|Map of Rancho Salsipuedes, 1853. (UCSC Special Collections)|
|The Chittenden community center, showing a small general store, c. 1900. (Santa Cruz Public Libraries)|
|El Pajaro Springs postcard, c. 1910. (CardCow.com)|
|1906 San Francisco Earthquake damage at Chittenden.|
(Granite Rock Company)
|Chittenden's small post office building with a man posing out front, 1900. (Santa Cruz Public Libraries)|
|Boxcars damaged by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, at Chittenden.|
(Granite Rock Company)
Around the time that Chittenden as a community was fading, the railroad operations out of the station received an unexpected boost. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 certainly helped in that it increased demand for all building supplies, such as the mineral, clay, and limestone deposits in and around the San Benito and San Juan valleys. For at least a year already, the Ocean Shore Electric Railroad was intending to pass through Chittenden Gap to connect to a proposed mainline route in the San Joaquin Valley. But a group of trigger-happy investors decided that a route to San Juan Bautista would help progress things a bit faster. When negotiations with the Southern Pacific Railroad failed, the group relocated their planned northern terminus from Betabel to Chittenden. The San Juan Pacific Railway was incorporated on May 4, 1907, and construction began almost at once out of Chittenden with the route completed August 30.
Initial plans were to build the railroad's right of way directly under the Southern Pacific tracks with a yard and station built on their northern side. But this goal was for another day. Initially, they crammed in a two-track yard on the south side, between the Southern Pacific tracks and the Pajaro River embankment. A small freight platform and passenger shelter were erected beside the tracks. The tracks were connected to a Southern Pacific siding on either side allowing entry and exit in either direction along the line. Curiously, the railroad had no wye at either end, suggesting there was possibly a turntable somewhere along the line (and potentially at both ends). No evidence for a turnable, however, has been found. The northern water towers were kept at Chittenden just before the Pajaro River bridge crossing to the east.
|San Juan Pacific passenger shelter and freight platform at Chittenden, 1908. (Santa Cruz Public Libraries)|
For the remainder of its life, Chittenden Station was more a transfer point between the San Juan Pacific (later California Central) and the Southern Pacific. Until early 1909, passengers transferred here for rides down to San Juan Bautista on the "Old Mission Route" and there was occasional bustle at the stop, but that all collapsed pretty quickly when financial difficulties ended passenger service permanently along the line. When the California Central took over in 1912, it did not resume passenger service. From 1916 to 1929, cars from the Old Mission Cement Company plant south of San Juan Bautista would transfer to passing Southern Pacific trains for delivery to various customers. Meanwhile, empties cars or cars with cement supplies would return to the sidings awaiting shuttling back to the plant. This was what kept Chittenden alive for so long. The town's post office had closed June 15, 1923, and the town had disappeared in the meantime. All that was left was a tiny freight transfer yard.
In 1930, the cement plants switched to using trucks exclusively for transport and the California Central essentially ceased to exist. The route rusted and Chittenden became a silent unused flag stop. In 1937, the last train passed up the Old Mission Route, depositing its remaining rolling stock on the Southern Pacific line for sale out of county. The route was dismantled and Chittenden's purpose to the railroad was officially ended. During World War II, Southern Pacific quietly closed Chittenden station on April 7, 1942, and it ceased to be a flag stop. It remained as a potential freight stop into the mid-1950s but was likely never used during this time. El Pajaro Springs is surprisingly still listed on Google Maps as a site to the west of Soda Lake, but no structures appear in the area. The area is classified as unincorporated Santa Cruz County land and, with the exception of a florist, there are no commercial structures remaining in Chittenden today.
Official Railroad Information:
On the Southern Pacific Coast Division, Chittenden Station was 91.9 miles from San Francisco via the mainline track through San José, and it was 28.6 miles from Santa Cruz. It included 123 car lengths of siding and spur space, which may or may not have included a special track to Soda Lake, where a mining firm was always attending to the lake's minerals.
For the San Juan Pacific, Chittenden was mile marker 10.0 along their lines, which set 0.0 miles at San Juan Junction. In the first year of operation, passenger service ran both directions three times per day, but that ended in early 1909. Fewer records are available for the California Central Railroad since it operated freight exclusively along roughly 8 miles of track. Chittenden's mile marker or its trackage capacity are unknown.
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
|1917 USGS Map showing Chittenden area with original trackage.|
- Clark, Donald. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2003.
- Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.