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Friday, April 18, 2014

Edric Spur

The history of the Southern Pacific Railroad's operations in the Santa Cruz Mountains is sometimes a bit of a mystery. One of those mysteries is Edric, a spur located just south of the southern portal of the Summit Tunnel, 63.3 miles south of San Francisco via Alameda Point. Edric was a short-lived spur in a geographically isolated area. Laurel was 0.7 miles to the south while Wright was 1.3 miles north through the tunnel. The purpose of what Edric was, therefore, is a bit obvious.

The area that would become Edric in 1902, taken in
1882. Note the southern portal of the Summit Tunnel.
In 1893, the redwood-frame northern portal of the Summit Tunnel was replaced with a large, standard-gauged concrete portal. Part of the reason for this improvement was because a natural spring was regularly flooding the tunnel. The other reason, though, was that the mountain route was to be standard-gauged at some point in the near future. Since there was no continuous damage being done to the southern portal, it remained a wood-timber structure as visible in the photograph at left. It was only large enough to support narrow-gauged trains and the tunnel width had not been expanded despite the improvements made at Wright.

The first mention of Edric coincides with the start of widening along this route in 1902. Although it seems only employee timetables and agency books record the existence of this little freight stop, the dates alone tell of its purpose. While the other three portals of the mile-long tunnels had adjacent towns to support work crews, the southern Summit portal had none and needed a supply base. The banks of Burns Creek and a small open flat just before the Burns Creek Trestle for a spur provided just the space for this operation. Again, in the photograph at left one can observe a structure above and behind the tunnel, wood piles to the left of the trestle, and a small pond to the right. This area was not heavily populated but between Frederick Hihn's logging operations and the town of Laurel nearby, it was also not deserted. In fact, Hihn's logging operations restarted in 1902 in Soquel Creek between Laurel and Edric, with a large operation using a localized railroad and a cable system hauling freight cars up to Laurel station.

The southern portal after
reconstruction in 1908.
At Edric, Southern Pacific built a small spur measuring 134' long (later lengthened to 234'), long enough to part two or three narrow-gauged flat cars (later large enough for three or four standard-gauged cars). This spur was probably located on the west bank of Burns Creek turning northward where the main line crossed over the trestle. (In later years, a tunnel repair car was parked here, though it was not on tracks). When the actual reconstruction of the Summit Tunnel began is not known. What is known is that the right-of-way to Wright was standard-gauged and that construction of the Summit Tunnel had begun when the San Francisco Earthquake hit in 1906. Construction was immediately halted and the widening of the tunnel became an entirely new project: full reconstruction. The Summit Tunnel sat on the San Andreas fault and the fault had shifted significantly in the temblor. Like the town of Wright, Edric was forced to adjust its purpose toward reconstruction. Worse still, Edric, unlike Wright, was completely isolated, stranded between two tunnels. Fortunately, the Glenwood Tunnel had only sustained minor damage and was quickly repaired to allow narrow-gauge traffic to Edric. For the next two years, construction at Edric would lead to a concrete southern portal to the tunnel and a long concrete, brick, and steel-reinforced tunnel heading 300 feet in until being downgraded to redwood timber. This later addition was to help support the tunnel as it passed through a landslide-prone sandstone hillside and to help reinforce it against a natural gas explosion.

Repair, enlargement, and upgrading of the southern portal ended in 1908 when a fully-operation standard-gauge train was able to successfully pass through the summit once again, two years after the entire passage had been destroyed. Edric closed up shop soon after, disappearing from timetables and agency books after January 1909. For whom Edric was named after remains a mystery for now.

Citations:

  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Southern Pacific Railroad, Officers, Agencies & Stations, 1902 to 1909.
  • Southern Pacific Railroad, Coast Division Time Tables, 1902 to 1909.

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