Author Statement

This website is a constant work-in-progress, with articles updated regularly throughout the site. Much of the information comes from local railroad fans such as yourselves. If you have information regarding local railroads, photographs or railroad documents, or you feel a mistake has been made or information omitted from an article, leave a comment on the appropriate page or email me at This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Non-Existent Stations

Through years of researching timetables, maps, and primary source documents, one phenomenon has become clear: there are stations in the Santa Cruz Mountains that never existed. Oh, there are a lot of stations along the route, especially when you include all the sidings and spurs and freight stops along the way. Some existed for the entire sixty years of the route while others were fleeting ghosts of stops, appearing on a single time table before disappearing into obscurity. Yet there are those stations and stops that were dreams and not reality, those that map-makers noted yet no contemporary source ever corroborated, and those whose geographic locale demanded a stop that never came to be. These are the phantom stations alone the Southern Pacific Railroad's Mountain route:

Gibbs Station:
Perhaps the most persistent in my studies has been the stop called Gibbs Station. The Gibbs Ranch Resort was a real enough place. Located in today's Weston Road subdivision north of Scotts Valley, the resort was a short-lived camp ground operated by Albert W.J. Gibbs and his family. They had owned the property since at least 1878 and part of the South Pacific Coast Railroad's right-of-way passed through a corner of the resort. It is highly possible that, at the time, the resort was only accessible via a stage road that appears on maps as East Hill Road off of East Zayante Road and may have originally been called Alameda Boulevard, though this name sounds too glorious for what it was. More likely, the stage route crossed the right-of-way at Zayante station where a spur sat for no known reason at the top of a steep switch-back. That switch-back continues even today over the right-of-way up to the Weston Road area via a steep fire road, improved in the late 1990s to support evacuation in the event of damage to Weston's two primary exit roads.

The apocryphal Gibbs Station sign over the entrance to Mike Swift's home
in the Weston Road area of Scotts Valley.
Rob Lange, a local researcher, was told stories by locals about the station and explored the area around where Donald Clark had noted the station once stood. This researcher, as well, talked with local resident Mike Swift, who lives in the old Ranch Resort dining cottage. Sure enough, an old dilapidated wagon road was discovered running along the hillside near where the maps pointed in the Zayante Creek basin. But little other evidence suggests that this was a thriving station, and the closest route up to the Weston Road area is via a fire road located over half a mile north of the site where the right-of-way has washed out and the Santa Cruz Water District has rerouted around the washout.

Perhaps the most telling evidence that the station never existed, though, was the brief history of its post office. Gibbs operated a post office at the site from November 28, 1900 to 1906, and again from 1907 to 1916. Yet this post office was likely on the site of the resort rather than beside the railroad tracks. When in 1916 it was relocated to Zayante Station, this probably was less of a move than it seemed. Zayante was likely always the stop for Gibbs along the right-of-way and the placement of the post office alongside the tracks at Zayante matches post offices located elsewhere along the right-of-way.

However sad it sounds, it seems that the Gibbs Station sign that now hangs over the driveway to Mike Swift's property, the former camp ground and dining area for Gibbs Ranch Resort, is apocryphal at best. The resort certainly existed, but the station was never its own. "Gibbs Station" is simply Zayante Station, and no Southern Pacific time table or agency book every mentioned its existence.

Zayante Lakes:
Zayante Lakes Road.
Stated quite simply, the labeling of Zayante Lakes as a flag-stop was an observational mistake by Donald Clark. The site is noted in only one map from 1927 and that map clearly shows the site as being a housing subdivision, not a railroad stop. The name was likely a reference to a series of swimming holes that were artificially made along Zayante Creek in this area, possibly when the subdivision was established in 1925. The ruins of some of these swimming holes are still visible along the creek. A short road adjacent to Zayante Creek Market & Deli (the Z-Store) still is called Zayante Lakes Road, though the sign is currently missing noting it as such.

Original subdivision proposal map of Tanglewood, 1907. (Howard Rugg)
A location dear to my heart because I grew up in this neighborhood, Tanglewood was regrettably never a railroad stop. Indeed, its existence probably helped convince the Southern Pacific to abandon the Felton branch in 1909. When Tanglewood was first built south of Felton by Weltha A. Bell in 1907, she named the subdivision after Nathaniel Hawthorne's book Tanglewood Tales for Boys & Girls. Hihn owned the land previously and the earliest plans of the site included only residential properties beside West San Lorenzo Road and the railroad right-of-way. But improvements to the property in June 1909 helped prove that the railroad had departed by that time. When the main railroad line was standard-gauged between 1906 and 1909, the old Felton branch was not. When the Mountain route reopened following the completion of tunnel repairs at Glenwood, the Felton branch was abandoned rather than upgraded. The route noted as passing Tanglewood was a victim of that abandonment. No time tables note Tanglewood having ever been a stop and even the subdivision plans do not note a station there. Following the railroad's abandonment, Tanglewood grew into a small village with its own gas station, market, auto garage, restaurant, and even a hotel.

Forest Lakes:
Forest Lakes advertisement, c. 1908. (Howard Rugg)
Similar to Tanglewood, Forest Lakes was a subdivision created by Weltha A. Bell, with Les Ashley acting as property manager for the subdivision. The name was a reference to two artificial swimming holes that were built within the subdivision, one of which still survives today visible alongside Lakeview Drive. Forest Lakes was a previously owned by Frederick Hihn, who owned a milling operation deeper in the forest. For roughly ten years, Hihn had operated a station within the future Forest Lakes area called Fahihn Switch. The switch was a reference to a spur that ran up modern Lakeview Drive to his mill. However, there is no evidence that Forest Lakes had a station of its own after Hihn had vacated the properties. Despite the railroad passing through the subdivision briefly (possibly for less than a year), like Tanglewood the Felton branch was abandoned and taken up, leaving the right-of-way for further development. While Tanglewood has devolved into an outlying area of Felton, Forest Lakes remains a community with its own mutual water company and local traditions, all based off of the original subdivision built around 1908.

North Brookdale Station:
North Brookdale Station, noted on 1909 property survey map.
(San Lorenzo Valley Museum)
The catalyst that started this more in-depth analysis of stations and stops along the right-of-way, North Brookdale Station never existed. Created through the advertising logic of a local subdivision surveyor, the only mention of North Brookdale Station is in a 1909 property map of the Brookdale area. The proposed site for the station was in a clearing beside Irwin Way, just before the road crosses over the San Lorenzo River. While there were railroad stations at Brookdale (formerly Reed) and at Harris (formerly Boulder and Grover mills), no evidence in railroad time tables or agency books mentions a stop at North Brookdale. This site, directly labeled on a map, is purely apocryphal.

Obviously history is fickle and I know a few people will be disappointed with these observations and findings. Unfortunately, history is not what we wish it to be, but only what was. Still, if you believe that any of these were in fact stations despite my evidence suggesting otherwise, please feel free to suggest as much and note your reasons in the comments below. Also, if you have heard of other stations in the mountains that I have not mentioned on my station lists, mention them below here and I will see what I can find out concerning them.

1 comment:

  1. Derek, I think what you say rings true. As people tried to develop and promote this lovely though far out area, having transportation was key to getting there. So having stations on the maps allowed for a developer to generate interest then approach the trains and say look at this interest.. you should build a station and you'll make money.

    Generally those with vision are not those with money. If a developer is well heeled he can build out his subdivision and then the commercial and transportation niceties nearby. Usually though you have to have the infrastructure in place for people to consider buying a place.

    Good work

    Gregg Camp