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Friday, December 11, 2015

Rapetti

The West Side of Santa Cruz was rarely as busy in regards to railroading activity as other parts of the county, but one industry dominated the scene beside Antonelli Pond from 1908 to 1923: the San Vicente Lumber Company's planing mill. In fact, Moore Creek was dammed to become a mill pond for precisely that reason and was only called Antonelli Pond in later years. The original name was Mazzoni Pond. The pond was flanked on the north and the south by two separate railroad lines. To the north was the Coast Line Railroad mainline, owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad and built in 1907. To the south was the Ocean Shore Electric Railroad mainline, built a two years earlier. Neither railroad had a need to establish a stop there until 1908 when the San Vicente Lumber Mill moved in, at which point the Coast Line established Orby and the Ocean Shore, Rapetti. Rapetti was named after Louis Rapetti who owned the property before selling it to the lumber company.

1917 Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the San Vicente Mill at Rapetti. (UCSC Digital Collections)
Of the two stops, Rapetti was the busier because the Ocean Shore Railroad was the connected directly to the redwood tracts up above San Vicente Creek near Swanton. In fact, when the Ocean Shore Railroad formally abandoned the tracks in 1921, the San Vicente Lumber Company purchased the entire Southern Division of the railroad and operated it for another two years, only abandoning the tracks in 1923. Although the tracks never connected to San Francisco, the Ocean Shore Railroad always branded itself a passenger and freight system so it makes sense that Rapetti maintained a full depot at its stop. The depot included a short-lived post office (operating April 6, 1911, to December 31, 1912), a general store, and a company management office, all of which sat on the north side of the tracks. To the south of the tracks, a small company village was built composed of eighteen small cottages and a boarding house for seasonal unmarried laborers.

The San Vicente Lumber Company mill at Rapetti and Orby, c. 1910. Ocean Shore tracks in the foreground.
The mill itself functioned in multiple capacities, serving as both a fully-operating planing mill and the Ocean Shore Railroad's maintenance and storage yard. A long looping track ran from the station to the west, passing immediately beside the mill before looping back to the east where it met the Southern Pacific track. In addition to the switchback at the Southern Pacific Union Depot, this was the only other location where the Southern Pacific and Ocean Shore tracks had an interchange, and this was the easier and more practical of the two junctions. Near the southern end of the half-circle loop sat a short spur for the railroad's maintenance shop and a car shed for overnight storage of the railroad's Southern Division locomotives. The Ocean Shore kept enough trackage here to support 25 cars, suggesting more sidings or spurs may have existed than the map above suggests. Two more spurs were located off of the Southern Pacific end of the track terminating directly beside the mill at the mill pond. Although the map above does not show it, it seems almost certain that the Ocean Shore's southern turntable was at Rapetti as well, probably just beyond the car maintenance shed or beside the storage shed. No other place along the line in Santa Cruz could support a turntable and the trains most certainly did not back up for the fifteen miles to Swanton.

San Vicente Lumber Company mill, 1921. (Photo by Emanuel Fritz) [Bancroft Library]
The mill was divided between two primary facilities: the large saw mill and the smaller planing mill. The planing mill was located directly to the north of the Ocean Shore car shed, with numerous lumber sheds lining the east side of the loop track. The larger saw mill was to the west of the loop beside the pond with conveyors reaching into the pond to bring in logs for processing. A shingle mill to create shingles, railroad ties, grape stakes, and other split stuff was also maintained as a part of this larger structure. The arrangement of the facility and the tracks suggests that the Ocean Shore was responsible for delivering the logs to the mill and the Southern Pacific was responsible for taking the logs to market via one of their two routes out of the county, hence the tracks were located directly beside the shingle mill for easy loading.

Lumber sorting bins at the end of the Southern Pacific Railroad spurs beside the San Vicente Lumber Company mill at Rapetti. A flatcar can be seen at right being loaded, 1921. (Photo by Emanuel Fritz) [Bancroft Library]
When the Ocean Shore Railroad went bankrupt in summer 1920, the milling company leased the tracks and rolling stock so they could finish harvesting the redwood alongside San Vicente Creek and its many tributaries. That task took them just to the end of 1923. In early 1924, the tracks were abandoned and the rolling stock was sold off. The tracks were removed over the following years, eventually becoming Delaware Avenue below the former mill. The mill was dismantled and the lot made vacant until new businesses moved onto the site the 1960s. The site now serves as the college administrative building for University of California, Santa Cruz.

The lumber mill from Antonelli Pond in its final years, 1921. [Bancroft Library]

Official Railroad Information:
Very few timetables survive for the Ocean Shore Railroad but some essential facts are known. The station did not appear in company information until after August 1907 and probably not until 1908. Rapetti was located 2.0 miles from the Santa Cruz Beach Depot, which sat above the bluff beside the Southern Pacific Union Depot yard. Besides having a engine house and a maintenance yard, it likely included  a turntable and additional spurs, the total of which could hold 25 standard-gauged cars. A station structure was located north of the tracks beside Cliff Street (now Natural Bridges Drive) and freight-unloading platforms were located to the north of the car shed. The station was the last to be abandoned along the Ocean Shore Railroad's Southern Division, abandoned permanently in December 1923 when the San Vicente Lumber Company closed its mill.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.954˚N, 122.057˚W

The site of Rapetti Station is the northwest corner of Natural Bridges Drive (originally Cliff Drive) and Delaware Avenue (originally the Ocean Shore Railroad right-of-way). The mill complex occupied the entire property on the west side of Natural Bridges Drive to the still-present Union Pacific Railroad tracks. While a trestle bridge still crosses Moore Creek on the north side of Antonelli Pond, the trestle that once occupied the south side has since been replaced with a fill. Although technically private property, it is unlikely that anybody will stop you from looking around the area. All evidence of the Ocean Shore Railroad and the mill are now gone except for some barely visible piers left over from the mill's conveyor system that still reside in the middle of the pond.

Citations & Credits:

  • Clark, Donald. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary

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