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Friday, April 26, 2013

Felton Grove Trestle

Map showing Felton connecting spur including the location
of Felton Trestle, at left. (Courtesy Duncan Nanney)
After a number of years of service to Old Felton only via a spur at Felton Junction, the Southern Pacific Railroad decided to add the Felton Grove Trestle, or simply the Felton Trestle, as a spur off of the Boulder Creek Branch, thereby completing a loop. The Felton Grove Trestle was a standard design truss bridge, appearing so much like the current Henry Cowell (Big Trees) trestle or the double-truss trestle above the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz near the Boardwalk. Because of this standard design, it is likely that the bridge was only installed when the line was broad-gauged in the early 1900s. Prior to that time, service over the river was not possible except via the original Santa Cruz & Felton narrow gauge line heading north from Felton Junction. Evidence from a 1908 subdivision map of Felton Grove (below), however, suggests another bridge may have existed, which would have probably dated to around 1885 when the Boulder Creek Branch was first built. Since this would have been a South Pacific Coast design, the bridge probably would have been simple wood timbers rather than concrete and steal.

Excerpt of original subdivision map of Felton Grove, focusing specifically on the Felton Trestle crossing at left, c. 1908. The dotted line above the right-of-way suggests that a narrow-gauge track and trestle originally did head to Old Felton slightly closer to the covered bridge, though no photos of this trestle are extant. (Courtesy Vicki Wees)
Construction of the Felton Grove Trestle in 1908. The tracks have not been installed yet and it is unclear if a trestle previously crossed the river here. A central pillar in the river can be seen in this photograph. (Courtesy Valley Press)
Felton Covered Bridge, with trestle beside it, in the early 1920s. (Image from
The trestle was mounted on two concrete curbs that flanked either side of the river just beside the Felton Covered Bridge. The bridge was removed and likely reused or sold for scrap metal a number of years after the Southern Pacific ended service to Old Felton, though the precise date that the bridge was removed remains uncertain. The bridge may well have remained at the site into the 1930s before it was finally removed. A 1928 map of the Felton Grove subdivision, however, showed that the rail line itself was removed by that year.

Felton Trestle in the late 1920s or early 1930s after the line had ceased operation. Tracks appear to still be on the trestle, suggesting a date closer to 1926. The third support pillar, no longer extant, is clearly visible here at right. It is likely this pillar washed out in a flood many years ago. (Courtesy Yesteryear Depot)
Today, the trestle is gone but one of its curbs is easily viewed from the southward-facing windows of the Felton Covered Bridge. It sits on the west bank and can be walked upon. The eastern curb is set back from the river and sits beside a home that uses the hollowed-out curb as a fence for their dumpster. A gate has been installed on the eastern side of the curb. This, too, can be viewed from some of the windows of the bridge, though it is more difficult to discern.

The ivy-covered eastern curb of the Felton Trestle, from the Covered Bridge, 2012.
The easily viewed and exposed western curb of the Felton Trestle, from the Covered Bridge, 2012.


  1. I have read that originally this trestle was suspended from curb to curb, but as they hauled lime over it, it started to sag, and a concrete pier was installed in the middle as additional support. You can see the pier in one of your photos. Do you think they pulled it out of the river? Or are the remains somewhere downstream in the San Lorenzo?!?

    Also, there is a line of tiny houses running along Covered Bridge Road, across from the park. I believe all these lots-- from the Laundromat to the bridge, were subdivided out of the old right-of way.

    Please don't forget the Zayante creek trestle. There is still a curb in the woods on the Roaring Camp side of Zayante creek. I have a photo(in a book somewhere) of an engine going over that trestle.


    1. You're right, I didn't even notice that support pier. Good eye! I'll add your segment to the article at a later point (don't have time now). I've never seen any evidence of it in the river but I think it was actually mounted on the shore but in a shallow spot that sometimes was submerged. It's not there anymore, for sure, though. I doubt it was pulled but I've never heard of the remains of a pier downriver either.

      You are correct. When I do the Felton Grove article I will post a photo of the original right-of-way through the grove. You can also check for a view of the right-of-way overlaying Felton Grove.

      I won't forget the Zayante Creek Trestle, I just need to find my photos of it! I have seen two, but I can't remember where I saw either of them! It's quite frustrating. I There is still a pier and the west curb being used for a water main while the wooden east curb is partially buried in the woods across from the Mount Hermon supply depot. I think the photo you have is the same one I saw of the train on the trestle. The other photo is taken from the Graham Hill Bridge looking at the trestle beside it with (two?) women posing on the bridge.

      I also have seen a photo of the Felton Grove Trestle a few weeks ago with its tracks removed and some people walking across it.