heard the name before and was not curious in any way regarding its origins. Nonetheless, it was exceedingly obvious that the well-maintained dirt road that extended north from Zayante School Road was, in fact, the former railroad right-of-way. Walking this road was my first adventure—my first journey down a path that I still walk today. By walking down this dirt road, I finally began to envision how the railroad operated, where it went, and why it was important. I no longer saw this as some obscure rural driveway—which it is today—but rather a relic of a bygone era. It was revelatory and changed my entire worldview regarding where I had lived most of my life. On March 7, I setup a Blogger site dedicated initially to the South Pacific Coast Railroad, not yet understanding what journey I had begun (the underlying code for this website remains southpacificcoast.blogspot.com). Over the next day, I began my research, using Kenville as one of my first keywords. I discovered, to my continuing amazement, a completely scanned copy of the Southern Pacific Railroad's 1899 Stations, Officers, and Agents book, which conductors and engineers carried with them to help them determine their locations and station specifications. Even today, this remains an important source since 1899 proved a very eventful year for the railroad. With this limited information, my own on-the-ground research, and a few random websites, I released on March 9, 2012, my first blog post on the subject of local railroads: "Kenville." In retrospect, it was a poorly-researched and exceedingly aspirational article, but without it, I may never have continued to explore the route. This was the first article—now there are well over 300 blog posts, two published books, two more books in development, and many more exciting things for Santa Cruz Trains coming in the future.

Citations & Credits:
  • Find-A-Grave, "Joseph Kenville".
  • Clark, Donald T. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2007.
  • Lehmann, Susan Collins. Quail Hollow Ranch: a history. Santa Cruz, CA: Historic Resources Commission, 1992.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Tunnels: Zayante (Tunnel 5)

Among the tunnels found along the South Pacific Coast Railroad's route through the Santa Cruz Mountains, tunnel #5 in Zayante is by far the easiest to view, although it hardly appears as it did during the age of steam. In 1879, the railroad grading crews of McKoy & Company encountered a granite promontory on the east bank of Zayante Creek. For whatever reason, the railroad decided to bore through the rock rather than dynamite it. The density and stability of the rock was such that no interior scaffolding was required inside, although it initially had wooden portals on either side. The total length of the tunnel was 250 feet, the second shortest tunnel along the right-of-way.

Zayante Tunnel proved to be an entirely unremarkable tunnel throughout its time as a railroad tunnel. The Southern Pacific Railroad, which took over the line in 1887, upgraded the tunnel to standard gauge in 1907, in the process widening the tunnel and replacing the wood portals with concrete. Owing to the daylighting of Tunnels #1 (Cats Canyon) and #7 (Hogsback), the tunnel was renumbered Tunnel 4, a designation it retained for the next thirty years. At the time the route was abandoned in November 1940, the Zayante Tunnel remained entirely intact. Unlike the three tunnels further to the north, Southern Pacific decided against dynamiting this structure, perhaps because it was far more stable internally or an explosion could have destabilized the entire hillside above it.

For the next fifteen years, the tunnel entered its second life as a local thoroughfare. Photographic and written evidence attest to the fact that locals used the tunnel and right-of-way between Woodland Road (Western States Drive  from 1953) and Madrone Way, called Redwood Road on US Geological Survey maps, as an unpaved access way. Southern Pacific probably still owned both the tunnel and right-of-way during this period, but they did not stop locals from using the tunnel and railbed.

Western States Atomic Vault facility in Zayante, February 1, 1957. [Derek R. Whaley]
The Zayante Tunnel's third life began in 1952, when the Western States Atomic Vault Company, Inc., purchased the tunnel, right-of-way, and Woodland Road for their own uses. Cold War fears prompted nuclear shelters to be built across the United States and Santa Cruz County was no different. Capitalizing on these fears, Western States purchased the old tunnel in order to convert it into just such a shelter, albeit one where companies and the government could store vital documents. The remoteness of the location and its situation under a granite hillside sealed the deal.

A peak inside the atomic vault, 1983. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
By the end of 1953, the tunnel was sealed on either end except for limited-access entry doors. Both sides were gated and fenced and a 24/7 guard was stationed in a gatehouse on the south side. Inside, the ballast floor was covered with concrete and overhead, an intricate climate control system was installed to maintain a constant temperature and humidity. The facility officially opened on May 2, 1954, and has remained in continuous use ever since. Most of the contents of the vault are microfilm and microfiche records, but other trinkets include early Walt Disney Company film reels, government marriage certificates, and a massive miniatures collection.

The sealing of the tunnel ended most local use of the tunnel as a thoroughfare. At some point later, possibly during the floods of 1955 or 1982, a major sink appeared about 0.1 miles north of the tunnel along the right-of-way, effectively ending all use of Redwood Road by locals or vault crews. Western States Atomic Vault Company was purchased by FileSafe in 1989 which subsequently sold the facility to Iron Mountain in 2003. Iron Mountain closed the facility in June 2017 and it is currently being prepared for sale.

The heavily-graffitied north side of the
Western States Atomic Vault in Zayante,
once the western portal of Tunnel 4 of the
Southern Pacific Railroad.
[Derek R. Whaley]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
West Portal: 37.087˚N, 122.045˚W
East Portal: 37.086˚N, 122.046˚W

The western (north) portal of the Zayante Tunnel can be accessed via Western States Drive by heading south along the right-of-way. There is a significant washout along this route so some light climbing is required to get around it. The portal can also be viewed at a distance from East Zayante Road just north of Madrone Way on the opposite side of the rocky promontory. The portal has a chainlink fence around it and has been sealed in concrete, except for an emergency escape door. The eastern (south) portal can be directly accessed from the top of Madrone Way, although the entrance is obscured and access is restricted. The entire front façade of the tunnel has been sealed and two large fan vents have been added to the portal. The original date of the tunnel is now covered. A guardhouse and office sit immediately in front of the portal with a chainlink fence surrounding the facility's parking lot. A guard is always on duty but tours of the facility have not been allowed since Iron Mountain took over the facility.

Citations & Credits:
  • De Leuw, Cather & Company, "Santa Cruz-Los Gatos Rail Corridor Feasibility Study: Final Draft Report," prepared for the Joint Policy Board (December 1994).
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Stations: Dougherty's Spur

When the South Pacific Coast Railroad first surveyed its route through the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1877, the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company made a recommendation to them in regards to the route of the right-of-way. The Dougherty family had been operating mills in the Los Gatos Creek basin for over a decade by this point, but their timber tracts were quickly being depleted. An initial attempt to use Mountain Charlie Road to haul timber over from Zayante Creek proved to be too costly and difficult. However, the coming of the railroad gave them a new option—hauling by train. By 1878, the route to Santa Cruz had been decided and it was agreed that it would pass into the San Lorenzo Valley via Zayante. The Doughertys began building their mill at the confluence of Zayante Creek and Mountain Charlie Gulch, a naturally low place where a mill pond could be easily maintained. However, the issue of hauling the cut timber remained due to the fact that the right-of-way sat on a shelf high above the valley floor.

The Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company milling complex on Zayante Creek, c. 1885. Note the lumber train in the foreground—probably the "Felton" from the former Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad—as well as the row of empty flatcars to the right. In the distance, the skid road further up Zayante Creek can be seen. Workers homes and the Dougherty village can be seen on the right, while the site foreman's home is at left. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Remains of the Dougherty's Spur trestle over Zayante
Creek beside Western States Drive, 2014. [Derek Whaley]
Probably in early 1880, immediately after the main track was installed along the South Pacific Coast's right-of-way, Dougherty crews began building a spur that broke off from a location just north of the Zayante Tunnel (Tunnel #5). Built on a tight budget, the track crossed Zayante Creek on a high and rather rickety trestle bridge before switchbacking at least once to ease the descent down to creek level. Once at creek level, the narrow-gauge route continued north for approximately 1.7 miles, roughly following the modern-day alignment of East Zayante Road until it reached the mill. Although historians have speculated that the track was extended up to two miles further, photographic evidence of the mill does not support this assertion and instead shows a well-made skid road heading to the north. The narrowness of the canyon to the north makes such an extension unlikely.

The mill itself, constructed around 1879, was run by William Patrick Dougherty and his brother James. It was a hugely successful operation and perhaps the most profitable industrial venture along the newly-built railroad route. Wood cut at the Zayante Creek mill was shipped primarily to the company's primary yard in Santa Clara, although a decent portion made it to Loveladys, where it was transferred for use in the New Almaden Quicksilver mines. The mill was capable of producing 30,000 board feet of lumber daily and employed up to 125 men per summer. The community at Zayante was so remote in the 1880s that it had to be self-sustaining. The site hosted a school, a general store, and homes for workers and their families.

Disaster struck in 1886, though. At the height of the lumber season, the primary mill burned to the ground. Although the company quickly recovered and constructed a temporary mill, the fire marked the end of an era. By the close of 1887, the company shut down the mill and transferred most of their supplies to Boulder Creek, where from early 1888 they built a private railroad north to a new mill along the San Lorenzo River.

With the relocation of the mill, Dougherty's Spur fell into disuse. The station at the grade was briefly renamed Zayante in 1889, but Dougherty's Spur was broken off as its own stop 0.4 miles to the south the next year. Zayante became Meehan in 1892. An entirely different stop at a location further to the south called Kenville then replaced Dougherty's Spur in 1893. While what actually occurred during this years cannot be determined for certain, what likely happened is that the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company was responsible for the spur lines demolition. Probably beginning in 1888, the company began tearing up the rails, piece-by-piece, for use on their new line near Boulder Creek. Because of this, parts of it may have remained intact as late as 1892, when the stop was permanently removed from Southern Pacific Station Books. Regardless, it seems certain that the spur was no longer in use once the mill moved so its inclusion on agency books was undoubtedly for administrative reasons.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.090˚N, 122.043˚W

The precise location of the Dougherty's Spur stop along the grade is uncertain but is likely slightly south of the point where Western States Drive crosses the right-of-way. A remnant of the former trestle bridge over Zayante Creek can be seen along this road on the north side as one crosses the Zayante Creek automobile bridge. Only the east bank of the bridge survives since a home has been built on the west bank. The orientation of the bridge and later developments in the area have made it difficult to determine the precise method by which the tracks approached the crossing. Nothing else survives of the former right-of-way along East Zayante Road to the mill.

The location where Dougherty's Spur split from East Zayante Drive, 2014. The driveway to the left marks the original path of the railroad spur, while the road bypassed the site of the mill by following the curvature of the hillside on the east side of Zayante Creek. [Google StreetView]
The site of the mill itself is now mostly a private residence which can be seen across the creek from Upper Zayante Road in a section of road between two bridges that briefly lead motorists to the east bank of the creek. Except for some concrete relics scattered along the creek bed, nothing survives of the mill.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald T. 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, May 25, 2018

Stations: Meehan

For being one of the most important railroad stops along the Zayante Creek section of the Southern Pacific Railroad's route through the Santa Cruz Mountains, Meehan is virtually unknown even within railroad circles. Much of this may relate to confusion caused by the placement of the non-station Gibbs at the same location in USGS maps and by historians such as Donald Clark and Rick Hamman, and the fact that the name "Meehan" appears to be taken from Patrick Meehan, a Southern Pacific track foreman but otherwise inconsequential individual in relation to the area. One thing is certain, though: Meehan was the primary passenger station for people living in the Zayante and Lompico residential areas.

The origins of Meehan are fairly well-known. Established by the South Pacific Coast Railroad around 1879 as Dougherty's Mill (later just Dougherty), the location was where the privately-owned spur of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company (Doughertys) broke off from the mainline track and descended down to creek level. Although the mill closed in late 1887, the spur remained in place until the standard-gauging of the line in 1908. Soon after the Southern Pacific leased the route in 1887, they renamed the stop Zayante, possible to avoid confusion with the privately-owned Dougherty Extension Railroad begun in 1888 north of Boulder Creek. Curiously, in 1891, a new stop appeared 0.4 miles south of Zayante under the name Doughertys Spur, suggesting that the actual split in the line did not occur at Zayante but rather further to the south. In 1892, Zayante became Meehan and White Flag Spur, the next stop to the north, became known as Zayante. Why these names were shuffled around in this way remains a mystery. The station would retain the name Meehan until the formal abandonment of the route in November 1940.

Newspaper advertisement showing horseshoe falls along Zayante Creek within the Zayante Lakes subdivision, July 1925. [Oakland Tribune]
Unlike many other stops and stations in the area, Meehan was always included on railroad timetables and in station books as a full station, not a flag-stop. Its modern remote location actually betrays its true importance to the communities and industries of the Zayante Creek basin. At the top of the spur to the Dougherty mill, it served as an important freight transfer point from 1879 to 1887 between the mill and Santa Clara, where the company kept its main lumber yard. Throughout its existence, a siding was maintained at grade level, measuring 441 feet in narrow-gauge times and 775 (10 car-lengths) feet after the conversion to standard-gauge. In later years, the communities of Lompico (founded in 1925), Zayante Lakes (1925), and Zayante Park (1931), all developed below or near Meehan. And this was intentional. Easy railroad access could help seasonal homes and cottages more effectively. Also, the logging activity of the Doughertys, the Union Mill, and other companies meant that the tree cover in the area was significantly more reduced.

Map of proposed properties in the Lompico subdivision, c. 1910. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Remnants of the railroad's impact on the Zayante area still survive and are a testament to the relative importance it held over Zayante-area residential subdivisions. Within the periphery of Meehan are East Hill Road, Western States Drive (originally Woodland Road), East Creek Road, and Laurel Way. All of these roads either cross, terminate at, or are within walking distance of the railroad right-of-way and all end at residential subdivisions founded in the first decades of the twentieth century. Meanwhile, Lompico, even today severely isolated with the exception of a single road, originally was to have a second road that branched off Gladys Avenue that would terminate at Meehan. Even today, if you search on Google Maps for "Zayante, CA," the results will place you at a location along East Zayante Road directly below Meehan.

Photograph of Meehan station with overgrown siding, c. 1938. Automatic Block Signals are visible in the distance. [Wilbur C. Whittaker]
It is unknown how much damage the Meehan area received in the February 26, 1940, storm that permanently disabled the line, leading to its abandonment later that year. The known photograph of it in the late 1930s, however, shows that the siding was overgrown, unused, and sinking slightly. The Great Depression slowed development in the Zayante area so probably left an impact on Meehan as well. There is no evidence of a station shelter at the site, but many such shelters had been removed in previous years and, considering its importance to the communities and its longevity, Meehan likely had a station for at least some of the period.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.095˚N, 122.039˚W

The site of Meehan station is privately owned and trespassing is discouraged. Remnants of the railroad can be found there, including a 1913 culvert and a dilapidated railroad-tie retaining wall below the former siding location. It is unclear whether any of the damage to this wall occurred in 1940 or afterwards, although there is no evidence that the right-of-way north of Meehan was ever used as a public access road as was the route to the Zayante Tunnel (Atomic Vault) to the south. No other features set it apart from the rest of the Zayante Creek-area right-of-way.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. 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, 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]
Citations:
  • 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.