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Friday, July 12, 2013

Newell Junction Spur & Flag-Stop

Map showing Shingle Springs & Newell Junction at the base
of Newell Creek near Ben Lomond. (Courtesy Duncan Nanney)
Newell Creek was named after a man from Maine named Addison Newell who established a small farm alongside the creek that later bore his name in 1867. Newell sold his ranch, which sat immediately beside the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Transportation Company flume, in January 1875, nine years before the railroad would pass beside his property. A possible relative, F.W. Newell, was also settled alongside the creek during this time and may have stayed in the area. Addison died in 1892 and likely did not benefit from the flag-stop that later bore his name.

When the South Pacific Coast Railroad first arrived at Newell Creek in late 1884, it established a flag-stop and a short siding at the site and named it "Newell Creek School House Siding," after the nearby school. When the Southern Pacific Railroad leased the South Pacific Coast in 1887, it changed the name to simply "Newell Creek." The 1899 Station Book mentions the site, stating that the flag-stop for Newell Creek was 76.6 miles south of San Francisco via Alameda Point. The only other note regarding the stop is that it had a class-B freight station, meaning that at least one siding was at the stop.

In 1904, Timothy Hopkins and A.C. Bassett's California Timber Company, incorporated the previous year from the consolidation of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company and Big Basin Lumber Company holdings, began operations at Newell Creek, changing the name of the flag-stop at the base of the grade to Newell Junction. Using old and new equipment, the CTC built their mill 1 1/2 miles north of the junction with the Southern Pacific line. The operations there picked up fast and up to 75,000 board feet of lumber were shipped daily during peak times. Hopkins and Bassett used their connections with Southern Pacific to convert the short siding into a full spur to the mill and beyond.

Lumbermen waiting on a narrow gauge flatcar for a pickup from the engine. (Courtesy Rick Hamman)
Through this, the CTC built the last industry-use narrow-gauge railroad built in the Santa Cruz Mountains, even while the main line was being broad gauged. A special switching yard was built at the mill site, which currently sits near and under the base of the Loch Lomond dam, to allow the transfer of materials from narrow- to broad-gauged cars. The right-of-way to the branch-line tracks at Newell Junction were triple railed to accommodate the gauge of the main line tracks while not abandoning the narrow gauge tracks. The railroad that ran along the spur track became known as the Newell Creek Railroad, though in reality most of the equipment was Southern Pacific Company rolling stock. North of the mill site, the narrow-gauge continued two miles into the forests of a canyon that today is Loch Lomond. For the first year, the engine Felton, popularly known as "Dinky", operated in Newell Creek.

California Timber Company Mill alongside Newell Creek. (Courtesy Bruce MacGregor)
Fire struck the mill near the end of its initial season in 1905, destroying much of what was not shipped, though the logs in the mill pond were saved. Everything was rebuilt the following year and a new narrow-gauge engine was purchased just for the mill and christened Kitty. For the next eight years, the mill would log off the great redwood wealth of the Newell Creek canyon with increasing yields each year.

Kitty sitting on a triple-railed track in the Newell Creek property. (Courtesy Rick Hamman)
Newell Junction Flag-Stop structure. (Courtesy The Valley Press)
The mill itself remained in operation until 1913, though the flag-stop remained as a passenger stop until the line was discontinued in January 1934. The flag-stop that was built there was identical to the one built at Brackney. It consisted of a single wall with an open divider which spanned down the center of the structure. Wooden benches lined the wall and both sides of this center divider. A square low-peaked roof hung above the structure with a sign—"Newell Jct."—mounted on it facing toward the tracks. The structure likely survived until 1937 or later. After the train was discontinued, the tracks to Newell Creek remained until the entire line was pulled in 1937. The remnant spur was popularly—and at least in one source officially—named the Old Newell Creek Branch Railroad. Newell Creek Road probably developed alongside the railroad right-of-way prior to the tracks' removal, though it is also possible that the road replaced the tracks directly.

An August 19, 1923, internal Southern Pacific timetable includes Newell Junction in its lists of stops along the branch line. Newell Junction is noted as being 75.9 miles south of San Francisco via the Mayfield Cut-Off and is noted as a spur junction still, despite the spur no longer being in use. It is also noted as being 3.8 miles south of Boulder Creek, 1.2 miles north of Glen Arbor, and 0.4 miles southeast of Ben Lomond. In addition, a Southern Pacific route map of the area from October 1922 includes Newell Junction. No other timetables in this collection currently note the site.

Image of Newell Junction Flag-Stop Site. (Courtesy Google Street View)
Today, all of the original California Timber Company grounds are submerged under the Santa Cruz City Water District reservoir known as Loch Lomond, which is accessible through Lompico. The dam was built in 1960 and the valley flooded three years later. It currently provides a majority of the drinking water for the City of Santa Cruz. The railroad right-of-way followed roughly what is the path of the current Newell Creek Road, which even today is notable for having rather gentle curves and a fairly even grade despite being a mountain road. Newell Junction's flag-stop shed was located directly on the present-day intersection of Glen Arbor Road and Newell Creek Road.

  • Clark, Donald Thomas, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Hamman, Rick, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Southern Pacific System: List of Officers, Agencies and Stations, 1899.

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