Author Statement

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, January 11, 2013

Call of the Wild Flag-Stop

Call of the Wild near Eva Picnic Stop
(Map courtesy Duncan Nanney)
Much like its neighbors Eva and Sunset Park, Call of the Wild acted primarily as a Southern Pacific Railroad picnic stop, though it served other purposes as well. Located in the upper Los Gatos Creek basin, it was 60.3 miles south of San Francisco and only 0.3 miles south of Eva Picnic Stop. Call of the Wild does not appear in the 1899 Station Book and likely did not enter history until sometime after Jack London's 1903 The Call of the Wild, after which the site was likely named. Although the site dates to at least the 1910s, it did not appear on timetables until the 1920s, suggesting the location was a last-ditch effort to capitalize off of a picnic stop on the increasingly unprofitable Mountain Route. It seems to have been little used during most of its existence, acting as much as a brief freight loading zone as a tourist stop. The modest orchards nearby and the road to this stop made it an ideal place of exchange.

Call of the Wild in the 1910s
(From Highway 17: The Road to Santa Cruz)
The name "Call of the Wild" reminds many of the famous author Jack London. For many years he lived in the upper Los Gatos Creek area just north of the town of Patchen. The name of the stop here may have either inspired the name of his book, The Call of the Wild, but, much more likely, was probably an homage to that work. Naming the site after the author's famous book both inspired romantic visions of the place and recognized London's former residence in the area. Although the tracks never went into the "Call of the Wild" region, the Southern Pacific recognized the potential profits to be made by such a name and likely placed the stop as close to the area as possible, likely with footbridge access to the community. London often vacationed at Feely Ranch, which was apparently in the area.

Call of the Wild in 1940, after the line had closed. (William Whittaker)
The original station house, shown above, was a stylized log cabin with a porch wrapping around back. It was little more than a weather shed to keep people dry in the rain, but it served its purpose. The flag hanging outside was to notify trains to stop for a passenger or a freight load. Another extant photograph, at right, shows the abandoned station after 1940. There is a new weather shed made of plywood boards instead of logs, though a porch still wraps around the back. It is likely that this was built in the late 1920s or early 1930s when the Southern Pacific attempted to make money off of the area. In the photo, power lines are visible overhead but the tracks are overgrown from a decline in use. A railroad crossing sign beside the shed suggests that a road passed immediately beside the old station. From Google Maps, this may likely have been (or rather, become) Aldercroft Heights Road at the very end, which crosses the railroad right-of-way north of Lexington Reservoir. Rick Hamman's California Central Coast Railways notes that the flag-stop was formally closed in June 1933 alongside Clems, but this is contradicted by a SPRR timetable which notes the stop in 1937.

Citations:
  • Richard A. Beal, Highway 17: The Road to Santa Cruz (Pacific Group, 1991).
  • Rick Hamman, Central Coast Railways (Pruett, 1980).

5 comments:

  1. Derek, wasn't their a hunting club associated with Call of the Wild?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not sure who is writing, but not that I am aware of. If you have information concerning a hunting club, please feel free to provide the source. I have not heard anything about a club in that area, though I wouldn't doubt it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Derek, I live on Call of the Wild Rd., a private road off Old Santa Cruz Hwy. and have collected some information on Jack London and his Socialist and labor activist friend Harry Ryan, as well as the Call of the Wild train stop. Ryan bought 140 acres here in 1906 and obtained permission from London in 1908 to name it "Call of the Wild Ranch and Sawmill" (Book M Page 100 in Santa Clara Co. records).. Then Ryan started selling off lots and renting cabins near a sulfur hot springs that used to be just below our property.The train stopped about one half mile below there, so that people could get off and hike up to the spring and cabins which Ryan called "the Call of the Wild summer resort and subdivision". Hence came the name of the Call of the Wild train stop. There is a fire trail still coming up from near there on Aldercroft Heights Rd. I have an old newspaper photo of the wooden train stop structure circa 1917 shortly after it was built and other information about this area if you want copies. There is no evidence that Jack London ever visited Ryan's ranch, but there is evidence he did ride the train to Wright's Station and visited Bohemia, and he spent time writing at Ryan's office in San Jose. Harry's Ryan's house (built in 1926 ten years after London's death) is now a private residence on our road. We own one of the approximate 5 acre parcels that the ranch was divided into after his death in 1958.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Janice, that information is all excellent. I've found quite a bit more than what is posted here, but it sounds like you still may have more than that. Please email me at whaleyland@gmail.com and we can discuss the matter further. Cheers!

      Delete
    2. This post and comment completely blew my mind. I knew the Jack London stuff (to some degree), but just now pieced together the fire road. I came across that fire road from Aldercroft Heights Road about 10 years ago. I followed it all of the way up to Call of the Wild and couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was for. Considering they tried to make it a tourist destination, not it makes total sense!

      I drove down Call of the Wild last week to check out the top of the fire road, and of course it's still there! Quite a steep hike, I remember.

      Delete