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If you have information on local railroads, photographs or railroad documents, or you feel a mistake has been made or information omitted from an article, email me at This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fahihn & Forest Lakes Flag-Stops

Location of Gold Gulch and its spur along the
Felton Branch. (Courtesy Duncan Nanney)
Two Southern Pacific Railroad flag-stops were located near the bottom of Gold Gulch Creek south of Felton along the Felton Branch. Although one may not directly succeed the other in location, the two were and remain related. The stations catered to a region that was frequently under intense logging development by Frederick Augustus Hihn, a local entrepreneur and investor.

The location that would become Fahihn and Forest Lakes began its life, oddly enough, as a gold prospecting region. Gold was discovered on Frederick Augustus Hihn's property along a creek which quickly became named Gold Gulch around 1880.
A sluice along Gold Gulch operated by C.H. Jewitt.
(From Report of the State Mineralogist)
F.B. Stirling was the one licensed to develop the find and his discovery of gold valued at roughly $35,000 is said to have heavily contributed to Hihn's increasing fortune during this period. Stirling followed up his discovery by boring a 900 foot hole into the mountain west of Gold Gulch, but no further major discoveries were found. The sedimentary nature of the Coast Range made it impossible to locate ore veins in the hills. C.H. Jewitt took over operations from Stirling for an additional two years, operating sluices and pumps in the creek to try and sift out gold deposits. His attempts failed, though, and Hihn closed down operations by the end of the 1880s.

By 1899, Frederick Hihn had other operations in the Gold Gulch region and the Fahihn Flag-Stop, also called Fahihn Switch, located 76 south of San Francisco via Alameda Point according to the 1899 Station Book, catered to his operations there. It hosted a B-class freight station including probably one or two sidings to hold waiting cars. A spur line (hence the "switch") also headed up along what is today Lakeview Drive to a spot near the top of the creek. The flag-stop was without doubt named after F.A. Hihn himself who owned most of the land in the region including a lime kiln and brick yard up Gold Gulch. His spur line most certainly catered to his lime operations in the area, though it is unclear whether it was a short-line narrow-gauge railroad or simply a ox spur. The last mention of the site is in 1908, which suggests Hihn sold his properties soon after this date to Weltha A. and Thomas L. Bell.

Original property sign for Forest Lakes. (Courtesy Howard Rugg)
The Bells owned a property development north of Fahihn known as Tanglewood and purchased Hihn's land as well, though records of the purchase have not been found. Evidence of the relationship between the Bell's new Forest Lakes property and Tanglewood is evident from a sign posted by the Bell's property manager, Les Ashley. The property development was named after two artificial lakes that had been created along Gold Gulch Creek. Today, one of those lakes still survives as the seasonal municipal swimming hole. The other lake, located directly north of it, disappeared when developers filled the area to build a home. The Bells' vast tracks of property subdivisions by 1915 stretched from Oak Avenue near the present entrance to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park all the way to Tollhouse Gulch Road near the San Lorenzo Road Toll House. Their home was probably off of Rincon Road near Glengarry Road.

The names of Gold Gulch and Forest Lakes both survive today along Highway 9. Forest Lakes is an insular community unified by the Forest Lakes Mutual Water Company, a remnant of the original Bell property subdivision there. It is located on the west side of Highway nine about a mile south of Henry Cowell Redwood State Park. Gold Gulch, likewise, is a private community located just south of the entrance to Forest Lakes on the east side of the road.

The location of the physical railroad stop is not entirely known. The right-of-way passed through the current Gold Gulch property but the station was likely near River Lane, where the right-of-way is fairly level with the main road. South of that location, the property of Henry Cowell prohibited a station, while any location north of that site would not have provided enough space for the Gold Gulch lime spur. Further investigation of the history of both locations is ongoing.

  • California State Mining Bureau, Report of the State Mineralogist, Vol 17 (1921).
  • Donald Thomas Clark, Santa Cruz Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Edward Sanford Harrison, History of Santa Cruz County, California (1892).
  • Southern Pacific System: List of Officers, Agencies and Stations, 1899.

1 comment:

  1. Derek; These are great articles, but I'm confused. Isn't the SP line on the opposite side of the San Lorenzo from Tanglewood and Forest Lakes? How did the Felton branch reach this far south? Were they still using the old Santa Cruz & Felton narrow gauge line that ran up the west side of the San Lorenzo? Or was this after they built the Std Gauge spur that crossed the San Lorenzo at Covered Bridge and then turns south?