|President Theodore Roosevelt's train at Big Trees Station|
|Big Trees Club House beside station. Train parked on tracks behind building.|
Thus, the history of Big Trees Station specifically references the Big Trees Park of Joseph Welch and his children. The railroad first passed through Big Trees Park in 1875 via the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad, which ran from Gharkey's Wharf in Santa Cruz (near the site of the current Municipal Wharf) to Felton. This route was taken over by the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1879, which was in turn taken over by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1887. The first station at Big Trees was established in 1879 with the permission and through the suggestion of Joseph Welch. The station remained in operation as a part of the Southern Pacific line until the Suntan Special ended its sunday runs in 1959.
The station itself was a small little booth with a ticket counter. It changed little through the years and remained immediately to the right of the tracks, when heading from San Francisco. The 1899 Station Book notes that the station was 74 miles south of San Francisco and lacked most amenities. This makes sense since it was immediately beside the hotel and resort complex, which would have all anything a tourist would require. The station did, however, have a siding that ran the entire length of the tracks. The left picture shows the siding in later years (circa 1920s) while the right photograph shows the track in the late 1890s when it was still narrow gauge. When the line went broad gauge in 1907 after the earthquake, the siding was extended. The siding was a B-grade freight siding but was probably not used for much freight since Big Trees was above all a resort designation. Trains would probably stop to pass one-another at Big Trees or, more likely, stop for extended periods of time to pick up tourists. With Felton Depot less than a mile north, any freight loading and unloading, as well as train turning, could be done there.
The images at top also show a boardwalk that was built along the tracks at some point in the early 1900s, probably after broad-guaging. The walk served to allow passengers a longer clean area to embark and disembark from the trains. With the increased popularity of the site throughout the early 1900s, efficient passenger service for well-to-do tourists was a must.
Unfortunately, like so many things along the South Pacific Coast Sunset Route, Big Trees Station was not destined to survive. As a park, it has faired magnificently through the years. Indeed, much of the damage done by Welch and his many thousands of tourists have been undone. The cottage city, hotel, dancing pavilion, dining hall, and, sadly, the station are all gone now, with the forest retaking those areas not maintained as clearings. The small ticket booth shut down in May 1939, though rail access to Big Trees continued until 1959 when the Suntan Special ceased operating. The site of the station itself, as visible in the image at right, is pretty well gone. The siding tracks were removed at an unknown time, but probably after the state took control of the park. The park's days as a tourist stop along the line continued through the 1950s, but it is unknown whether the station house or any of the buildings remained in use after the Welchs sold the property in 1930. Today, riders of the Big Trees & Pacific Railroad pass the site of Big Trees Station without any real idea of the high level of tourist activity once present there. Today, train-riders visit Roaring Camp, a narrow-gauge amusement park, but that was not always the destination. Sometime between 1959 and 1985, Big Trees withered away into memory and became a mostly-untamed forest again. Tourists still walk the trails, but from other entrances more recently opened.
Small tokens of the past still survive. Foundations of some of the old buildings can be seen on the Redwood Loop's halfway clearing near the tracks. Two culverts still flush water under the tracks on rainy days with the date "1912" printed proudly atop them. Similar culverts can be observed all along the Mountain Route, including in areas that no longer support tracks. Yet nothing else of Big Trees Station survives save one set of broad-guage tracks which still takes tourists down to Santa Cruz in the summer.