The trestle was built over the San Lorenzo River around 1879 when the South Pacific Coast Railroad first spanned the stretch, thereby bypassing Old Felton and the original Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad line. That line merged just south of the trestle at Felton Junction. The trestle was 826 feet long originally.
The aerial photograph above shows the trestle at its longest length, with the clumped earth under the tracks in the foreground already starting to move toward the trestle itself. Eventually, the entire span to the river would be buried leaving a much shorter trestle. Today, the area all around the tracks leading up to the river are complete surrounded be new-growth trees that have grown in since this 1880s photograph was taken. As a perspective, this photograph was taken from Highway 9. Today, it is impossible to see the tracks and river here, much less the trestle itself. The tracks at the top are heading into Big Trees Park, which is just around the bend, while those at the bottom are heading to Santa Cruz.
In the photograph below, the #1 engine is stopped on the trestle with many of the crew and passengers posing for the camera. Passengers are leaning out of windows in the rear cars, as well. The short span that passes over the river is at the far left.
The current Big Trees Trestle was erected in 1906 when the line was broad-gauged. It is steel and much shorter than the original trestle because most of the wooden span heading into San Lorenzo Gorge was buried to improve stability and support. This trestle still sits over the river today and is used daily throughout the summer by Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway, the part of Roaring Camp Railroads, which takes tourist trains to and from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on the Main Beach.
Felton Junction, meanwhile, no longer exists, though the route that once made it a junction still exists. There is a fire road access path that leads from behind the Tollhouse Resort at Highway 9 and Glengarry Road and heads toward the trestle. That is a surviving segment of the Felton Branch of the South Pacific Coast line that once terminated at the Hihn Lime Kilns near the end of Kirby Street in Felton, 1.7 miles north up the line.
|A cement train passes over the relatively|
unmaintained trestle in 1978 while a little
girl waves at the train from the beach below.
Looking once more at the top image on this post, the junction broke off just after the bottom of the aerial photograph, heading to the left and following the other side of the river. No photographs of any portion of this route except for its original depot in Felton survive.
|A SCBT&PC RR diesel engine steams over the|
Big Trees Trestle heading toward Santa Cruz.
The surviving right-of-way is accessed daily by tourists and locals to access the Garden of Eden and other swimming holes within San Lorenzo Gorge. A portion of that right-of-way, shown below, appears as a wide fire road and is utilized as such by State Park Rangers when necessary. Yet this road continued beneath the Toll House Resort and into the various mobile home parks that line the river toward Gold Gulch. This entire stretch once hosted a railroad right-of-way leading to Felton.
The remnants of this right-of-way as well as the surviving trestle can easily be visited by parking near Glengarry Road on Highway 9 south of Felton and walking down the fire road. When it levels out, head to the right to see the tracks. The trestle will be north along the tracks. Where the road meets the tracks, that is the site of the junction. It never was overly impressive but it was an important branch line that brought much of the lime out of the Santa Cruz Mountains to Santa Cruz city. Today, it is just another forgotten part of the history of the South Pacific Coast line in Santa Cruz County.