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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, April 27, 2012

Olympia Quarries

The Pacific Coast Aggregates quarry in the 1970s, with three chains
of hopper cars parked on various spurs and an aggregate loader
visible in the background. (Bruce MacGregor)
The area south of Olympia hosted two aggregate quarries, one owned by the McMillan Company , which soon was purchased by Pacific Coast Aggregates (PCA) and the other owned by the Kaiser Pavement Company, owned by the Henry K. Kaiser Company, Inc. The PCA quarry is the older of the two firms and was located just north of the railroad bridge over Zayante Creek. It opened in 1928 on 70 acres of sandstone. About 0.5 miles to the north, Kaiser opened a plant in 1936 on 200 acres of sandstone. Together, these two firms successfully quarried millions of acres of sand out of the Olympia area, at the same time leaving massive scars on the hills between Zayante and Bean Creeks. These plants were in their prime during the Great Depression, when large amounts of concrete-grade sand was required for the great works projects of the United States government.
The PCA quarry was the smaller of the two operations, although it expanded over the years. It also had the more extensive freight yard. At least five spurs led to various locations in the quarry, with the two primary spurs terminating at aggregate towers and a third spur ending beneath a smaller aggregate loader. Track space was in high demand here since there was no siding at the facility. A concrete freight-loading platform sat beside the mainline across from the company's local office, a low-quality shed demolished in 2012. 

This photograph is taken from the same place as the photograph above. An additional spur was added at some point in the meantime but all of these now sit abandoned. Most of the tracks are slowly rusting while nature retakes the right-of-way. (Derek Whaley)
Further to the north, near Olympia station, the Kaiser quarry was linked to the mainline via a long siding, two short spurs at Olympia, and a significant, 2,000+ foot spur into the quarry itself. The Kaiser quarry was larger than the PCA facility to the south, but it used less track space. A single long spur terminated just beyond a freight loading tower, while a team track allowed loaded hopper cars to return to the mainline where they would sit on the siding for pickup. The Kaiser operation was certainly more streamlined, but this was also made necessary by the fact that access to the quarry was restricted to a more narrow corridor than the expansive PCA quarry.

Kaiser switched to shipping its aggregates via truck prior to 1968 when Hanson Aggregates took over the firm. Hanson ceased operating at the quarry in 2003 after which it sold the property to the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. PCA continued using the quarry until 2002, by which time it had been purchased by Lone Star Cement Corporation (in 1965) and then RMC Pacific Materials (in 1988). Lone Star stopped using the railroad following a terrible storm in 1982 that severely damaged the tracks and prompted the Southern Pacific to sell the right of way to Roaring Camp Railroads. Lone Star switched to using trucks thereafter. RMC closed the quarry in 2002 and was  purchased by CEMEX in 2005. CEMEX still owns the quarry but has not reopened it. The quarry is currently undergoing environmental rehabilitation under advisement by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

All of the original tracks in this area still survive, some visible and some buried beneath sand and debris. Two aggregate bunkers can still be seen when walking along the tracks, while numerous switches and other railroad artifacts can be seen in the area.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Kaiser Pavement Company Quarry:  37˚N 4' 16.446", 122˚W 3' 17.087"
Pacific Coast Aggregates Quarry: 37˚N 3' 44.585", 122˚W 3' 19.481"

All of the right-of-way is owned by Roaring Camp Railroad and trespassing is discouraged, although locals are often found using the track for recreation. The Kaiser quarry now has a public nature trail operated by the San Lorenzo Valley Water District that loops above it, offering excellent views of the former quarry grounds, although the quarry itself is closed. The former PCA quarry is fenced off and closed to the public. Trespassing is discouraged.

Citations & Credits:
  • Hubbard, Henry G. "Mines and Mineral Resoruces of Santa Cruz County," California Journal of Mines and Geology, January 1943, pages 50-52 <http://www.santacruzpl.org/history/articles/12>
  • Whaley, Derek. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA: 2015: 108-110.

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