Author Statement

If you have information on local railroads, photographs or railroad documents, or you feel a mistake has been made or information omitted from an article, email me at author@santacruztrains.com. This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Friday, June 22, 2018

Stations: Eccles

Much like Kenville to the north, Eccles station did not begin as anything special. Built on the land of John Sanderson Eccles, the station acted as his private flag-stop for shipping goods and possibly aggregate from the sand hills that were located on his property. Eccles was an Irish gas-fitter who came to the United States in 1856. He moved from New York to Santa Cruz in 1875 and settled along Zayante Creek. Little else is known about the man. In 1878, he deeded 2.5 acres of land to the South Pacific Coast Railroad and grading crews passed through the area the next year. Undoubtedly, the stop was part of the arrangement.

Eccles as a stop appears in Southern Pacific agency books from the very beginning, but throughout its earlier years it was directly associated with the Union Mill on Lompico Creek. The branch for the Union Mill's long spur was located roughly 0.3 miles to the south of Eccles, but Eccles station itself may have been located further to the south as well since the railroad shifted its mile-marker location periodically in employee timetables. Its primary location, though, appears to have been at the place where Zayante School Road crossed the railroad tracks north of Olympia. The railroad installed a spur beside the tracks at Eccles in the early 1890s, presumably to park lumber flatcars while they awaited pickup by a passing train. The spur at Eccles was only 310 feet long, although the station did support a freight platform. A passenger shelter was later built there, possibly as late as 1910.

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 led to the standard gauging of the line and also signalled a demographic shift in the area around Eccles. The Union Mill shut down prior to the earthquake and the company declined upgrading their spur to standard-gauge, abandoning the site instead. Over the previous three decades, a tiny hamlet had developed at and around Eccles, probably populated primarily by seasonal mill and quarry workers, that included a general store, hostelry, and post office, the latter of which opened May 3, 1878. Following the earthquake, the area became an attractive resort location, predating Zayante Lakes to the north, Lompico to the west, and Olympia to the south. Evidence from postcards suggests that a number of small villas and resort hotels opened up in the hills on either side of Zayante Creek, including at the site of Camp MayMac (originally Camp Wastashi). And yet its success as a resort location proved unsustainable.

Eccles station shelter above Zayante Creek, c. 1912. [San Jose Mercury News]
Situated as it was on a hillside near the confluence of Lompico and Zayante Creeks, there was very little room for expansion at Eccles. Furthermore, its very suitability as a residential and agricultural area meant that there was little room for new commercial ventures in the area. Appearing 0.4 miles to the south beginning in 1900, a rival to Eccles appeared in the form of Olympia. For over a decade, this location remained a simple flag-stop, but its potential as a resort area was far better than Eccles' and, in 1913, a coup in the timetables occurred: Eccles was demoted to a flag-stop and Olympia replaced it as the premiere stop for the region. Like Eccles before it, Olympia benefited from access to sand quarries, providing it with an industrial purpose, but there was also much more room to expand since a large meadow sprawled on the west bank of Zayante Creek here and even the east bank provided substantial space for expansion. Two years later, on April 10, 1915, Olympia stole the post office from Eccles and the name Eccles quickly fell into disuse by the community.

The Eccles station sign on display at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. [Derek R. Whaley]
The station appeared and disappeared as a flag-stop on timetables for the remainder of the existence of the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains, but who used the station during this time and for what is unknown. It may well have still serviced a few small resorts in the area as a place where passengers could flag down a train or detrain, but the removal of the spur there around 1910 certainly ended its time as a freight stop. The shelter at Eccles may have been removed as early as 1916 or lasted for decades like the shelters as Zayante and Olympia. The stop was formally abandoned by the railroad August 31, 1942, later than the other stops on the line, suggesting that the railroad may have considered designating it the end of the line before choosing Olympia for that honor. This also suggests the tracks were removed only after that date. A fill just to the south of the Eccles station site connects it to the current end-of-track.

Roaring Camp Railroads' end-of-track just south of the site of Eccles, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0784N, 122.0508W

The site of Eccles is just off the north branch of Zayante School Road. Today, it serves primarily as a parking lot for local residents and no evidence of the railroad except the right-of-way and station site, now a clearing, remains. A sandstone wall at the stop may mark the site of the former freight platform. This site is publicly accessible off East Zayante Road. The station sign for the stop is on display at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History's history gallery.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

4 comments:

  1. Nice to have all this information in one place. Good job!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I always wondered what was in that vault as a kid. I walked by it everyday from my home on old zayanted school road to walk down madrone way to visit my friends up zayante. We used to call the road the old vault road. I wished I could see what was inside of the vault everyday. I moved to Oregon in 1978 but am coming to visit the old vault this summer as well as my old stomping grounds, the sand plants.

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  3. Eccles appears at the bottom of page 7 of the Coast Division
    Timetable of 1937 under "Additional Flag Stops" for all five
    passenger trains almost as though Eccles was considered as
    an "afterthought" by S.P. management, undeserving of placement
    on the main timetable. It is joined there by two places on
    the Mayfield Cutoff: Neal, later a regular stop through 1964,
    and the mysterious "Road Crossing', halfway between Monta Vista
    and Azule.

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  4. The Eccles Station sign: I can't pin the dates on signs with periods included, but the 'Call of the Wild' used one, so it really wouldn't help in backdating the shelter. Wider signs that state the mileage to major destinations were eventually replaced with shorter names (e.g. Laurel), but again, when? The museum sign really looks like it was bolted to a post (with its white paint washed off), so maybe the shelter was dismantled, and maybe it was to discourage the stop from being used. Really though, nobody could blame the company for discontinuing service when stops occurred every few hundred feet - the timetable doesn't make sense.

    Signals again: If a train stops or significantly slows, it must proceed to the next green signal before resuming full speed. This is very true for modern systems, and probably true with the earlier ones. Flag-stops are fine when signals are not controlling the line, but this stopping everywhere should have meant problematic operations - the timetable doesn't make sense.

    ReplyDelete