|San Juan Pacific Railway corporate advertising logo.|
|Original 500 stock certificate for the San Juan|
Pacific Railway Company, 1908.
Unsurprisingly, one immediate problem that the railroad encountered was a negative relationship with the Southern Pacific at Chittenden. Although there were plans to connect the Ocean Shore track at Santa Cruz with the San Juan Pacific track at Chittenden, the Southern Pacific had made this virtually impossible and a junction at Chittenden was required, for which the San Juan Pacific paid dearly. Two transfer tracks installed to the south of the Southern Pacific tracks acted as their holding yard, but the original plan to run the track over or under the Southern Pacific line never came to fruition owing to the failure of the Ocean Shore to connect its lines. Another problem proved to be customers. Much like the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad, the San Juan Pacific was dependent partially on local farmers along the route, but the railroad was completed at the tail-end of the growing season forcing the railroad to wait a year before those profits would be realised. Meanwhile, the cement plant was still being constructed and was not expected to open until early 1908.
Thus, passenger service ended up being the railroad's first venture, despite only having a single locomotive and passenger car. In mid-October, the company hired a local coach-driver as the conductor and branded the track "The Old Mission Route" in the hopes that Spanish revivalism and romanticism would draw customers to the isolated and decaying mission. Generally low maintenance costs and public interest in the line kept it alive that first winter. Unfortunately, a financial panic in November 1907 stalled all work on the connecting lines and also stopped construction on the cement plant. Everything hung in the balance.
Meanwhile, another project was underway at the end of the San Juan Pacific route. On August 3, 1907, the narrow-gauged San Juan Southern Railway was incorporated to connect the cement plant to the limestone sources in San Juan Canyon. The overenthusiastic goals of the project visualised a six-mile track to a site called Flintsville, i.e. Thomas Flint's ranch. Furthermore, plans were put in place to extend this track another six miles to the Underwood Ranch. Ultimately, three miles was built by the time the November panic forced construction to halt. Whether the track was ever used is another question. There are no records attesting to narrow-gauged rolling stock owned by the company and the track, even if it were used. Company timetables in February 1908, however, suggest, probably inaccurately, that the track was not only used, but did in fact extend up to Underwood. But Interstate Commerce Commission records report in June 1909 that only three miles were built and it was no longer in use. Regardless, any evidence of this route has been removed by later roads that have since been built on the company's right-of-way.
Things went badly for the San Juan Pacific after 1907. Revenue was severely down because of the panic and the cement plant was hardly functioning. Passenger serves ended in May, 1908, freight was infrequent. A harsh winter in early 1910 washed out track near the Pajaro River and it took months to repair them, and then in March 1911, the bridge over the river collapsed in a storm. It was not repaired until July, but by then it was too late. The company ceased all operations in November and was put up for sale in January 1912.
For six months, the San Juan Pacific was a dead entity. Then, on May 12, 1912, a new organisation called the California Central Railroad was founded to attempt to rehabilitate the former right-of-way and put it to use. The purchaser was the Old Mission Cement Company, a new corporation that purchased the abandoned San Juan Portland Cement plant and all of its stocks, including those in the San Juan Pacific. This new railroad would not have the grandiose plans of its predecessor (although it would advertise them from time-to-time) and its corporate management would be entirely linked to the fate of the cement company. Only eight miles of track were maintained, that between Chittenden and the cement plant near San Juan Junction. From 1912 to 1916, the railroad was mostly a conveyor of equipment to the plant, which reopened in 1916.
|Old Mission Cement Company plant near San Juan, with tracks visible in the background and at left, c. 1915.|
Photo by S.D. Leman. [QuarriesandBeyond.org]
|Map of the California Central Railroad route, c. 1915. Drawn by C.A. Logan. [QuarriesandBeyond.org]|
The Route Today:
|The tracks still in place near San Juan Junction. [GeologyCafe.com]|
A plaque commemorating the railroad was erected by E Clampus Vitus and can be found on Mission Vineyard Road beside the San Juan Inn.
Citations & Credits:
- Clough, Charles W. and Bobbye Sisk Temple. San Juan Bautista: The Town, the Mission & the Park. Quill Driver Books, 1996.
- Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
- Nanney, Duncan. Personal correspondence.
- Pepper, George. Personal correspondence.
- Robertson, Donald B. Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: Vol 4: California. Caxton Press, 1986.