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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Old" Felton Station & Depot

Google Map location of Old Felton
A failed railroad venture in the 1860s brought to light the first conception for a railroad depot in Felton. Ten years later, in 1875, another venture funded primarily by Frederick Hihn completed the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad with its northern terminus at Felton. Felton was a growing town in the 1870s and the logging industries of the northern San Lorenzo Valley were demanding freight access to the ocean. The SC&F RR in conjunction with the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Transportation Company fulfilled that wish when together the created a network of logging flumes and railroad tracks that ran the length of the valley. The importance of Felton during this period cannot be ignored. Felton served as the switching yards where the lumber from the primary flume was disgorged and loaded onto awaiting flatcars for service via rail to Santa Cruz. These yards stretched from roughly the current site of New Leaf Market to the Quik Stop along two parallel spurs. In 1883, all that ended as the South Pacific Coast Railroad began replacing the primary flume with a track that eventually ran (via the Dougherty Extension Railway) all the way to Castle Rock State Park.

The Felton flume terminus, looking north, sometime between 1875 and 1883. Trains are parked on
spurs on either side of the flume to load lumber more efficiently.
In 1879, Felton Depot was also displaced as the primary station for the town of Felton. "New" Felton Station sprang up beside the new South Pacific Coast tracks in the Welch Ranch on the other side of the river. The "Old"Felton Station remained at the terminus of a spur line that followed the original SC&F track on the west side of the river. With the coming of the SPC, passenger service began heading to Old Felton though the timetables would not list Old Felton as a stop until 1889. Service to Old Felton would continued for forty years, though the branch would remain primarily a freight line.

Downtown Felton in the 1890s showing a Southern Pacific train passing through Ley Meadow in the distance.
The Southern Pacific Railroad took over all of the SPC's operations in 1887 including the Felton Branch. By 1899, the Station Book notes that Old Felton Station was 76.5 miles south of San Francisco via Alameda Point. It had a B-class station, which included two long loading spurs, the easternmost of which eventually became the loop spur back to New Felton via a trestle built beside the Felton Covered Bridge. The purpose for the continued existence of this line was to service a few lime kilns, primarily the Holmes Kiln in downtown Felton, as well as some regional logging mills. By the 1920s, though, even those operations shuttered and on July 22, 1926, the Old Felton Station closed for good.

1895 excerpt from a Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map of Felton, showing the possible site of Felton Station. Baldwin Ave is CA Route 9 and Maple is most likely Russel Ave. (Courtesy UCSC Digital Map Collection)
Today, even the site of Old Felton Station is not known, with no existing photographs of the post-flume site publicly available. Speculation places the station near the Mountain Community Resources Center on the east side of the track since that is the end of the longest spur, but logic would place it much further south near the base of Laurel Street where the three major spur lines converge. Evidence from historic maps also suggest this since no station (or tracks for that matter) appear in most survey maps of downtown Felton during the years of the line's existence. One 1895 map of Felton does note a SPC warehouse and Holmes warehouse on the east side of the tracks across from Russell Ave. (then called Maple), but no station building is present.

  • 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.


  1. From the photo of the flume, judging the distance to the buildings and mountains in the background, it looks like where the men are standing would be somewhere near Felton Presbyterian Church. I had always heard that the parking lot was part of an old rail bed.

    1. It was roughly in that area. In fact, if you look at the map at top, you'll notice that the church property is just about midway down the spurs. The church basically built was on top of the old flume bed.

  2. Any idea why the #56 photo has those initials written on it. It helps to ruin a nice photo (let's see some Photoshop!), and is it suppose to be read as S.P.? Does it link to the train, or to the building below? I don't know Felton all that well, so the structure lacks meaning to me.

    In the early 1970s, I went with my family on a horseback ride on the hill in the middle-ground. The stable was where the train (in the #56 photo) is at, that is, about where the 'new' Mount Hermon Road was built. I didn't think to look for the old right-of-way. The hill had a forest, and we were being led by our guide in a single-file line along a trail designed for us rookie cowboys.

    1. It's supposed to stand for Southern Pacific, I believe. This must be from an old post card series. The postcard vendor was just pointing out ownership of the line, although I don't know why the S is reversed.