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Friday, February 8, 2013

Los Gatos Tunnel (#1)

When the South Pacific Coast Railroad began running its line up Los Gatos Creek in 1878, it encountered the steep and dangerous Cats Canyon before opening up into the Los Gatos Creek Valley where Lexington thrived and Alma was developing. Along the narrowest pass of that canyon, the Los Gatos Tunnel (Tunnel #1) was bored, the first along the Mountain Route from the north, to allow easier passage to the valley beyond. The tunnel was only about 200 feet long, the second shortest on the route when it opened, and mostly was designed to clip off a canyon wall. When the line was broad gauged, this tunnel was no longer useful. It was daylighted, or opened to the elements, in 1903 which renumbered the Summit Tunnel as #1. The shortest tunnel, the Rincon Tunnel near the Powder Works, had been daylighted in 1896. Unfortunately, photos of the Los Gatos Tunnel are difficult to find and there are none available currently for posting.

Despite the lack of photos of the tunnel, Cats Canyon provided many opportunities for photographers to capture the Mountain Route throughout the rail line's existence. The following photographs are just some of the scenery along the route:
Cats Canyon, looking south, circa 1880s. The old Santa Cruz Highway is at right, with the train tracks possibly
heading into a tunnel at bottom-center. The Alma-Los Gatos Flume rides the hillside at left.
Narrow gauge engine #13 heading around the bend toward Tunnel #1 just south of Los Gatos, 1882.
Stereoscopic image of a narrow-gauged train in Cat's Canyon, c. 1890s.
Narrow-gauged railroad steaming toward Los Gatos from Alma, with the Los Gatos (Box) Flume on the hillside at left.
A narrow gauge train crossing over a wooden trestle heading north toward Los Gatos, circa 1895.
A train heading through the gap that was once Tunnel #1. Cats Canyon is a very dangerous and unsteady gorge,
so avalanche rails were installed in especially dangerous areas, visible at top-right. Photo from 1905.
Tracks just south of Cats Canyon, possibly after a heavy rain considering the amount of debris and siltation, 1906.
A beautiful perspective shot of Cats Canyon around 1910. Glenwood Highway is at right while the tracks are at left.
The site of the former tunnel is right where the tracks round the bend. The flume is still visible at left, above the tracks.
The straight, even tracks running left toward Lexington, while above Glenwood Highway meanders around the curves.
The right-of-way at the entrance to Cats Canyon beside Los Gatos Creek. Highway 17 is visible at right.
The right-of-way has been largely turned into a bicycle route until it reaches Lexington Reservoir.
  • Rick Hamman, California's Central Coast Railways (1980)

1 comment:

  1. A lot of this country looks very familiar from my bike rides along these route. The rides will be more interesting now that I know a little of the history. Great photos by the way!