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Friday, June 14, 2013

Brackney Flag-Stop

Location of Brackney station and region (Courtesy Duncan Nanney)
It is common knowledge that the narrow pair bridges along CA State Route 9 between Felton and Ben Lomond are two of the most despised heavily-trafficked bridges in the county. What many do not know, however, is that the small community located there, Brackney, was once the site of a Southern Pacific Railroad flag-stop.

The area was named after Alonzo L. Brackney, a Pennsylvanian farmer who settled in the region at some point prior to 1889. He had built a small ranch on the river's jetty and transcripts available in the UC Santa Cruz Digital Collection note that Brackney purchased the entire jetty on May 18, 1889, from Frederick A. Hihn. This purchase was later confirmed on January 1, 1898, in official court records. The location of this ranch provided a crucial link between the Zayante Rancho (Felton) and the land being developed in Glen Arbor. Brackney's land was to encompass the entirety of the river jetty all the way to the Southern Pacific Railroad's right-of-way which ran along an embankment on the eastern hillside. During this period, the small flag-stop  was probably constructed to cater to Brackney's family and workers. Curiously, the location of Brackney was named "San Lorenzo" during this period, suggesting the hopeful establishment of a township in the area that never came to be.

The sharp turn at Brackney before heading around the bend toward Glen Arbor. A guard rail was apparently needed for trains that were not calling at Brackney. (Courtesy The Valley Press)
Brackney never developed into anything more than a waypoint between Felton and Ben Lomond. A pair of bridges over the river was built in December 1897, according to the Mountain Echo, though the original bridges were placed at a much lower elevation in relation to the river. The current bridges were probably built in the 1930s, though the date boxes on the bridge were never filled in. The flag-stop itself didn't begin appearing on railroad timetables until this Southern Pacific Railroad began releasing more detailed internal timetables in the late 1910s or early 1920s. Of those timetables accessible to this author, the earliest mention of Brackney was on an August 19, 1923, timetable that placed Brackney 74.3 miles south of San Francisco via the Mayfield Cut-off. It also placed it 5.4 miles south of Boulder Creek and 0.4 miles north of Bonny Brae.

A small shelter was established there similar in design to others along the route, namely those at Filbert and Newell Junction. As can be seen in the image above, the curve at Brackney was significant and required a guard rail for trains not calling at the flag-stop. The area was also much more barren than it is today, with a large field to the right of the tracks where today that area is completely overgrown. Telephone wires also followed the tracks on the river side, as can be seen above, and a cattle grate can also be seen on either side of the tracks, suggesting there were some domesticated animals in the area.

The junction where once stood Brackney flag-stop. The right-of-way continues to the left down the service road. The shelter once was just beyond the gate on the left. The right-of-way continues directly behind the photographer.
Brackney went out of disuse following the closure of the Boulder Creek Branch in 1934 and the flag-stop was undoubtedly demolished. Today, the site of the flag-stop sits at the top of Brackney Road at a spilt in the road where a Santa Cruz Water District service road leads east away from the main road. A small clearing where the shelter once stood still remains, but little else does. This service road is the right-of-way and continued virtually undisturbed all the way to the Christmas Tree farm near Bonny Brae. Indeed, the top part of Brackney Road from this intersection to another service road gate located about 1/6 mile west constitutes a paved and repurposed portion of the right-of-way. It mostly follows a large hedge before the road turns toward State Route 9. From this other service gate, the right-of-way continues unobstructed until one reaches a private property built on the right-of-way near Glen Arbor. Unfortunately, all right-of-ways north of Glen Arbor are obscured by modern constructs, thus emphasizing the importance of those surviving passages in the Brackney area.

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


  1. Thanks for your article on Brackney - I am always looking for "Brackney" related history. I'll have to look up Alonzo in the so-called "Brackney Book" which is a listing of all male Brackney's in the U.S. and their descendants compiled by a man in Kansas City in 1969 as I recall. Ronald E. Brackney, Santa Clara, CA

  2. I ran out of time and wanted to add the following: When I youngster, sixties maybe, we were in the above area and came across a very large sign, in yellow I think, stating BRACKNEY in large
    letters which later disappeared. I remember my Dad going into a store across from the sign and
    the owner showed him a much smaller wooden sign and stated it was for a railroad stop that used to be there. I think the store is long gone but I've wondered if that sign was donated to a local museum. Of course, there is still Brackney Road in the area. Much later in 1983 my father was living in Turlock, CA and was contacted by a man named Richard Burr Brackney (born 1904) who was Alonzo's older son. Richard was a cowboy, ranchhand and owned a dairy at one time. He told us "Brackney" near Santa Cruz, CA, was named after an area where Alonzo rented out cabins to people who vacationed in them. Richard had a brother named Edward (born 1906) who had sons and there are additional descendants living today. Alonzo Lytle Brackney was a descendant of John Brackney of Butler County, Pennsylvania who had seven sons and six daughters. There is also a small town of Brackney, Pennsylvania (Zip Code: 18812) near the New York state line in Susquehanna County not too far from Binghamton, New York.

    1. Sorry I never got back to you. I've never seen the Brackney station sign. It was not donated to the SLV Museum or the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, so where it ended up is beyond me. It's good to learn some of this additional information about Brackney, though. This area was frequented by many tourists and little cottage cities appeared everywhere around the turn of the century. It seems Brackney evolved from a logging stop to a tourist resort like Brookdale, which is awesome. If you have any contact information for living relatives of Alonzo, I'd like to see if they have any photographs. Thanks!

    2. Alonzo was my great grandfather, Ed was my grandfather. In the late 80's, my dad took Ed and Richard on a road trip back to Brackney and the surrounding areas; they had a great time remembering and revisiting the areas where they spent their formative years.
      Bob Brackney, Mesa AZ

    3. Hey Bob! Great to hear from another Brackney relative. You don't happen to have any photographs of this property or station do you? I'm always looking for more material for my book and/or this website.

  3. Since it is only caught in a photograph at one other location, I'll repeat what I mentioned on the Inspiration Point page. A 'guard' rail is set narrower and in locations where once the wheels hit the dirt the damage caused by a 'jackknife' would be significant; this would be on bridges and ledges, but not tunnels, as tie replacement inside a tunnel would be nearly impossible. A 'guide' rail is used in switches to keep wheels from accidentally taking the wrong path. The photo above is of a 'check' rail, which was used in the early days to keep the drivers (those large wheels that power the train) on steam locomotives from climbing and slipping on sharp curves. Steam locomotives had ridged frames with no swivel (unless 'articulated'), but maybe there was just enough side-to-side play that a check rail could pull the inside wheel and thus keep the outside wheel from losing traction on the outside rail. Speed would not be a consideration, and with the cattle guards I've seen along the way, I wouldn't think that the trains were allowed to go too fast (but I'm just taking a guess).


  4. I am interested in the map at the top of this page that you credit to Duncan Nanney. I am currently recreating the broad gauge line through the Santa Cruz Mountains using the Trainz simulator program with a map generated using the TransDem application which layered a google topographical map with USGS elevation data for this area. Your site has been very helpful in helping accurately determine the precise locations of the right of way. It would help me if I could see the approximate location of the tracks in-between the locations you depict.
    It's very interesting seeing this area in raw elevation data 3D map without buildings or trees. I have been able to plot a reasonable right of way but I have been struggling with the curve at Brackney, trying to maintain the grade and a reasonable curve.
    Any info is appreciated.


    1. Noel, send me an email at and I will send you the Google Earth .kml file for my Google Map ( I think you'll find it more accurate than Duncan's at this point.