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Friday, June 7, 2013

Bonnie Brae Flag-Stop

Map showing rough location of Bonnie Brae. (Courtesy Duncan Nanney)
Located a mile north of Felton Depot, roughly at the modern-day site of Rose Acres Daybreak Camp at the end of San Lorenzo Way, once sat the rustic flag-stop of Bonnie Brae (or alternatively, Bonny Brae). An August 19, 1923, Southern Pacific timetable notes that the site was 73.4 miles south of San Francisco via the Mayfield Cut-off, 6.3 miles south of Boulder Creek, and 0.9 miles north of Felton. It maintained no regular arrival or departure times, confirming that it was, indeed, only a flag-stop. The location does not appear in the 1899 Station Book, which doesn't seem surprising as it also does not appear on any other available timetables until 1915.

Donald T. Clark first noted the site in his Santa Cruz County Place Names as appearing in internal Southern Pacific timetables in 1915. This probably coincides with the creation of the community around the flag-stop. It is likely that the flag-stop remained until the end of the line in 1934. Clark further speculates that the name was probably created by railroad builders simply to imply that the site was a "pretty hillside", which would be the direct translation of the name into modern English. However, this suggests also that the name predates 1915 by at least thirty years to the building of the line in 1885, which no other evidence supports. Considering the flag-stop must have catered to the small community that resided on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River along San Lorenzo Way, this author suggests that it was originally named after a small housing development that arose in the area in the late 1900s or early 1910s. Documentary evidence agrees that there was a subdivision under the name "Bonnie Brae" in existence until at least the 1940s. If Rick Hamman's map has any accuracy in this regard, the location of the physical flag-stop, if any existed, was near the north end of the road, which coincides with the only place where residences are on both sides of the right-of-way.

Modern site of Bonnie Brae, looking north. The Christmas Tree farm is at the end of this road, which was the right-of-way until 1934. The flag-stop was probably somewhere in this clearing.
Regardless of the actual status of the flag-stop, it ceased functioning at latest by 1934 when the Boulder Creek Branch was removed. The right-of-way through the area became Rose Acres Lane and is still passable today. Heading south to Felton Depot, the right-of-way passes through the parking lot of Rose Acres Daybreak Camp and then continues for another half-mile before dead-ending at a fence and a hedge. Heading north, the right-of-way passes through a Christmas Tree farm before resuming on the opposite side on its journey to Brackney. Other than the paved right-of-way, no visible remnant of the railroad survives in the Bonnie Brae area.

  • Clark, Donald Thomas, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).

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