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Friday, October 19, 2012

Gibbs Flag-Stop

A less formal station that both Meehan and Zayante, Gibbs was a small, mostly privately-used flag-stop on the South Pacific Coast Mountain Route located roughly a half mile between the aforementioned stations. It does not appear in the 1899 Station Book, even as other lesser-used stops such as Kenville are, suggesting that the site did not get heavily used until after 1899, perhaps once the tracks began their conversion to broad gauge around 1904.

It was named for Albert W.J. Gibbs and his family which owned the Gibbs Ranch Resort along the line. The family had owned the property since at least 1878 when the railroad sought a right-of-way through the area. The family complied at the expense of installing a flag-stop there.

After much research and assistance, it has been determined that Gibbs Ranch Resort was not actually in Zayante Creek but was accessible in the nearby Bean Creek region on Weston Road via at least one stage coach road that was known as Alameda Boulevard (undoubtedly named after the railroad's port at Alameda). Rob Lange discovered a bit of a story about the site from one of the property's owners:
“In 1906 many vacationers took the railroad from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Many got off the train at Gibbs Station, which was a stop below our properties. Stage coaches would pick up the people and bring them to Gibbs Station Resort. This was an active resort with cabins and a dance hall. People left the cold in San Francisco to keep warm at the Gibbs Resort”
Sure enough, records show that at its height, Gibbs Ranch Resort operated a general merchandise store and a post office. Mike Swift, the owner of the property, notes that his home was originally the kitchen for the resort and also probably served as an extremely small general store as he states that no other building was on the property during its existence as Gibbs Ranch Resort. Tent cabins were the primary residence for tourists, and if any of them were fully enclosed, they were later torn down because no remnant of them exists today. The post office was likely beside the tracks and was founded on November 28, 1900 and Albert Gibbs was declared the post master. The branch office shut its doors after the route was temporarily closed following the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, but then reopened as traffic resumed the next year.

The Gibbs family finally lost control of their post office in 1916 when it was transferred to Zayante, less than a mile north along the route. The last mention of Gibbs as a stop is in 1935, though it had probably fallen into disuse before that time. Google Maps shows a large property spanning the entire section between Zayante Station toward Meehan. This is likely still the Gibbs Ranch estate as the station was located directly in the center of it. Nonetheless, the area today is dense forest with no roads passing through it. The right-of-way peacefully passed through the property in the form of a Santa Cruz County Water District fire road. The original stagecoach road remains as a poorly maintained and overgrown landslide escape route for the Weston Road community. It lets out near the site of Zayante Flag-Stop at the top of a diversionary road where the tracks were washed out long ago. The original stage trail probably crossed the tracks and paralleled them heading south before finally reaching the official stop at East Hill Road off of East Zayante Road.



After investigation, there is a clearing on the hillside of the tracks at the top of a private road off of East Creek Road on East Zayante Road. A stagecoach trail seems to switchback to the right-of-way from the creek at this place, and the original creek crossing may have been on East Hill Road which is noted on surveyor maps (and Google Maps) though no longer extant. There are no known extant images of Gibbs as a flag-stop. The ranch itself has long since disappeared, but Mike Swift currently owns the majority of the property in the Weston Road area. His friend installed a "Gibbs Station" sign over the driveway a number of years ago to mark the historic site, and Alameda Boulevard still exists as a storage area for the property. It can be seen wrapping around a corner, returning to Weston, and then once again diverting at Marinera Lane where the old stage road originally crossed to Zayante Creek.

Citations:
  • 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.

6 comments:

  1. What a place to stop a train! The hillsides there are so steep that when you stand on the rail bed there you can look almost straight down to the cabins along the creek.
    Definitely no room for a siding, and I don't see how any kind of access road could have been cut into the hillside at that point. It seems to me that if a Std Gauge train stopped at that point and the passengers stepped off the wrong side, they would plummet 100' to the bottom of the canyon!
    Aside from Inspiration Point, this must be one of the steepest gorges along the entire line.

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  2. Your doing a great job tracking down this history and locating these hard to find sites along the famous railroad over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Very interesting. It seems though, that there is yet another rendition of the history of the Gibbs Station Stop with a few facts to back them up. It seems that there is actually a large sign over an old driveway with the name Gibbs Station embossed in the wood commemorating the site of an old hotel in the Private Weston Road neighborhood in the vicinity of Lockhart Gulch. The sign still exists. As told by one of the original land owners that purchased the land from Weston in the 1960s, “In 1906 many vacationers took the railroad from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Many got off the train at Gibbs Station, which was a stop below our properties. Stage coaches would pick up the people and bring them to Gibbs Station Resort. This was an active resort with cabins and a dance hall. People left the cold in San Francisco to keep warm at the Gibbs Resort”. If you go to Santa Cruz Geographic Information Systems website (GIS) and select “base map” there is a street called Gibbs Avenue off Weston Road and that street matches up to the location of the Gibbs Station sign. As for the location of the Gibbs Station on the railroad, Automobile maps from 1920 show Gibbs as being halfway between Eccles and Zayante train stops. If you have walked the area in question, you will see that there is only one large flat area to the left of the railbed, heading south, that fits the description of the Gibbs Station Stop. The latitude and longitude of this large, flat area just off the old railbed is Lat 37.098694, Long –122.033386 +/- 10ft. My friend and I found an old road that could easily have been a stagecoach road cut into the mountain that starts at this area on the right facing south and heads north paralleling the railbed and also, a path that leads down to the Zayante Creek, meaning that this area is not especially steep.

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    Replies
    1. Rob, thank you very much for the information. Using your data, this places Gibbs a tiny bit south of my map at top. Is there any chance that you took a photo of the Gibbs Station sign off Lockhart Gulch? That area is still isolated from Zayante Creek, though, so I am a bit confused about the connection except, perhaps, via property line. Does or could a stagecoach route link Gibbs Station to Weston Road in the Lochhart Vale?

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  3. Yes, we have a picture about 3 months old. If you look close at the engraving it also shows a stagecoach with 6 horses. I sent it to your e-mail. Yes, there is a mountain between the railbed and the Gibbs site in question. My friend and I followed the old road that parallels the railbed in the northern direction on the Zayante Creek side (that is cut into the hillside but at a lower elevation) for about 3 hundred yards. We found it continues straight north but also slightly tees to the right and heads back up to the railbed heading east. This is not steep at all. Once it crosses the railbed at (lat 37.102167, long –122.029472 +/- 10ft.) you can clearly see that it is cut into the mountain diagonally and follows the mountain in this fashion heading toward the Weston property. This is somewhat overgrown but you can definitely tell that it is a road carved out of the mountain and it is wide enough for a stagecoach. It does not appear to be a skid road since these were temporary and not very wide. Most skid roads have been covered by the forest by now. We followed it for about 1/8th mile but lost track of it as it seems that a large landslide has wiped out traces of it. If you revert back to the map I mentioned in the previous post and zoom in on the area in question, you will see that there are 2 ways to get to the Weston area by old dirt roads from the Zayante side (maybe overgrown by now) and one of them maybe the one we are describing.

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  4. The landslide happened around 2005ish above a house on E Creek Rd. which hit the railroad bed. I would ride my dirtbike across the creek (Just past E creek) up a switchback trail to the railroad bed. Its been so long, but I remeber a fire road that ended at a gate near the "summit" of that range, probably near Marinera road, it appeared to be private property with an RV parked nearby. If you hit the bed near Waner way, there is a singletrack trail that takes you up to more fire road, which eventually took me to Mt Hermon Road. Those fireroads are visable via satellite images.

    -Kyle

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  5. Wow! What a find. Albert W. J. Gibbs was my 2nd great uncle. I recently stumbled upon a newspaper article, which led me here. He passed away in 1932, which might explain why the mentions of Gibbs disappeared. I'm trying to reconcile how he acquired the land around 1878 since he didn't immigrate to the U.S. until 1892. Maybe through his wife's family. Have you heard of the De La Roza Resort? Newspaper advertisements from 1904 showed that name, but I discovered today here it was originally the Gibbs Ranch Resort. Thanks for helping me fill in a piece of my family tree.

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