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 author@santacruztrains.com. This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Friday, November 17, 2017

Stations: Call of the Wild

The meadows and forested areas along upper Los Gatos Creek were considered by many to be some of the most picturesque lands in all of California. The fact that the South Pacific Coast Railroad decided to build its route through these lands made them only more popular. Two decades after Forest Grove and Eva had been founded 0.3 miles to the north and a five years after the San Francisco Earthquake, a new mountain retreat emerged on the east bank of Los Gatos Creek at its confluence with a seasonal stream, located one mile north of Wright's Station.

Boys hiking past Call of the Wild station, c. 1910s. [Gil Pennington]
Around 140 acres of this area had been purchased by Harry Ryan in 1906. Ryan was a frequent attendee of Josephine McCrackin's Monte Paraiso off Summit Road. McCrackin had served as a reporter for decades and advocated for the preservation of old growth redwood groves such as those at Big Basin and Big Trees. Visitors to her home included the photographer Andrew P. Hill, famous authors such as Ambrose Bierce, Samuel Clemons, and Bret Harte, and other late nineteenth century luminaries of the Wild West. Another friend of McCrackin's was Jack London, who otherwise lived in Los Gatos. Ryan and London were good friends who worked together and often vacationed in the Santa Cruz Mountains during the summers. When Ryan purchased his property, he asked London for permission to call the retreat "Call of the Wild Ranch and Sawmill," after London's famed book of the same name. Apparently London agreed.

Call of the Wild station structure, c. 1910s. [Beal, Highway 17]
Second growth redwoods at
Call of the Wild, c. 1910s.
[Los Gatos Public Library]
Call of the Wild quickly became a seasonal residential subdivision, much like those located throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. A small sulphur spring was discovered on the property and became an advertising draw for prospective buyers. As people began moving into the subdivision, Ryan renamed the property "Call of the Wild Summer Resort & Subdivision." In 1926, he built a large ranch house on the property for his own private use, and other amenities likely accompanied it.

The residential area was not directly along the Southern Pacific Railroad's right-of-way. In fact, it was across Los Gatos Creek and nearly half-a-mile away up a hillside. But the marketing potential of having a train stop for the subdivision was too high and the railroad granted Ryan a flag-stop in summer 1911. In March 1912, Ryan completed construction of a small station shelter for visitors to the area. It was designed to appear as a rustic log cabin to match the theme of the resort. Somewhat unusually, an American flag was used as the signalling flag to notify passing trains that a passenger wished to board. Around this time, the railroad installed a passing siding so that excursion trains could drop off passengers without impeding traffic. This may have also been used by Ryan for the portions of his property that he retained as a ranch, but no evidence suggests the stop was used for freight purposes. The county road to Wright and the Summit passed immediately beside the station.

Call of the Wild station structure in disrepair after it was abandoned, July 9, 1939. [Wilbur C. Whittaker]
Call of the Wild as a stop survived until the end of the railroad line in February 1940. Tracks in the area were damaged by the winter storm. Few people used the stop, however, especially after the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The station structure was abandoned in June 1933 and fell into disrepair. The siding may have been removed at this time or slightly earlier, but it was certainly gone by 1939. Only around forty people lived in the area at the time the branch line closed, suggesting Ryan's subdivision mostly failed and upper Los Gatos Creek remained largely unpopulated, as it is today. The San Jose Water Company purchased the Call of the Wild station site around 1936 but did not demolish the station structure until after the line was abandoned. Ryan died in 1958 and the remaining portions of his property were parcelled off. His ranch house was converted into a family residence within the subdivision and still survives today.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.151˚N, 121.959˚W

The site of Call of the Wild is visible just beyond a fence owned by the San Jose Water Company near the southern end of the drivable portion of Aldercroft Heights Road. Nothing survives of the station except a clearing and trespassing is not advised. The original trail that crossed Los Gatos Creek and travelled up to the subdivision is now lost. The subdivision itself still survives in a reduced state on Call of the Wild Road off the Old Santa Cruz Highway. The heart of the old community is at the end of Pineridge Way along Highland Way and Loma Prieta Way. The former path to the station is a largely-undefined property off Call of the Wild Road just before the turn for Pineridge Way.

The site of Call of the Wild, at right, along the former Southern Pacific right-of-way, May 2014. [Derek R. Whaley]
Citations & Credits:
  • Beal, Richard A. Highway 17: The Road to Santa Cruz. Pacific Group, 1991.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

9 comments:

  1. Derek, wasn't their a hunting club associated with Call of the Wild?

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  2. Not sure who is writing, but not that I am aware of. If you have information concerning a hunting club, please feel free to provide the source. I have not heard anything about a club in that area, though I wouldn't doubt it.

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  3. Derek, I live on Call of the Wild Rd., a private road off Old Santa Cruz Hwy. and have collected some information on Jack London and his Socialist and labor activist friend Harry Ryan, as well as the Call of the Wild train stop. Ryan bought 140 acres here in 1906 and obtained permission from London in 1908 to name it "Call of the Wild Ranch and Sawmill" (Book M Page 100 in Santa Clara Co. records).. Then Ryan started selling off lots and renting cabins near a sulfur hot springs that used to be just below our property.The train stopped about one half mile below there, so that people could get off and hike up to the spring and cabins which Ryan called "the Call of the Wild summer resort and subdivision". Hence came the name of the Call of the Wild train stop. There is a fire trail still coming up from near there on Aldercroft Heights Rd. I have an old newspaper photo of the wooden train stop structure circa 1917 shortly after it was built and other information about this area if you want copies. There is no evidence that Jack London ever visited Ryan's ranch, but there is evidence he did ride the train to Wright's Station and visited Bohemia, and he spent time writing at Ryan's office in San Jose. Harry's Ryan's house (built in 1926 ten years after London's death) is now a private residence on our road. We own one of the approximate 5 acre parcels that the ranch was divided into after his death in 1958.

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    1. Hello Janice, that information is all excellent. I've found quite a bit more than what is posted here, but it sounds like you still may have more than that. Please email me at whaleyland@gmail.com and we can discuss the matter further. Cheers!

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    2. This post and comment completely blew my mind. I knew the Jack London stuff (to some degree), but just now pieced together the fire road. I came across that fire road from Aldercroft Heights Road about 10 years ago. I followed it all of the way up to Call of the Wild and couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was for. Considering they tried to make it a tourist destination, not it makes total sense!

      I drove down Call of the Wild last week to check out the top of the fire road, and of course it's still there! Quite a steep hike, I remember.

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing about my 1st home! I was too young to remember anything except the stories my parents told us & the old blurry 8mm footage my parents attempted to take while we lived there. Always in my heart!

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  5. My March 21, 1937 Employees Timetable shows no siding at Call of the Wild.
    But there was a railroad telephone. Three of the five passenger trains listed stopped on flag here at this point in time.

    If ever this right of way is opened up to the public again, the walk between Call of the Wild and Wright's (exactly one mile) is particularly scenic. I walked it almost fifty years ago when the security here was not as tight. The woods were particularly thick and the roadbed extremely close in elevation with Los Gatos Creek.

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  6. Now that is interesting. Once upon a ride a friend who lived at Aldercroft Heights at the time took me by bike down Call of the Wild Road and then onto a "logging" road down to the creek and across to Aldercroft Heights. It was a one-time affair for me, but he used it more often.

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  7. Sue, you forgot to add that our father worked for the San Jose Water Works, as a purchasing Agent, in 1959 and he moved our family there for about a year or two. We were the last caretakers at the resort. We used to have pool parties for some of the alter boys from St. Claire’s Catholic Church under the supervision of Fr. William (Bill) Lester.

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