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Friday, August 24, 2012

Mount Hermon & Tuxedo Stations (Part I)

The site just north of Felton Depot has been known by two names throughout its history with the Southern Pacific Railroad, operating under the name the South Pacific Coast. But in all cases, it described an exclusive stop for a large hotel and resort complex that today is represented by Redwood Camp, a summer camp for kids and teens.

Initially, the site was known as Arcadia. Founded by Thomas L. Bell in 1897, the site hosted a large hotel called the Tuxedo Inn, a post office, and cottages. The station did not go into operation until 1901. When he petitioned to formalize a station at the site, rather than simply a flag-stop known as Campus which the Southern Pacific Railroad had recorded in their books in 1899, the railroad informed him that the name Arcadia was already in use along the route and that he would have to choose a different name. He decided on the name Tuxedo, probably based on the Herriman estate in New York called Tuxedo Park which Bell had already used to name his hotel. The word "Tuxedo" itself was probably based on the name of an Algonquin Indian subtribe, and its later use to describe fancy clothing also was based on the Herriman estate.

(Mt Hermon Association)

Under its short tenure as Campus, but otherwise known as Arcadia, the site was noted as being 73 miles south of San Francisco via Alameda Point. It was located between the Hayes Mill Spur south  of Eccles and Felton Junction, which was a third of a mile south. In 1899, the location had no permanent facilities, and this seems to have never changed. A station was, of course, added, but no siding was ever installed at Mount Hermon nor any facilities since Felton Station was only 1/2 mile down the track.

Around 1901, Bell built the Tuxedo Hotel on the site of Redwood Camp and began the construction of Tuxedo Station. The entire complex was named Tuxedo Junction, implying that he wished for high levels of tourist traffic via the railroad. But there was no junction at Tuxedo, and indeed there were no facilities throughout its existence and the location mostly served as a picnic stop for Southern Pacific visitors. Facing financial difficulties in promoting and maintaing the site, Bell sold the entire property to a group of investors that became known as the Mount Hermon Association on April 14, 1906.

Thus began the life of the site as Mount Hermon, a Christian retreat center. The hotel was renamed Zayante Inn, after the creek that wrapped around it, and it became a Mecca for Christian guest speakers throughout its short life. Zayante Inn remained the center of the Mount Hermon complex until a fire destroyed it and the surrounding area in 1921, at which point the organization relocated to across Zayante Creek and abandoned the area alongside the tracks, leaving it as a picnic grove and auto camp for many years. A new conference center was built across the creek and cabins began spreading up into the hills around it, permanently shifting the center of the Christian retreat.

By this point, tourism via rail was already on the decline in the area, though Mount Hermon Station has never been fully abandoned. It remained on railroad timetables from 1907 onward all the way to 1940, when passenger service north of Big Trees ceased entirely.

Today, the Mount Hermon Association has converted the original narrow-gauge stationhouse into the male staff quarters for Redwood Camp during the summer season. Aspects of the original station remain, mixed with newer remodels. With Felton Station, it remains one of only a handful of existing narrow gauge railroad stations in California. Mount Hermon Station is still used up to three times a week during the summer to ferry select groups of conference visitors to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk via the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway operated by Roaring Camp Railroads. The long Zayante Creek Bridge between Felton and Mount Hermon remains in good repair and the tracks are maintained for a full half mile north of Felton to support this seasonal service.

Continued in Part II...

  • Southern Pacific System: List of Officers, Agencies and Stations, 1899.
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Dawson, Dan. Conversations at Mount Hermon Conference Center. November, 2012.

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