Friday, April 19, 2019

Freight Stops: Alameda Lumber Mill

North of the town of Boulder Creek, there are several tributaries of the San Lorenzo River that meander up either side of the valley's walls. Bear Creek, the second such stream, hosted several lumber mills along its length over the years, but the mill operated by the Alameda Lumber Company, owned by Austin S. and Oscar R. Harmon, was the longest-lived and most well known. The brothers were natives of Maine but moved to the San Lorenzo Valley in 1867 to work at Joseph W. Peery's mill on Two Bar Creek. After that mill closed, they tried some other professions before returning to the lumber industry.

In 1873, the brothers founded the Bear Creek Toll Road Company and spent two years creating a road between the small town of Lorenzo and Lexington south of Los Gatos. The goal of the project was to make it easier for lumber and split stuff to be hauled out of the upper San Lorenzo Valley to the Santa Clara Valley. Unfortunately for the Harmons, though, soon after the road was built, the San Lorenzo Valley Flume was completed, creating a more efficient and easier way to ship out lumber. Santa Cruz County eventually purchased the failed toll road in 1890 and it became Bear Creek Road.

Excerpt of the Official Map of Santa Cruz County, 1889, showing the location of the Harmon Brothers' timber tract along Harmon Gulch (top right) in relation to Boulder Creek (bottom left). [Library of Congress]
Once the flume was built and the unprofitability of the toll road proven, the Harmons decided to return to the lumber business. In 1876, the brothers incorporated the Alameda Lumber Company and began purchasing timberland north of Boulder Creek. They purchased several tracks on either side of the San Lorenzo River about a quarter mile north of town, but their main tract was up a seasonal tributary of Bear Creek now called Harmon Gulch. Like many other lumber firms in the area, the Harmons harvested lumber on their own lands as well as on adjacent lands through lease agreements.

For its first few years, the Harmon Gulch mill was a relatively small-scale affair that focused primarily on cutting railroad crossties. All of the cut timber was hauled to the small mill via oxen teams that dragged the cut logs down skid roads to the mill near the gulch's base. From there, they likely shipped the ties over their toll road to Lexington and beyond. In 1880, the brothers gave up completely on their road and began sawing lumber to send downstream along the flume at the bottom of Bear Creek.

The arrival of the Dougherty Extension Railroad in August 1887 replaced the increasing problems with the flume and provided the Harmons with a truly profitable way to ship their lumber. While no railroad tracks ever came near the mill, a spur at the bottom of Bear Creek was probably installed for the mill's use. By 1889, the mill had a daily capacity of 10,000 board feet of lumber and employed 45 men.

A series of tragedies led to an eventual end to the Harmon Brothers' venture up Harmon Gulch. In 1887, Austin Harmon died from a head wound received in the field. Three years later, the mill burned down, although Oscar Harmon rebuilt. At the end of the 1898 cutting season, Oscar retired and sold the land to J. H. Olsen, who sold the property to the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company two years later. Oscar, meanwhile, died in 1899. The remaining timber was harvested throughout 1901 and then the mill was sold to the Enterprise Lumber & Development Company, which ended up abandoning the structures and machinery the next year.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Approximately 37.1437N, 122.0897W

The site of the mill still hosted machinery into the 1920s, at which time it disappeared and was developed into a private residence. Its location was probably in the vicinity of Fernwood Drive across from Harmon Gulch Road approximately 2.5 miles up Bear Creek Road.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, April 12, 2019

Maps: Ben Lomond to Boulder Creek

The gentle curves and relatively unimpeded journey between Felton and Ben Lomond ended just north of the latter town. As the Felton & Pescadero Railroad carved its grade north to Boulder Creek, the route proved much more perilous and required several crossings. But there were several stops and stations, almost all registered on Southern Pacific Railroad timetables and station books, and it was also quite possibly the most scenic sections of track in Santa Cruz County.

The first bridge over the San Lorenzo River north of Ben Lomond, c. 1910. [George Pepper]
Leaving Ben Lomond, the right-of-way curved behind the current Tyrolean Inn to cross the San Lorenzo River on a mixed trestle-truss bridge. From there, it passed through a large open meadow that would host a number of campgrounds over the years, most notably Camp Thunder, before it was converted into a housing subdivision. Riverside Drive north of Ben Lomond marks the right-of-way in this section and can be easily visited today, although no railroad relics remain beside the road.

Railroad route between Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek, 1885-1934. Structures and spur lengths not to scale.
[Derek R. Whaley]
View from the top of a railroad bridge showing the swimming hole north of Siesta, c. 1915. [Derek R. Whaley]
From this meadow, the railroad tracks crossed the San Lorenzo River over one of the most spectacular bridges in the county, after which it ran along the southern side of River Road in a steep cut between the road and the river. Here, the railroad passed its first stop along this stretch: Phillipshurst, established to cater to Dr. Phillips who lived just across the river. Phillips's estate would later become the Blake-Hammond Manor and can still be sighted, with some difficulty, from State Route 9. Unfortunately, the right-of-way in this section is accessible only via River Road, which is privately-owned and maintained so trespassing is not advised. Just before crossing the San Lorenzo River an open deck bridge, the railroad passed the summer cottage of Fred Swanton, who convinced Southern Pacific to set up a stop named Siesta. This stop is also on private land near the southern end of Redwood Street off Riverside Road in Brookdale.

The Fish Hatchery at Brookdale, c. 1920. [Craig Polson]
On the other side of the river, after crossing Larkspur Street, the right-of-way passed the Brookdale Fish Hatchery, established by Judge John H. Logan and run by the California Department of Fish & Game. Either because of freight needs or due to its popularity as a tourist destination, the railroad established a stop here named Fish Hatchery, probably along Old River Lane. The tracks continued to hug the west bank of the San Lorenzo River as it rounded to the west toward Clear Creek, which a short open deck bridge crossed just before reaching Brookdale. None of the right-of-way in this area is really accessible and all of it sits on private property.

Brookdale Station with a train approaching, c. 1920. [Craig Polson]
Brookdale is the first station site along this stretch that can still be viewed, although it still sits on private property. The station was located at the bottom of Pacific Street just before the road crosses over to Huckleberry Island. The old post office on the west side of the street still sits as a private residence, but the station itself has been demolished. The large property situated here provided space for the spur and, later, siding that catered to the station, and also allowed room for the fill that preceded the bridge over the river to the west. The railroad tracks once crossed the San Lorenzo River here, and sawed-off pilings of it can still be seen on either side of the river. The tracks then passed through a shallow cut at the back of Huckleberry Island before crossing the river a second time on the other side. While the bridge to the south of the island was composed entirely of wood, the bridge to the north included concrete piers, which are still present today, although it is impossible to see them since the adjacent properties block line-of-sight. Huckleberry Island may well have served as the railroad's only unofficial picnic stop along the Boulder Creek Branch, but evidence is scarce.

Passenger train in the Boulder Creek yard, c. 1890s. [Margaret Koch]
From Irwin Way, the railroad crossed the river a sixth time and the concrete piers for this can be seen just to the north from the vehicular bridge over the river. The right-of-way then turned sharply to the west to parallel the river for a short distance, eventually passing into a shallow cut on its way to the Boulder Mill. In later years, the Boulder Mill was renamed Harris, although this stop catered to Camp Joy. All of the right-of-way in this section is on private property and a gate blocks access after a short distance down Irwin Way, although the gated road once served as the railroad right-of-way. Just past Harris, the tracks crossed the river for a seventh and final time, also crossing Malosky Creek in the process. The right-of-way then straightened out on its approach to Filbert, near the end of Grove Street. Little evidence remains of the railroad in this section except the single concrete pier and some overgrown sawed-off pilings beside the river. However, Redwood Resort lingers on as the successor to the Redwood Rest Resort, which probably was the chief patron of Filbert station in later years since the stop was directly behind the resort.

Central Avenue in Boulder Creek, 1900. [Kilroy Was Here]
Creeping through the back yards of Boulder Creek homes and businesses on a narrow shelf just above the west bank of the river, the Boulder Creek Branch finally broke out into its large freight yard at the place where East Lomond Street turns to the north. From here, tracks split apart in several different directions, with some staying close to the river and others running just behind the businesses on Central Avenue. One track even wrapped up Lorenzo Street to access the Southern Lumber Company yard that was once located where the post office and Liberty Bank is today. The station itself was located just behind the Boulder Creek Fire Department, roughly where the Boulder Creek Recreation building sits at the corner of Middleton Avenue and Railroad Avenue. Except for names—Railroad Avenue, Junction Avenue, Junction Park, Middleton Avenue—nothing from the railroading days survives in the massive open meadow that once was home to the freight yard. But the train did continue on to the north, following Junction Avenue across Boulder Creek, the San Lorenzo River, and then Bear Creek—but that's a story for a different time.

Citations & Credits: 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Railroads: Southern Pacific Branch Lines and Divisions

The Southern Pacific Railroad Company became the sole provider for railroad service in Santa Cruz County in 1887 (although the Ocean Shore Railroad, San Juan Pacific Railway, and Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad all attempted to rival their dominance briefly). To manage its railroad lines, routes were divided into divisions, subdivisions, and branches. Several such lines emerged over the years, most of which began life as independent companies, but when the Southern Pacific became the Union Pacific Railroad in 1996, only the Santa Cruz Branch and the Monterey Branch remained under company control, and both only briefly.

Coast Div ision employee timetable No. 147 cover, dated March 30, 1940. This was the last published timetable that included the San Jose & Santa Cruz Branch through the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Watsonville Branch (1871 – 1874)
The very first Southern Pacific branch line, predating the creation of any divisions or subdivisions, was built continuously from 1871 to 1874 from Gilroy to Salinas. In the beginning, it was a route meant to link the Santa Clara Valley’s railroad lines with the agricultural lands of the Salinas Valley while also conveniently passing through Watsonville and near Monterey. But early plans to go through Watsonville were quickly replaced with a route through Pajaro to the south. In the end, the only portion of Santa Cruz County reached by this branch was the tiny settlement of Chittenden.

As early as April 1872, it was common knowledge that the originally-planned Southern Pacific route to the San Joaquin Valley via Hollister would not be economically viable and that the coastal route through Salinas would likely become the main line. Neither proved true, however, as Southern Pacific instead chose a line down the center of the San Joaquin Valley as its main line. When this happened, the Watsonville Branch became the trunk of the Northern Division and the original trunk through Hollister became the Tres Pinos Branch.

Northern Division (1874 – 1897)
When Southern Pacific began building railroad lines in Southern California in the early 1870s, it had a problem: these lines were disconnected from the lines in Central and Northern California. Thus, the first solution to this problem was the creation of the Northern Division, Southern Division, and Colorado Division. At some point around 1888, a portion of the Northern Division split off to become the first Coast Division, which included the Monterey Bay trackage. However, this early version of the Coast Division was later reimagined. Within the Monterey Bay area, three branches fell under the jurisdiction of the Northern Division.

1889 Southern Pacific Coast Division timetable.
Santa Cruz Branch (1888 – 2012)
Beginning life as the Santa Cruz Railroad between Pajaro and Santa Cruz, this line was consolidated with the Loma Prieta Railroad on June 3, 1884 to form the Pajaro & Santa Cruz Railroad. On May 4, 1888, Southern Pacific absorbed the subsidiary railroad and it became the Santa Cruz Line. In 1892, it was renamed the Pajaro & Santa Cruz Branch and retained this name until 1912, when Pajaro was renamed Watsonville Junction. Rather than use a long and clunky term for the branch line, Southern Pacific instead decided to simply call it the Santa Cruz Branch, although this name was sometimes confusingly applied to the route through the mountains as well. The line had several unofficial names over the years including the Watsonville & Santa Cruz Branch, the Pajaro Branch, and the Watsonville Junction & Santa Cruz Branch, and all combinations thereof. None of these were used in an official capacity by the railroad but appeared in newspaper timetables and other media.

The line gained over eight miles of trackage in November 1940 when the Santa Clara & Santa Cruz Branch closed and the Santa Cruz Branch annexed the southern portion between Santa Cruz and Olympia. It retained this additional trackage until October 12, 1985, when Roaring Camp Railroads purchased the section for use as a private tourist train line. When this happened, the Santa Cruz Branch annexed the Davenport Branch, adding eleven new miles to its length. Technically, the line ceased to be a branch line on May 17, 2012, when the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission took control of the route from Union Pacific, making it once more an independent railroad. The entire route is currently undergoing review for rehabilitation as a passenger and freight line, while a pedestrian/bike trail will soon be installed primarily along the western edge of the right-of-way

Loma Prieta Branch (1888 – 1930)
As soon as the Loma Prieta Railroad between Aptos and Monte Vista was completed in the summer of 1884, the company was consolidated into the Pajaro & Santa Cruz Railroad subsidiary of Southern Pacific. In 1888, the company extended the right-of-way three miles to the second Monte Vista and the foot of Five Finger Falls along Aptos Creek and, after this was completed, the company was absorbed into Southern Pacific and became the Loma Prieta Line, renamed the Loma Prieta Branch in 1892. For the next twenty years, the line was in irregular use, serviced primarily by extras or by Loma Prieta Lumber Company locomotives. The three miles of trackage added in 1887-1888 were destroyed by a landslide in 1899 and the trackage was soon afterwards cut back to just six miles, ending just beyond the rapidly declining town of Loma Prieta. Other operations in the area, however, ensured that operations continued in some capacity until the end of 1921. Southern Pacific waited until November 30, 1927 to petition for the abandonment of the route, which was granted in early 1928. It disappears off station books the next year, but continued to be referenced by employee timetables until 1930.

Monterey Branch (1888 – 2003)
The narrow-gauge Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad between Monterey and Salinas was taken over at auction in December 1879 and early the following year became the Monterey Railroad, a Southern Pacific subsidiary. Southern Pacific standard-gauged the route almost immediately and redrew the right-of-way between Castroville and Monterey. The line was extended to Lake Majella south of Pacific Grove through the Monterey Extension Railroad between January and May 1888, but on May 14, both companies were absorbed by Southern Pacific and became the Monterey Line. From 1888 until 1892, the line included all of the mainline trackage between San José and Pacific Grove. It was even briefly renamed the San Jose & Pacific Grove Branch in 1892 before the route was cut back to Castroville in 1895 and became the Castroville & Pacific Grove Branch. It finally was named the Monterey Branch in June 1907 and has remained under that name ever since.

The Monterey Branch was popular due to the presence of the Hotel Del Monte, which opened on June 3, 1880 and continued to operate as a hotel until just after the start of World War II. The Monterey Express (later Del Monte LimitedDel Monte Express, and finally just Del Monte) began running along the line at this time as a regular named passenger train. During much of its history, the branch was nicknamed the Del Monte Branch to both reflect the popularity of the hotel and the renaming of Castroville's station to Del Monte Junction. The last run of the Del Monte was on April 30, 1971, after which all passenger service to Monterey ended. The tracks between the quarry at Seaside and Lake Majella were abandoned in early 1979 following approval by the Interstate Commerce Commission on December 29, 1978.

Three years after Southern Pacific's merger with Union Pacific in 1996, the Monterey Branch was formally abandoned and the branch cut off at Castroville. While the trackage remains in place all the way to Monterey (often under paved bicycle/hiking paths), it currently is unable to be used. Strictly speaking, the track no longer constitutes a branch line since the sixteen-mile route was purchased by the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) in 2003 for $9.3. Plans are in place to rehabilitate the line for passenger and freight use, but nothing has been done yet.

Santa Cruz Division (1887 – 1897)
The portion of the original South Pacific Coast Railway route between the Bay Area and Santa Cruz changed names several times over the years. When it was first leased by Southern Pacific on July 1, 1887, all of the narrow-gauge trackage became known as the South Pacific Coast Railroad Division. This proved to be a rather short-lived entity. On July 1, 1892, it was replaced by the Santa Cruz Division, but this proved equally short-lived. Also, in a rather comedic twist, it only included two narrow-gauge branches within the county—the other trackage within the county remained a part of the Northern Division while the division as a whole retained oversight of most of the former South Pacific Coast trackage. In 1897, the entire route was demoted, at least in station books, to a subdivision.

Narrow Gauge Subdivision (1897 – 1907)
The Narrow Gauge Subdivision was created to handle the remaining narrow-gauge trackage of the former South Pacific Coast Railroad, essentially taking over the duty from the Santa Cruz Division. Although some trackage was standard-gauged beginning in 1895, the entire line was not converted until 1909. Only one new narrow-gauge branch was added to the trackage around the Monterey Bay during this time, and it was soon abandoned. The subdivision included:

College Park & Santa Cruz Branch (1887 – 1940)
The narrow-gauge railroad route through the Santa Cruz Mountains may have begun as a main trunk line of an enterprising railroad, but from 1887 it was demoted to simply a branch line, albeit a significant one. From 1892, the route was named the San Jose and Santa Cruz (Narrow Gauge) Branch on employee timetables, while station books called the route the Narrow-Gauge Subdivision. It was also alternatively called the Mountain Division, the Los Gatos-Santa Cruz Branch, and the Santa Cruz Cut-off in newspapers, although none of these were official names.

The standard-gauging of the line that began in 1895 and was completed in 1909 prompted a change in status for the trunk of the former South Pacific Coast line. The route became the Santa Clara & Santa Cruz Branch. A slight realignment in its northern terminus led the name to change to the College Park & Santa Cruz Branch in 1912, a name that stuck for most of the rest of its existence. At some point during the height of the Great Depression, the route was changed one last time to the San Jose & Santa Cruz Branch.

The disastrous winter storm of February 26, 1940 heavily damaged this line which led Southern Pacific to file for abandonment on March 25. During this time, the route was referred to frequently as the Los Gatos-Olympia Branch, although this was strictly an informal term referring to the section undergoing debate. Formal abandonment was approved November 7 with the surviving ends of the line divided between a new Los Gatos Branch on the northern end and the Santa Cruz Branch on the southern, which annexed the trackage to Olympia. This latter section was briefly informally called the Santa Cruz-Olympia Branch.

Boulder Creek Branch (1887 – 1934)
The Felton & Pescadero Railroad between Felton and Boulder Creek was consolidated into the South Pacific Coast Railway on May 23, 1887, which was leased to Southern Pacific a month later. Southern Pacific continued to use the Felton & Pescadero branding for several years but timetables renamed it the Felton Branch. It continued to operate under this title until 1912, when the name switched to Boulder Creek Branch. Following the collapse of the lumber industry and difficult years after the stock market crash in 1929, Southern Pacific petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission for abandonment on August 30, 1933. The petition was approved on November 14 and the line abandoned on January 26, 1934.

Old Felton Branch (1907 – 1909)

This three-mile line began life as the northern portion of the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad's right-of-way. When South Pacific Coast acquired the line on January 1, 1880, the portion between Felton Junction (across the river from Big Trees) and downtown Felton was reduced to a long spur with its own stations. Soon after the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, the spur was upgraded to the Old Felton Branch, a name that referenced its northern terminus and attempted to avoid confusion with the Felton Branch. The branch only last two years, though, after which it was abandoned and the northernmost mile converted into a standard-gauge spur of the Felton Branch.

Interior page from Coast Division employee timetable No. 147 (March 30, 1940) showing various routes within Santa Cruz County.
Coast Division (1892 – 1964)
A massive reorganization of Southern Pacific occurred on July 1, 1892, and the original Coast Division was impacted quite heavily. Besides the Santa Cruz Division, an enlarged Coast Division was created that covered all of the former Northern Division trackage between San Francisco and Santa Barbara, excepting the narrow-gauge track formerly belonging to the South Pacific Coast Railroad. The Santa Cruz Division and Coast Division began appearing on the same timetables on September 3, 1896, until the former was absorbed into the latter on September 27, 1897. Throughout the system, subdivisions were created to handle specific areas within each division.

San Francisco Subdivision (1892 – 1987)
Following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, all of the unconverted trackage of the former South Pacific Coast Railroad was standard-gauged and the entire subdivision rendered moot. The tracks along the west San Francisco Bay, expanded with the addition of the Narrow Gauge Subdivision in 1907 and the Los Altos Branch in 1908, formed the San Francisco Subdivision. In 1912, the name was lengthened to the San Francisco & Watsonville Junction Subdivision, but the longer title was truncated back to the original in 1930. The subdivision continued to exist until 1987, although all of the Santa Cruz and Monterey County trackage eventually became associated with other subdivisions except for the period 1985 to 1987.

Newell Creek Branch (1908 – 1920)
The shortest branch line in Santa Cruz County, the one-mile route to the California Timber Company mill on Newell Creek was installed by Southern Pacific in 1905. After the San Francisco Earthquake, the line to the mill was standard-gauged and the railroad upgraded its status to the Newell Creek Branch around October 1908. All of the trackage north of the mill continued to be narrow-gauge and was privately owned by the lumber company. The mill shut down in 1913 but the branch remained in station books until 1920, when it was formally abandoned.

Davenport Branch (1917 – 1985)
This line began life as the Coast Line Railroad, but as early as July 1907 local newspapers called it the Davenport Branch and on August 24, 1917, the name change became official when Southern Pacific absorbed its subsidiary. Regularly-scheduled passenger service along the line ended on July 21, 1932, although excursion trains continued through the 1950s. The line was annexed to the Santa Cruz Branch around 1985 after the Santa Cruz to Olympia trackage was sold to Roaring Camp Railroads. As a part of the Santa Cruz Branch, it was sold to the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission in 2012.

Los Gatos Branch (1940 – 1959)
The northern three miles of the former College Park & Santa Cruz Branch survived for nineteen years as the Los Gatos Branch until the people of Los Gatos requested that Southern Pacific abandon its route through downtown. On June 16, 1958, the petition was filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission and abandonment was approved on December 30. Formal service ended on January 23, 1959 and the final run happened on January 25, which concluded with a spike-pulling ceremony overseen by Coast Division superintendent R. A. Miller. The right-of-way was quickly converted into parking lots by the town of Los Gatos.

Vasona Branch (1959 – 1964)
When the mountain route was officially abandoned in November 1940, the Los Altos Branch was renamed the Vasona Branch and the name Mayfield Cut-Off went into disuse since it no longer cut off the route between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. When the Los Gatos Branch was abandoned in 1959, the stop at Vasona Junction became the commuter terminal for Los Gatos area passengers. Low patronage at the station and plans to cut the Vasona Branch between Simla and Alta Mesa to make room for Foothill Expressway in 1962 led to a petition to abandon the station on March 21. But the Interstate Commerce Commission provided a brief reprieve on October 25, 1963 when it disallowed Southern Pacific from ending service between the points, in effect also delaying construction of the expressway. After another petition to the ICC, abandonment was approved and the last run along the branch occurred on January 27, 1964. The portion of the track south of Foothill Expressway continues to exist today as a freight line ending at the Lehigh Permanente quarry to the west of Cupertino. Discussions to rehabilitate this line and even extend it to the outskirts of Los Gatos have been discussed for over two decades but no progress has been made.

Salinas Subdivision (c. 1936 – 1985)
At some point in the mid-1930s, the San Francisco Subdivision was divided and the Monterey Branch became a part of the new Salinas Subdivision. This route included all the trackage from Watsonville Junction up the Salinas Valley to San Luis Obispo, at which point the Guadalupe Subdivision continued to Santa Barbara. In 1964, the subdivision was extended north to San Jose and both the Santa Cruz and Davenport Branches became a part of it. In 1985, the Salinas Subdivision was dissolved and all Monterey Bay branches once more became a part of the San Francisco Subdivision.

Gilroy Subdivision (c. 1946 – 1964)
In 1942, a new Gilroy Subdivision appeared to handle traffic between San Jose and Watsonville Junction and it included the Santa Cruz and Davenport Branches. The subdivision was dissolved in 1964 and both branches were annexed to the Salinas Subdivision.

Later Divisions (1964 – 1996)
In its later years, Southern Pacific shifted their focus along the Central Coast to freight, which led to smaller timetables and fewer passenger schedules. In 1964, the Coast Division became the Western Division and annexed several neighboring divisions in the process. In 1985, the division system was abandoned and Santa Cruz County fell into the Northern Region and, in 1987, the Western Region. It remained within that region until Union Pacific took over in 1996. Within the Western Region, local trackage fell under the authority of the Coast District, a spiritual successor to the Coast Division.

A page from the first Western Division employee timetable, April 26, 1964.
Citations & Credits:

Friday, March 29, 2019

Bridges: Boulder Creek Branch

The San Lorenzo River is not a tame body of water. On its southern end, the vast floodplain created by its confluence with Branciforte Creek inundated the city of Santa Cruz several times over the past 250 years, even prompting the first Mission Santa Cruz to relocate atop the hill to avoid the near-annual deluges. North of the city, the river carved a tight path through a granite and limestone gorge, meandering wildly on its path toward the Monterey Bay. In Felton, the river slowed down and spread out again, aided by its confluence with Zayante Creek. Yet the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad was able to handle the river by largely avoiding it, while the South Pacific Coast Railroad crossed it only once, just south of Big Trees, over a bridge that ensured the river could not seriously damage railroad operations along the line.

One of the narrow-gauge combination truss-trestle bridges across the San Lorenzo on the Felton & Pescadero Railroad route, c. 1890. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
North of Felton, however, the Felton & Pescadero Railroad (a South Pacific Coast subsidiary)—later the Boulder Creek Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad—had no choice but to finally confront the seasonally affective river. As it constructed its route to Boulder Creek in 1884 and 1885, the company was able, through geographic luck more than anything, to avoid the river for the first three miles. Fills and cuts along the east bank of the San Lorenzo River ensured that the railroad tracks had no need to cross the river. The most significant fills along this stretch were just out of Felton near Bonny Brae. Meanwhile, the most drastic cuts were just to the north, near Brackney. From there, a relatively flat area with an occasional short fill ran within the Glen Arbor area for nearly a mile until reaching the first substantial bridge along the branch at Newell Creek.

Newell Creek did not require a substantial span to cross, but the creek was rather far below the grade level, so a trestle was not feasible nor did trestles appear at any place along the Boulder Creek Branch bar one. Instead, a short, wooden, double-intersecting Warren truss bridge was installed along two redwood abutments installed on either side of the creek. No pier was required, although the abutments may have been upgraded to concrete when the line was standard-gauged around 1908. Unlike the other bridges along the branch, the bridge over Newell Creek was probably not replaced in 1908 since it was so short and of a sturdy design that was capable of supporting the larger standard-gauge trains. As a general rule, the South Pacific Coast Railroad installed standard-gauge equipment whenever possible in anticipation of upgrading the line at some point in the future. The Newell Creek bridge was probably one such example of this. In this area, the railroad grade runs just to the southwest of Glen Arbor Road, so the bridge was located beside the road crossing over Newell Creek. No obvious remnants of the bridge survive today.

To the east of Ben Lomond, Love Creek provided the second significant obstacle to trains heading north. The creek, named after former Texas Ranger Captain Harry Love, who helped killed the legendary outlaw Joaquín Murrieta Carrillo in 1853 and lived upstream for some years, was generally mild and posed no real problem for grading crews. While the specifics of the bridge are not known, it is likely that this location hosted the only trestle bridge along the line, since the creek was too near grade level to justify a truss bridge. As such, it almost certainly was replaced in 1908, since narrow-gauge trestle bridges are generally not strong enough to support standard-gauge trains and, in any case, require additional width to do so. No remnant pilings or other material related to the bridge survive, and the locations of the abutments on either end have been lost by subsequent property developments.

Rare colorized postcards of the bridge near Hotel Ben Lomond, c. 1900. [Alamy]
Train crossing over the bridge near Hotel Ben Lomond, c. 1905.
Note the panel siding on the truss section.
[Derek R. Whaley]
As the railroad route curved out of Ben Lomond, the track finally crossed the San Lorenzo River for the first time. The river is especially wide at this point with a gently-sloping embankment on the east and a sheer rock wall to the west. This crossing, therefore, required substantial bridgework to cross. Several photographs of the first bridge were produced as part of the marketing campaign by Hotel Ben Lomond, and these photographs showcase the bridge's unique style. From the east bank, a trestle bridge lifted the tracks from the railroad grade to a redwood-built pier on the river's edge. From here, an uncovered Howe truss bridge was installed over the river, which took the tracks to the west bank. Around 1895, Hotel Ben Lomond dammed the river to create a swimming hole, but passing trains had a habit of kicking rocks down on top of swimmers. Thus, the railroad installed wooden panels along the truss section of the bridge to minimize injury from rocks and, possibly, to make it more difficult for people to climb onto the bridge and use it as a diving platform. The bridge was upgraded for standard-gauge trains in 1908, which probably meant replacing the trestlework. The truss bridge was replaced in 1919, probably with a prefabricated open-deck plate girder bridge, much like those used further north on the line. No photographs of the second bridge survive, but it was the last bridge installed along the route before its closure. Numerous pilings from the trestlework still survive on the east bank of the river behind the Tyrolean Inn, while the stone and concrete abutment on the west end can be seen across the river on private property.

The later standard-gauge bridge over the San Lorenzo River near Phillipshurst, c. 1910.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
The piers of the bridge near Phillipshurst as
they stand today on the east bank of the
San Lorenzo River. [Derek R. Whaley]
Further to the north, the San Lorenzo River turns sharply to the east creating a broad floodplain that the railroad had to cross near Phillipshurst. The bridge installed across the river here proved to be one of the most substantial railroad bridges built in Santa Cruz County. Measuring a total length of over 300 feet, the original narrow-gauge structure required three redwood double-intersecting Warren truss bridges, as well as a short trestle bridge, to cross. Redwood piers supported the structure at the truss joints while wooden abutments were located on either end. At one point, wood panels like those on the bridge beside Hotel Ben Lomond were installed on the sides of the truss spans, suggesting the area below was used as a swimming hole or for some other purpose. The trestle portion was replaced and the trusses upgraded in 1908 to support standard-gauge trains, but the increased weight prompted Southern Pacific to install tall concrete piers at the truss joints as well as midway along each truss span. Eventually, probably around 1913, the trusses were removed and replaced with a long prefabricated open-deck plate girder bridge set atop the concrete piers. A wood railing ran along the west side of the bridge. After the line was abandoned and the deck removed, the free-standing piers were repurposed to hoist a water pipe above the river to support the residents living along River Road. All six piers and the concrete abutment on the south side still remain intact, although access to the site is difficult.

Standard-gauge bridge over the San Lorenzo River between Siesta and the Fish Hatchery, c. 1915.
[Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Crossing back to the west bank just before reaching the Fish Hatchery, the third bridge over the San Lorenzo River is widely known due to the several postcards that were made of it in promoting the railroad, Siesta, and Brookdale. The first bridge here consisted of a long trestle bridge from the southern embankment to the edge of the river itself. Here, a small, redwood double-intersecting Warren truss sat beneath the railroad tracks and over the deepest part of the river, flanked on either side by short wood piers. Another trestle bridge continued to the northern embankment. Around 1907, the trestlework was replaced to support standard-gauge tracks and the truss was removed and replaced with a prefabricated open-deck plate girder bridge mounted atop two hexagonal piers. It was this bridge that appeared heavily in marketing in the 1910s, when Fred Swanton maintained a swimming hole just north of the bridge. The two free-standing bridge piers can be seen today by driving along Larkspur Street and looking downriver.

The freestanding piers of the bridge north of Siesta. [Derek R. Whaley]
The last of the substantial non-river bridges along the Boulder Creek Branch was located over Clear Creek, between the Fish Hatchery and Brookdale. This creek is famous for passing through the Brook Room of the Brookdale Lodge. Very little is actually known about either bridge except that the narrow-gauge structure was the first to be replaced along the branch line in 1903. The original structure was likely a short trestle bridge over the creek. Clear Creek may have begun to damage the bridge over time, however, since a concrete culvert was installed at some point before 1903. The second bridge was capable of supporting standard-gauge trains and was composed of a short redwood deck installed atop two concrete abutments, the northernmost of which still survives. Railings and wooden walkways were built on both sides of the bridge for tourists and locals to more easily walk to Brookdale station. Access to the bridge site is not advised as it sits on private property.

The narrow-gauge bridge over the swimming hole at Brookdale with tents on the shore, c. 1895.
[Derek R. Whaley]
The final four bridges over the San Lorenzo River all sat within a short stretch of track between Brookdale and Filbert. The primary reason for this was that the river curved sharply three times around Huckleberry Island, the North Brookdale subdivision, and Camp Joy. Photographs of the bridge just to the north of Brookdale are by far the most common of these four. The original structure consisted of a short trestle bridge that ended at a wooden pier on the river's edge, at which point a now-standard double-intersecting Warren truss bridge crossed the deepest part of the river. The Brookdale swimming hole was located directly under the bridge here, but unlike Ben Lomond, no side panels were installed to stop trains from kicking rocks or to stop divers. No concrete piers ever replaced the redwood piers, but the truss was nonetheless replaced around 1913 with an open-deck plate girder bridge. Remnants of the northern pier survive, albeit in pieces, while pilings for both ends can be seen on either bank of the river.

One of the narrow-gauge bridges across the San Lorenzo River between Brookdale and Boulder Creek, c. 1895.
[Bruce MacGregor]
Only one photograph of each of the two bridges between Huckleberry Island and Irwin Way survives and it is not entirely clear which photograph depicts which bridge. The first iterations of both, however, were composed primarily of redwood, double-intersecting Warren truss bridges perched atop wooden piers that sat on either side of the river. From the piers, short trestle bridges linked the truss to both banks of the river. The truss section of the bridge north of Huckleberry Island was unusually replaced with a Phoenix Bridge Company truss span of unknown design around 1904. The other bridge was replaced a little later with a more standard prefabricated open-deck plate girder bridge perched atop concrete piers. The trestlework leading to these new bridges was replaced around the same time. Today, three piers and several truncated pilings attest to these two bridges. The bridge piers on the north side of Huckleberry Island cannot be viewed at all without trespassing. Meanwhile, those south of Camp Joy are visible to the north of Irwin Way as it crosses the river.

The lonely concrete pier of the bridge south of Filbert. [Derek R. Whaley]
The final bridge before reaching Boulder Creek was situated in a sharp bend in the river just north of Camp Joy. The track curved slightly across this bridge and continued to the north for an extended distance due to the presence of Malosky Creek, which crossed under the redwood pilings of the trestle as it approached solid ground near Filbert. Like all of the other bridges across the San Lorenzo River on the Boulder Creek Branch, this one was originally composed of a truss bridge of some design situated atop two redwood piers, with trestle bridges extending to either bank of the river. The bridge was upgraded and the truss replaced in late 1903, the latter with a prefabricated open-deck plate girder bridge, although the specifics are unclear since no photographs of this bridge are known. The southern pier is no longer extant, making it difficult to determine whether it was redwood or concrete. Considering its location, the pier, regardless of its composition, may have been destroyed during an especially bad flood, such as those in 1955 and 1982. The surviving pier can be viewed from Lorenzo Avenue off State Route 9.

All of the bridges were dismantled in early 1934 after the closure of the Boulder Creek Branch. Traces of nearly all of the bridges survive in the form of concrete piers and abutments and sawed off pilings on the banks of the river.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, March 22, 2019

Stations: Boulder Creek

Boulder Creek began life as simply Boulder, which was a reference to nearby Boulder Creek, which flows down the eastern side of Ben Lomond. Confused? Blame early settlers. Boulder Creek—the stream—is a descriptive name given by early trappers and lumbermen to a feeder creek of the San Lorenzo River. Directly across from its confluence with the river, Bear Creek flows into the river as well creating a strange topographical feature nicknamed the Turkey Foot by these same early settlers. The Turkey Foot unsurprisingly creates a bit of a flood plain, especially on the western side of the river where the mountainside is less steep. From the late 1850s, early settlers and lumbermen used this floodplain as a gathering point for their mule and oxen teams before their long journey to Felton and Santa Cruz. It is here were the story of Boulder Creek—the town—begins.

The Commercial Hotel on Main Street in Boulder Creek, 1901. Photo by Andrew Hill. [History San José]
Joseph Wilbur Peery, who later founded the short-lived town of Lorenzo a mile to the south, helped establish the settlement of Boulder when he erected a small sawmill across from Bear Creek in the early 1860s. Lumbermen and their families moved into scattered cottages and homes around the periphery of the mill, while a general store, livery stable, blacksmith shop, and the Boulder Creek Hotel arose nearby to support the mill and its visitors. By 1872, a post office named Boulder Creek was established inside the general store and the Crediford family was quickly improving structures within the settlement. The area was still sparsely settled and only a few lumber mills were operating in the surrounding hills, but enough people were around to keep the town alive. Even after Peery relocated his mill further south to Lorenzo, the settlement continued with the help of the Credifords.

A wagon on the bridge over Boulder Creek, 1875. Photo by R. E. Wood. [CSU Chico]
The arrival in 1875 of the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company's v-flume began the process of turning Boulder into the much more substantial Boulder Creek. The flume passed directly to the east of town, cutting through the forested, marshy floodplain to the south of the Turkey Foot and then sending feeder flumes up Boulder and Bear creeks in search of additional water supplies. John H. Alcorn owned the floodplain, the hotel, a saloon, and a few other properties on either side of Boulder Creek, and sold all of them to the flume company in 1874 so that the flume could use the flat area for loading lumber onto the flume. For all intents and purposes, Boulder had become a company town. When the South Pacific Coast Railroad purchased the flume company in 1879, company's vice president, Thomas Carter, gained ownership of Alcorn's old lands in the marsh, although he spent little of his own money to develop the area.

For the next ten years, lumbermen and their families, merchants, and other entrepreneurial minds began moving to Boulder, anticipating its future wealth and importance to the local economy. Peery in Lorenzo, the Credifords in Boulder, and Carter south of Boulder Creek subdivided their lands for private homes and businesses. The flume land became the third distinct area of settlement, located midway between the older two, and it is to here where most of the new residents moved in the late 1870s and throughout the 1880s. The county road through the townships became Center Street in Lorenzo, Main Street in the flume lands, and San Lorenzo Road in Boulder and beyond.

Winfield Scott Rodger's map of Boulder Creek, 1905, showing a simplified survey of the station grounds and surrounding features. [UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
The Felton & Pescadero Railroad made certain that the flume property would become the unifying core of these three settlements. Surveyors bypassed Lorenzo on their way north, noting the lack of land for a staging area and resistance from the settled population. Meanwhile, the old settlement of Boulder had even less land and the presence of the river and two creeks meant increased costs of installation and maintenance. Inevitably, the railroad chose the flume company's marshland as its northern terminus. It made perfect sense: there was plenty of land here that could be flattened and raised to reduce the chance of flooding. It was also already owned by the railroad's parent company, the South Pacific Coast Railroad, which had purchased the flume in 1879. And the lands to the west were ideal for settlement, being already subdivided and the empty lots owned by the flume company. Thus, the area to the east of Main Street all the way to the banks of the river were earmarked for the railroad, and the Felton & Pescadero wasted no time in using that space to its utmost. The first train rolled into town in April 1885 and the prosperity of Boulder Creek truly began.

View of Boulder Creek Freight Yard from opposite hillside, c. 1890. [The Valley Press]
By 1887, the flume had been truncated to a terminus in the Boulder Creek rail yard and narrow-gauge railroad tracks had begun snaking in ever-expanding lines throughout the area. The first permanent depot was set up behind and below the Dougherty-Middleton general store, one block east of Main Street. The main railroad terminus was just beside the station on the east, while another spur ran to the west of the depot. A freight spur ran along either side of the flume, as well, with the easternmost splitting into at least three branches that all terminated beside lumber stacks.

A long lumber train entering Boulder Creek (engine house visible behind train), c. 1890s. [The Valley Press]
South of the depot and flume terminus, a tall water tower was erected beside a railroad turntable and two-locomotive engine house that could store the Boulder Creek switch engine overnight. Additional spurs and sidings arose over subsequent decades, especially once the flume was removed in 1888. To replace it, the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company extended a railroad line up the San Lorenzo River, leading to the installation of several more freight spurs and sidings on the easternmost side of the yard. Just above the banks of the San Lorenzo River, two planing and shingle mills were erected to cut and process wood brought to town by various lumber concerns in the vicinity. Meanwhile, two tracks reached across Main Street to a planing mill owned by the Southern Lumber Company.

The town of Boulder Creek after a small snowfall with the rail yard at back right, c. 1905. [The Valley Press]
With the opening of the extension railroad, Boulder Creek boomed into life. Hundreds of lumbermen moved to the town, many living year-round, and a total of more than 800 people came to support the local industries in various capacities. A grammar and high school opened up on the hillside to the west of town, while churches, stores, more hotels, restaurants, and various other businesses setup shop along Main Street. In the hills, farmers, ranchers, and vintners moved onto tracts that had recently been logged. Wealthy Bay Area elite moved into other areas, protecting their lands from the axe through their desire for a peaceful seasonal retreat. Some of these people helped form the Sempervirens Fund, that, in 1902, helped create the second state park: California Redwood Park (now Big Basin Redwoods State Park).

A special party car advertising Fourth Liberty Loans on the tracks beside the second Boulder Creek depot, c. 1915.
[The Valley Press]
Boulder Creek thrived as one of the largest exporters of lumber in the United States from 1885 to 1915 and the chief source of lumber within California for much of this time. And all of it shipped out via the railroad. The 1906 earthquake did little damage to the Boulder Creek Branch and much of the lumber used to rebuild San Francisco and downtown Santa Cruz came from the upper San Lorenzo Valley. The earthquake also prompted Southern Pacific to finally standard-gauge the tracks to Boulder Creek, in effect turning the freight yard into a dual-gauge operation since the track north of town remained narrow-gauge. The depot itself was replaced with a much larger structure in 1910, implying that the future for the branch was still bright.

Men standing outside the engine house, c. 1890s. [The Valley Press]
Extensive logging for decades, however, led to an inevitable decline in available timber. The shingle and planing mills in the yard were the first to go in the early 1900s. The space left by the Smith mill was gifted to the city to become Junction Park. Meanwhile, mills across the upper San Lorenzo Valley began to close, leading to the abandonment of the extension railroad around 1917 and the end of regularly-scheduled evening freight service in 1921. The town transitioned begrudgingly from a lumber town to a tourist town. Capitalizing on interest in Big Basin, Castle Rock, local resorts, and other nearby sights, the town struggled on, even as the Great Depression descended painfully upon the San Lorenzo Valley in late 1929. In March 1931, Southern Pacific replaced the two regular passenger trains with Pacific Greyhound service. Three years later, even the occasional freight service was deemed superfluous. The few companies left could haul out cut timber via trucks, rendering the Boulder Creek Branch a needless expense. In January 1934, the last freight train left Boulder Creek with what rolling stock remained.

Grace and Florence Mosher and "Uncle Charlie" in front of a locomotive at the Boulder Creek yard, 1913.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Over the next year, the track along the route was pulled, the freight yard was cleaned and subdivided, and the depot demolished due to lack of a buyer. Boulder Creek trudged on and continued to grow, despite the loss of its most significant industry, and today it is once again surrounded by redwood forests that have long since retaken the land that the lumbermen of the nineteenth century so wantonly cleared.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1257N, 122.1214W

The site of Boulder Creek Station is just behind the Boulder Creek Fire Department and beside the Boulder Creek Recreation & Parks District building near the corner of Railroad Avenue and Middleton Avenue. There is nothing at the location today except a playground and a parking lot. The adjacent road mostly follows the main track of the railroad right-of-way while the entire area from Railroad Avenue to the east once formed the Boulder Creek freight yard. Clues to the railroad's presence here can be found in the names: Railroad Avenue, Junction Avenue, and Middleton Avenue (named after one of the owners of the California Timber Company, the Dougherty Extension Railroad, and several businesses in town). The only evidence of the actual right-of-way is far to the south of town along East Lomond Street behind a private home. Trespassing is not advised.

  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • MacGregor, Bruce, and Richard Truesdale, South Pacific Coast: A Centennial. Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing, 1982.
  • Robinson, Lisa A. Images of America: The San Lorenzo Valley. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Stations: Filbert

Cottrell's general store, Lorenzo, c. 1878.
Photo by R. E. Wood. [Chico State University]
The town of Boulder Creek eight miles north of Santa Cruz along the San Lorenzo River doesn't really feel like a homogenous place. In the hills around it are small communities of people who visit the town to buy groceries or refuel but otherwise just commute on through—places like Wildwood, Bracken Brae, Forest Park, Little Basin, Riverside Grove, and San Lorenzo Park, among others. In the town itself, there is a rather obvious geographic division between those who live south of Scarborough Lumber and those who live north, differentiated by a slight curve in State Route 9 and a low hill. For certain, all of these places are a part of Boulder Creek, but the town was not always a single unit. In the beginning, there were two towns: Boulder and Lorenzo.

In January 1875, just months before the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company constructed its v-flume through the area of the Turkey Foot—the confluence of Bear and Boulder creeks into the San Lorenzo River—Joseph Wilburn Peery set to work incorporating a town he named Lorenzo. He bought a lumber mill owned by Frank L. Pitt that ran off water from the intermittent Harmon Gulch creek and used it to attract lumbermen and others who could support a town. The settlement included precisely what one would expect to find in such a rugged environment: saloons, places of ill-repute, a few hostelries, and a growing number of private homes.

Stereograph of the Lorenzo Hotel, built by J. W. Peery, c. 1878. Photo by R. E. Wood. [Bancroft Library]
Peery's mill had come to him via Pitt, but Pitt wasn't its first owner either. It began life as the Sylvar mill and was little more than a shingle mill and tannery. Peery upgraded some of its facilities but continued using it for its original purpose. Some lumber was produced there and used in the construction of homes in the area, but the mill primarily focused on the more valuable split stuff. Excess lumber was loaded onto the flume and shipped to Felton from 1875 to 1885.

Lumber floating down the San Lorenzo Valley flume, c. 1878. Photo by R. E. Wood. [California State Library]
Although the flume helped Peery's lumber operation, it did little to help his town. The flume company had purchased a large lot half a mile north of Lorenzo so that flume traffic could be sorted and loaded efficiently. For a brief time, Lorenzo served as the primary settlement catering to the flume's operations and even managed to convince the local post master to relocate to the back of a saloon in Lorenzo. But the residents of the smaller settlement of Boulder one mile to the north revolted, arguing that one should not have to go into a saloon to send mail. Boulder at this time was a dry town. In 1877, the post office returned to Boulder and Lorenzo's decline soon followed.

L.S. & P. Mill & Tannery, located on J.W. Peery's property in Lorenzo, c. 1880s.
[UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
In 1883, Lorenzo petitioned the newly-formed Felton & Pescadero Railroad to establish Lorenzo as its northern terminus. The railroad declined due to the fact that it owned the large flat that had previously served as the flume sorting area. The residents of Lorenzo certainly did not help matters—they demanded such high prices for property that the railroad took a circuitous route around the town, almost entirely avoiding it. Peery's mill received a station called Lorenzo which initially served as the terminus while construction was finished further to the north, but then the new station of Boulder Creek located closer to Boulder became the line's new terminus.

Lorenzo declined sharply over the next decade. Peery convinced the railroad to build a 556-foot-long siding at his mill so that he could continue to ship out lumber, split stuff, and tanned hides. Nonetheless, service to the station was so low that Southern Pacific demoted it to a flag-stop when they took over in 1887. Then in 1897, a kitchen fire spread throughout the town, destroying the two major hotels, the town hall, and other buildings along the county road. Peery briefly attempted to rebuild, but gave up within a year, selling his mill to Joseph Lane. Lorenzo was soon afterwards incorporated into Boulder Creek.

People awaiting for a train at Filbert, the successor to Lorenzo, c. 1900. [The Valley Press]
In addition to demoting the stop, Southern Pacific also renamed the station Filbert in 1887. This was probably to avoid confusion with another station named Lorenzo, or perhaps San Lorenzo, but it was an odd choice for a name. It was probably a reference to the California Hazel Tree, which is also named the filbert—although this tree is native to the Boulder Creek area, the nickname is not local and was probably provided by non-local railroad employee. After standard-gauging of the tracks in 1908, Filbert became strictly a passenger flag-stop, suggesting the Lane mill was no longer in use. A passenger shelter was built at this time, probably for visitors to the nearby Redwood Rest resort. In 1916, locals negotiated a new fare for travel between Filbert and Santa Cruz and also were granted permission to pay their fares directly to the conductor, saving them the trouble of traveling to Boulder Creek station to pay for tickets.

Postcard of Redwood Rest Hotel near Filbert station, c. 1930. [Derek R. Whaley]
Regular passenger service along the Boulder Creek Branch ended in late 1930, although special excursion trains may have operated after this date. All service ended in January 1934, after which the tracks were pulled and the land sold. Redwood Rest Resort continued to operate their resort beside the former right-of-way and probably purchased a portion of it after Southern Pacific left the area.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1165N, 122.1172W

The site of Filbert was located near the end of Grove Street on the south side of town. It was located to the northeast of Redwood Resort RV Park, which marks the former location of the Redwood Rest Resort. While portions of the right-of-way survive in this area and can be observed on Google Maps, the majority of the land has been developed for private use and trespassing upon any of it is not advised.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, March 8, 2019

Stations: Harris

It should come as no surprise that the mile between Brookdale and Boulder Creek used to host a thriving lumber industry. Both the village of Brookdale and town of Boulder Creek began life as lumber settlements, and the stretch between the two locations was not immune from this industry. Midway between these two settlements, a succession of shingle mills operated on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River.

The earliest reference for a mill at this location is in late 1884, when Felton general store owner and local magnate James F. Cunningham relocated his lumber operations from Felton. Daily operations at the mill were overseen by the firm of Dabadie & Morgan, and the mill was capable of producing 60,000 shingles and shakes per day. The timing of the relocation suggests that Cunningham waited until the Felton & Pescadero Railroad was built before investing in operations this far north. The flume, which was dismantled around this time, was not able to transport anything smaller than cut lumber, so split stuff needed to be hauled to Felton by wagon. The fact that the mill sat on the relatively inaccessible east bank of the San Lorenzo River undoubtedly made this option unfeasible. As soon as the railroad line was completed, a location called "Cunningham's" appeared in agency books. The stop included a pair of spurs that together measured 668 feet long. Cunningham's mill and all of its contents, as well as a piece of rolling stock, burned on November 20, 1890. From this point forward, Cunningham focused all of his attentions thereafter on his much larger lumber mill north of Boulder Creek along the newly-constructed Dougherty Extension Railroad.

Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the Boulder Mill Company mill south of Boulder Creek, 1892.
[UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
In early 1891, the Boulder Mill & Lumber Company took over operations and the railroad renamed the stop "Boulder Mill." Unlike Cunningham's operations, the Boulder Mill Company sought to actually cut lumber for shipment out of its new mill. A Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the property shows two railroad spurs passing through stacks of lumber, with one stopping on the edge of the river and the other at the entrance of the mill. The San Lorenzo River behind the mill was dammed so as to act as a mill pond. A bridge was erected over the mill pond to allow wagons and other vehicles to enter the property from Boulder Creek. beside the central track and along the road that passed through the property, a small freight office shack was built. When running at maximum efficiency, the mill could produce 20,000 board feet of lumber per day. The Boulder Mill Company became delinquent on some of its taxes in 1893 and, as a result, the mill was sold to a local lawyer, J. M. Green, on June 17, 1895.

Grover & Company Mill as depicted on a Sanborn Fire Insurance map, 1897.
[UC Santa Cruz Digitial Collections]
Within a few months, Grover & Company took control of the abandoned Boulder mill south of Boulder Creek. The company was well-established in Santa Cruz County by this time, although they had very little presence within the San Lorenzo Valley. The brothers J. Lyman, Stephen F., and Whitney had all been in the lumber industry since the 1860s and had their main base of operations north of Soquel in what would later be named Grover Gulch (now Glen Haven). Throughout the 1890s, they leased timberland in Scott's Valley, Santa Cruz, the North Coast, and in the Clear Creek area. The Grovers only operated their mill near Clear Creek for a few years and soon became involved in the development of the area into a resort alongside Judge John H. Logan. The mill itself changed very little in the time that it was under Grovers' management. Indeed, the railroad never bothered to change the name and it continued to be referenced as the Boulder Mill throughout this period. By 1900, the mill was abandoned and the buildings were demolished or moved to other locations. 

The abandoned Grover & Company property according to a Sanborn Fire Insurance map, 1901.
[UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
By 1901, only the basic layout of the old mill remained. The two railroad spurs, the office, and the mill pond were still left intact, but nothing else survived the demolition. Standard-gauging of the line in 1908 appears to have removed the spurs, but the office remained behind. In 1902, part of the Grover property was leased to G. Ellingwood Joy, who founded a retreat for the Sacramento Boys' Brotherhood here. Camp Joy, as it became known, was an outdoor camping area that catered to primary- and secondary-aged boys. It included all manner of sports and hosted a national park guide and culinary chef. Besides outdoor activities, the camp supported academic pursuits such as study and research. It was in 1910 that the location finally appeared on railroad timetables as an additional stop called "Joy Camp," clearly implying that some railroad traffic stopped there during the summer months.

Original mill owned by the Grovers in Glen Haven. No known photograph exists of the Boulder Creek mill.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Only a year later, Joy Camp was renamed "Harris," although both the reason for this change and the name itself remain a mystery. Newspapers at the time make no reference to it and even Donald Clark, the famed local etymologist, could not guess at the origin or reason. The best guess is that it was named after a former Southern Pacific railroad detective named Leonard Harris, who was killed in a shootout in Boulder Creek in 1894. Perhaps some of the more studious campers at Camp Joy did some research and rediscovered this felled hero and recommended the name change. In any case, Harris appeared on employee timetables as a flag-stop in 1910 and remained through the rest of the branch line's existence.

Regularly-scheduled passenger service along the Boulder Creek Branch ended at the end of 1930, but it is unclear when service to Camp Joy ended. It may have terminated earlier, or it could have continued even after passenger service ended via special excursion trains. All service ended in January 1934 and the tracks were pulled soon afterwards. The only part of the old railroad presence there to remain was the office shack, which continued to sit on the old mill property just to the south of Camp Joy.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1143N, 122.1172W

The site of the mill is located on private property and trespassing is prohibited. The right-of-way to from the southeast off Irwin Way remains intact as a long driveway while a single concrete pier over the San Lorenzo River is still standing to the north of the site. According to the owner, the old mill office shack was incorporated into the current private residence, which dates to 1911. To the east, Camp Joy has been subdivided several times, but a portion remains as Camp Joy Gardens, which was established in 1971.

Citations & Credits: