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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Los Gatos Trestle

The approach to the bridge from Los Gatos.
Photograph circa 1920s.
Cats Canyon hosted two trestles, one that crossed over a feeder creek and a larger and more important one: the Los Gatos Trestle. It passed over the creek just south of the town of Los Gatos. This trestle was heavily photographed over the years, and its demolition in 1940 was documented, unlike that of virtually all the other trestles.

The trestle was located about midway down the canyon, roughly a third of the way to Alma from Los Gatos. The original narrow-gauged trestle was likely built of redwood piers. The later trestle was built in the late 1890s from a prefabricated American Bridge Company. The bridge was installed over two high concrete piers that were linked to the right-of-way via redwood pier causeways, visible in the photograph at right. Those piers ended at concrete curbs that then continued the right-of-way. Both sides of the trestle had virtually identical designs, but there was a slight curve to the trestle.

The trestle was demolished almost immediately after the Southern Pacific got permission to abandoned the route in 1940. It is unknown why there was such an urgency but a photograph (below) of the trestle being demolished proves the case. It is possible that the photo was misdated since evidence by Brian Liddicoat suggest the tracks were not removed until some years later. In any case, all that remains of the trestle are the towering concrete piers and concrete curbs found on either side. The San Jose Water District access road, doubling as the Los Gatos Creek Walk, follows the right-of-way in this area before climbing up a hill. Continuing straight rather than up brings you eventually to the northern curb of the trestle. The southern curb is only accessible via hiking through brush and crossing the creek.

A postcard showing the underside of the original narrow gauge trestle, prior to 1903.
A broad gauge train passing over the trestle in 1938 during the final years of operation. The train is hauling freight.
The Los Gatos Creek Trestle on a winter's day, circa 1930s.
The first trestle south of Los Gatos was removed on June 21, 1940, immediately after the route was shut down.
Bill Harry took this photograph. (Courtesy Bruce McGregor)
Northern curb of the trestle looking south. Strange concrete box sits at the top with graffiti reading "Boom Sucka".
With a little work, this is the view looking out across the bridge toward the opposite, southern side. It appears that there is still a clearing for the right-of-way over there, as well as some remnants of wood pilings, probably from telephone poles. 
A view from above looking south with both piers visible as well as the right-of-way on the opposite bank. The area remains heavily overgrown and forested, and the opposite bank appears to be clear but unused.
  • Rick Hamman, California's Central Coast Railways (1980).

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