Friday, April 3, 2020

Stations: Santa Cruz Depot (South Pacific Coast Railroad)

There was a time once where the city of Santa Cruz had two separate depots for its two separate railroads. The South Pacific Coast Railroad was the late-comer to the game. Incorporated in 1876, its route through the mountains from Alameda Point to Santa Cruz was only completed in May 1880. At the time, the viewpoint of the local railroad companies was that proximity to the Lower Plaza at the intersection of Mission Street and Pacific Avenue was the key to attracting customers. It was here that Santa Cruz had most of its hotels and it was also the business heart of the city. But steam-powered trains were not allowed in the Lower Plaza, so both the Santa Cruz Railroad and the South Pacific Coast chose to locate their city depots as near to the plaza as feasible.

The only known photograph of the South Pacific Coast depot at Santa Cruz, 1880s.
Colorized with DeOldify. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
By late 1879, the Santa Cruz Railroad had already staked out the prime real estate of Park Street (today's Union Street) and claimed all of Cherry Street (upper Chestnut Street) for its City Railroad horsecar line. To make matters more annoying for the South Pacific Coast, the Santa Cruz Railroad also had a right-of-way down Chestnut Street to Neary Lagoon. The Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad, which the South Pacific Coast took over earlier in the year, maintained its right-of-way under Mission Hill and down Rincon Street (also upper Chestnut Street) and Chestnut Street to the beach, following along the northwest side of the road, parallel to the Santa Cruz Railroad for most of its stretch. This meant that the company was restricted to locating its Santa Cruz depot to some place along the north side of Rincon and Chestnut Street, which gave the company very few options.

The South Pacific Coast Railroad depot during its prime, 1883.
Excerpt from a Sanborn Fire Insurance map. [University of California, Santa Cruz, Digital Collections]
The solution the South Pacific Coast Railroad was both bold and desperate. Just outside the east portal of the Mission Hill Tunnel (Tunnel 8) was a small undeveloped meadow that merged into Cherry Street to the east and Rincon Street to the south. The entire area covered no more than 8,500 square feet, a tiny footprint for a metropolitan depot, even if said city was comparatively small. Nonetheless, the railroad had few other options so quickly erected a depot on the site, using the area further to the south at the end of Chestnut Street for its engine house, turntable, and other facilities.

The South Pacific Coast depot at Santa Clara, 1880s. Colorized with DeOldify. [Source unknown]
The final design of the resultant depot is unfortunately unknown, although the only extant photograph taken from the site suggests it had architectural embellishments like some of the other city depots along the line. The location was surrounded by the steep sandstone hillside of Mission Hill, with the simplistic tunnel portal just to the north, often framed by hanging ivy. The situation along Cherry and Rincon Streets is unknown, but the railroad likely spared no expense making the depot look spectacular, especially since it sat directly across from the depot and yard of the financially-troubled Santa Cruz Railroad, which the South Pacific Coast likely wanted to drive out of business.

The location of the South Pacific Coast depot with a double-headed special passenger train heading toward the Union Depot, June 24, 1939. Photograph by Wilbur C. Whittaker. Colorized with DeOldify. [Jim Vail]
The depot at Cherry Street continued to operate even after the Southern Pacific Railroad leased the line in May 1887. The Santa Cruz Railroad across the street had been acquired by the behemoth in 1881 due at least in part by the increased competition from the South Pacific Coast. Despite running both lines, Southern Pacific waited until January 1, 1893 to unify the depots at a new location further to the south. In the interim, both depots continued to be used selling standard-gauge tickets at the Park Street depot and narrow-gauge tickets at the Cherry Street depot. They maintained separate staffs and even sat on different divisions during this time. With the union of the depots, though, both Cherry Street and Park Street were abandoned. The section of depot that spanned the tracks were removed relatively quickly, but the portion to the east remained until at least 1905, when it last appeared on Sanborn insurance maps.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9762N, 122.0299W

Nothing remains of the former South Pacific Coast Railroad depot on Cherry Street. The land was subsequently sold and sat vacant for many years. Within the past thirty years, the entire tract has been sold and a home and parking lot erected on the parts not occupied by the railroad tracks and tunnel. Presumably the perpetual right-of-way restricts further development of the trackage area while the rest is now privately-owned.

View of the tunnel portal and site of the Cherry Street depot, c. 2012. Photographer unknown.
Citations & Credits:

Friday, March 27, 2020

Curiosities: Urban Legends of Local Railroading

Santa Cruz County is rife with urban legends, as are most places founded during a period of poor records and worse memory. In the case of Santa Cruz's train lines, those urban legends focus primarily on the suspicious reasons why the mountain route closed in 1940 and locomotives that everyone assumes must be lost in the mountains. In both cases, there is a shred of truth buried in a whole lot of fabrication.

The Closure of the Mountain Route
The myths and conspiracies behind the closure of the mountain route are easy to dispel since documentary evidence from the time reveals precisely what happened. On the morning of February 26, 1940, the regular morning passenger train did its run from Santa Cruz to San Jose and back, as it did on any typical Monday. Passenger levels had been dropping for the past decade as unemployment caused by the Great Depression led gradually to an increase of people buying and driving cars for the trans-mountain commute. The impending completion of California State Route 17, which was finished later that year, added to the general feeling that the railroad route was being bypassed. Indeed, Southern Pacific had made almost no money on the route through the mountain over the past two years, and the trend was continuing downward. To make matters worse, they had yet to recoup their expenses for a massive upgrade of the line conducted in the summer of 1937, and the route still needed much more thorough revitalization if it were to survive the coming years. Almost no freight ran on the line by this point, which further aggravated the situation.

Insurance assessment photograph of the western portal of the Summit Tunnel, April 9, 1940.
[Bruce Macgregor – colorized using DeOldify]
Thus, the events of the afternoon and evening of February 26 shattered the perilous situation the railroad was in regarding its sixty-year-old mountain line. Around midday, rains began to fall and they did not let up. In fact, it was one of the most sudden and violent storms the mountains had sustained in recent years. The evening commuter train wisely was rerouted to Gilroy and Watsonville Junction and this temporary workaround continued for the next week, at which time Pacific Greyhound buses were coopted to bypass the route. Meanwhile, surveyors, insurance investigators, and railroad staff began the difficult process of assessing the status of the route.

The situation was not so grim. There were about a dozen serious sinks along the line, primarily in the Zayante Creek watershed where there had previously been some heavy fills installed. Meanwhile, sections near Laurel and Wright suffered slides. None of this was unrepairable damage, but the cost of repairing it would be approximately $30,000, which was nearly the entire annual budget for repairs for the line. Railroad assessors also increased the price of annual maintenance going forward, with $50,000 per year as their estimate. Furthermore, Southern Pacific knew that the line needed a thorough upgrading to loosen curves, replace bridges, and reinforce the six aging tunnels. The costs were deemed too much and, following misleading propaganda and promises in local newspapers, Southern Pacific petitioned to abandon the part of the line between Olympia, where two sand quarries were operating, and Los Gatos on March 25, 1940.

Anticipated public outrage of the abandonment never really came, despite newspapers extolling the virtues of the line and what the loss of passenger service would mean to the community. The railroad calmly made several promises, including a resumption of the Sun Tan Specials via Watsonville Junction and the coastal line, reduced rates for businesses negatively impacted by the closure of the line, and increased Pacific Greyhound bus service during peak periods. With these issues addressed, the local Chamber of Commerce and other people opposed to abandonment dropped their cases. No rail service passed over the line after February 26, and those opposed realized the futility of their cause. The Interstate Commerce Commission granted temporary abandonment in April and official permission to abandon in July. Although it had been out of service for nearly nine months, the line was only formally abandoned on November 7, 1940.

Insurance assessment photograph of the trackage in the vicinity of Laurel, April 9, 1940.
[Bruce Macgregor – colorized using DeOldify]
The segments the railroad retained returned to working order within two months of the initial storm. After the November abandonment, Southern Pacific moved quickly to dismantle the remainder of the line. The process was systematic, with salvageable stock such as prefabricated bridges hauled away and structures such as the depots sold to any interested parties. Three depots were located along the abandoned route: Glenwood, Laurel, and Alma. The latter two continued to operate as a station point for a year before Southern Pacific sold the structures. They then became first businesses and later homes. Both were eventually demolished, Laurel due to safety concerns, Alma due to the inundation of the valley for Lexington Reservoir. Glenwood's depot, meanwhile, had already been abandoned for several years and seems to have been demolished not long after the line was abandoned. Southern Pacific also recovered most of the rail used on the line, since steel prices were at a premium since the start of World War II in Europe. Presumably some of the rail was repurposed for other lines while the remainder was sold for scrap.

The final step of demolition was the tunnels, which have become the host of one of the stranger conspiracy theories surrounding the local railroad lines. In October 1941, H. A. Christie & Sons was hired to salvage the lumber from the abandoned line. They were allowed to take any wood from crossties, water towers, bridge structures, or tunnels that they found. Since most of the bridge supports were covered in thick layers of creosote, they were left behind and remain in place today throughout the route. But the ties and towers were taken, as were the structural supports within the tunnels. From October to late April 1942, Christie & Sons took every last scrap they could, although the tunnels were especially risky due to the risk of cave-in.

Insurance assessment photograph of Tank Siding, April 9, 1940. [Bruce Macgregor – colorized using DeOldify]
Once Christie & Sons was done, Southern Pacific requested the United States Army Corps of Engineers to collapse the entrances to the Summit Tunnel (Tunnel 1), the Glenwood-Laurel Tunnel (Tunnel 2), and the Mountain Charley Tunnel (Tunnel 3). The fourth and final tunnel along this stretch, the Eccles Tunnel (Tunnel 4) at the top of Madrone Drive in Zayante, was considered structurally secure enough that it could remain—it was used for over a decade as a rural road for locals before being taken over as a nuclear bomb-safe storage facility. The demolition of the three tunnels was fairly straight forward. Charges were set within the tunnels just beyond the limit of the concrete and brick ceiling, which ensured both a cleaner collapse and less likelihood that the ground above would sink into the tunnel. It also ensured that Southern Pacific could, if it chose to do so, reopen the tunnels at a later point in time. Indeed, all of the portals except Tunnel 1's west portal, which was fifteen years older than the others, survived the explosions and still stand in near perfect condition even today, as does the roof inside Tunnel 1's east portal. After the charges exploded, crews installed inside Tunnel 1 and Tunnel 2's east portals steel girder frames to ensure that no additional sliding action occurs. The tunnels were then abandoned to the elements and Southern Pacific appears to have never given them another thought, although others have over the past eighty years.

What must be emphasized in this summary is that at no time did the idea that the Japanese could use these tunnels for reasons of espionage enter the minds of Southern Pacific. The route was abandoned due to structural damage and excessive costs. It was dismantled according to the standard procedures of the time. Furthermore, both the abandonment and demolition were approved and begun prior to the United States' entry into World War II on December 8, 1941. In any case, while the tunnels were remote, they were not unmonitored. Residents have lived near all six tunnel portals for well over a century. By 1940, Laurel had sufficient population to keep an eye on its two portals, as did Glenwood and the Mountain Charley Road community. Wright's portal, meanwhile, was monitored semi-regularly by the San Jose Water Company, which had purchased the surrounding property in 1938. Following the logic in Ocham's Razor, the reason the three tunnels were demolished was simply because they were not safe. With the railroad no longer maintaining the tunnels and a distant county authority uninterested in doing so, the tunnels posed a hazard to anyone using them. Two of the tunnels were over a mile long, and both Tunnel 1 and Tunnel 3 did not connect to populated areas, so there were no reasons for keeping them accessible. The only exception was perhaps Tunnel 2, which connected Laurel and Glenwood, but the risk and maintenance costs were still likely too high to justify keeping it open. The fact that Tunnel 4, which had a solid roof, remained open for the community to use for over a decade further supports the theory that the tunnels were simply closed for reasons of safety

Lost Locomotives in the Mountains
The Zayante Creek Mill locomotive
Myths surrounding lost locomotives in the Santa Cruz Mountains have been sustained for many decades, but evidence for them is weak. However, unlike the theory that the mountain tunnels were closed out of a fear of Japanese spycraft, there is a bit of truth in the story of lost locomotives.

Rick Hamman in California Central Coast Railways notes that at least one and maybe two steam locomotives owned by the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company were buried in a slide during a storm at the Zayante mill in 1884. While this is an exciting lead, no sources appear to support the idea. Hamman himself does not note where he heard this from and cannot identify the designs of either locomotive or even when the disastrous slide occurred. Indeed, even the route of the narrow-gauge railroad built by the lumber company along Zayante Creek is not well known, although it likely followed modern-day East Zayante Road for much of its length.

The locomotive at the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company mill on Zayante Creek, c. 1880s.
[Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
The facts that can be found are few but may help reveal the truth of the situation. First, the company only appeared to own one locomotive during this period. It was purchased specifically to operate along the 2-1/2 mile line that the company began building in April 1884. By September 24, the mill was running at full capacity and South Pacific Coast Railroad No. 13 was making transfers with a locomotive owned by the lumber company. There appears to be no evidence of a storm in the latter part of the year, suggesting that any landslide would have occurred for other reasons or simply been a fluke. But the most likely solution is probably the right one: there simply was no landslide or abandoned locomotive.

The question must be asked: why was the company's locomotive not recovered? Landslides and derailments happened all the time and locomotives were rarely abandoned, even if they were severely damaged. Several South Pacific Coast locomotives were damaged from landslides along the mountain route and all of them were put back into circulation. And presumably the lumber company's locomotive would have been comparatively new since there were few providers of narrow-gauge machinery in California in 1884, when it first arrived. Therefore, the only reasonable answer is that it was not, in fact, abandoned, but rather repaired and brought back into service.

The Dinky at Boulder Creek during its years working on the Dougherty Extension Railroad, c. 1910s.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum – colorized using DeOldify]
In fact, the only known photograph of the Zayante Mill shows the locomotive in question operating at the bottom of the lumber yard, and it is none other than the former Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad locomotive, the Felton, popularly nicknamed "Dinky" for its diminutive size. After the South Pacific Coast Railroad took over the Santa Cruz & Felton in 1879, it replaced all of the latter's rolling stock, including its locomotives. The Felton, therefore, needed a new home and found its second life with the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, with which it remained until 1914, when it was finally retired.

The Bridge Creek Locomotive
Unlike the Zayante Creek locomotive, which probably was never lost but continued to operate, there is one other locomotive in Santa Cruz County that was left behind, although it was never in fact lost but rather has since been lost. Ronald G. Powell relates in his extensive history of the Soquel area that Frederick Hihn worked out a deal with the Molino Timber Company in 1912 to harvest the timber in the 610 acres of Tract 10 within Shoquel Augmentation. This section was located to the south of the Loma Prieta Fire Road grade below Sandy Point or north of Maple Falls along the old Bridge Creek trail. The area was extremely isolated and cut off from the other trackage within the region due to the surrounding geography.

Hihn, however, was undaunted by the problem and decided the best solution was to build an isolated railroad network within the upper Bridge Creek watershed which he hoped to one day connect to the existing line lower down. And to work this network, he hauled in none other than his trusty Betsy Jane locomotive, which had originally been used on the Valencia Creek railroad line and spent the previous decade in Laurel where it worked mostly as a stationary engine to run machinery for the mill there.

The Betsy Jane on the Valencia Creek railroad grade near the Hihn company mill, late 1890s.
[Aptos Museum – colorized using DeOldify]
The Betsy Jane was disassembled at Laurel in preparation for its move to Bridge Creek and then hauled via the Southern Pacific line to Opal outside Capitola, where it was then loaded onto several wagons and hauled up to Olive Springs, where it was transported as far as possible up old logging roads deep into Spignet Gulch. From the top of the Hinckley Ridge, the parts were then carted and slid down the road to a point near Maple Falls, at which point cables were rigged to haul the parts over the falls. At the top of the falls, the wagons were reassembled and continued another half mile to the timberlands in Tract 10. Once all the parts were together again, the locomotive was reassembled and placed on waiting tracks that had been installed by other crews in the meantime.

For the next six years, the Hihn-Hammond Lumber Company worked to harvest the so-called splitstuff area, regularly hauling loads of splitstuff up to the Molino railroad grade at the top of the ridge for transport by Molino crews down to the Loma Prieta Mill. It was a cooperative relationship between the two firms that benefitted both. But a storm in November 1918 wrecked much of the operations along Bridge Creek forcing crews to salvage anything they could and leave the area.

The Betsy Jane running a load of felled logs to the Valencia Creek mill, late 1880s. [Aptos Museum]
In 1964, Forest of Nisene Marks State Park ranger Nils Bergman went out on foot to survey the newly-opened park for potential trails and features to highlight to visitors. On a journey down the southwest ridge from Sandy Point he discovered to his amazement a locomotive abandoned along an old splitstuff rail bed. What surprised him even more was that the locomotive did not appear damaged or the result of a tumble from atop the Molino grade. It still had its smokestack and cab intact—the only thing missing was its bell (which was later to be found in the possession of a former employee). Bergman covered the locomotive with brush and kept the location of the locomotive a secret from his superiors and others to avoid treasure-hunters.

The problem with Bergman's plan is that he never actually revealed the specific location to anyone. In the rare instances when he did take visitors to the splitstuff area below Sandy Point, he avoided taking them to the locomotive, even appearing to intentionally deceive people about its location. He later claimed to have forgotten its location, while he told his supervisor in 1971 that he was too infirm to be able to visit the specific area anymore although he appeared to remember precisely where it was. He also implied that the area had been partially covered by a landslide in the late 1960s, further covering it up.

To this day, the precise location of the locomotive is unknown. Several terrible winter storms as well as the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake have greatly changed the landscape in the area, while much of the harvested timberlands have since grown to thoroughly change the landscape of the splitstuff area, making investigating the location of the locomotive even more difficult. Powell visited the area several times from 1974 to the mid-1990s and never found it, despite several potential leads from Bergman's friends and former colleagues. What is certain is that Bergman told many people over the years that he had found the locomotive and that it was located somewhere in the upper Bridge Creek watershed below one of the old railroad grades in the area. Assuming Bergman truly found what he claimed to find, it is the only confirmed lost locomotive in Santa Cruz County.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, March 20, 2020

Tunnels: Mission Hill (Tunnel 8)

Before the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad was even completed in October 1875, the City of Santa Cruz had ruled that locomotives could not travel down Pacific Avenue as originally intended by the railroad. This put the company in a bind since hauling heavily-laden flatcars of lumber and lime individually by horse down the one mile to the Railroad Wharf was simply not feasible in the long term. The solution they chose was to bore a tunnel directly underneath Mission Santa Cruz and the Upper Plaza.

South Pacific Coast Railroad Tunnel 8 from the eastern portal, c. 1900. Note the standard-gauge ties stopping just before the tunnel portal. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Unlike so many aspects of local Santa Cruz history, the construction of the second railroad tunnel in Santa Cruz County was documented by one of the railroad company's locomotive engineers, Fowler Pope. Bruce MacGregor included all of Pope's diary in his The Birth of California Narrow Gauge, but it is also available free to download from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. In the diary, Pope explains how beginning in January 1876, he made several runs taking chalk rock out of the tunnel. This continued through September. The first train into the tunnel was on September 6, but it was another month before the tunnel was bored through on October 2. By the end of that week, the tunnel was sufficiently completed that trains could begin regular runs through. The first train to use the complete route from Felton through the tunnel and onto the wharf operated on October 10.  From that day forward, all through railroad traffic went via this route and the old Pacific Avenue line was converted to a horsecar route eventually operated by the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad.

Southern Pacific double-header emerging out of the eastern portal of Tunnel 6, c. 1939.
Photographed by Wilbur C. Whittaker. [Jim Vail]
The completed tunnel measured 918 feet in length and required extensive timber supports throughout to keep the ceiling from caving in. Mission Hill was not an especially high coastal terrace and the tunnel was not so deep underground that the soil was solid. To make matters more haunting, the old mission cemetery is located directly above the tunnel and bones have been known to drop to the tracks over the years in their gradual migration downward, no doubt aided by the once daily vibration of trains passing underneath.

View inside Tunnel 6, looking south, 2012. Photographer unknown.

The South Pacific Coast Railroad took over the line in 1879 and the tunnel was soon given the name Tunnel 8, the southernmost of the company's eight tunnels between Los Gatos and the Santa Cruz Main Beach. The railroad strengthened the tunnel and installed its passenger depot directly outside the eastern (southern) portal at the junction of Cherry Street (Chestnut Street Extension) and Rincon Street (Chestnut Street proper). This situated it at odds with the Santa Cruz Railroad's depot, which was just across the street at the corner of Park Avenue. While the Santa Cruz Railroad maintained several spurs and a siding in the area, the South Pacific Coast never had any such facilities nearby.

The eastern portal of Tunnel 6 as viewed from Chestnut Street, c. 1950. Photographed by Margaret Koch.
[Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
The Southern Pacific Railroad took over the Santa Cruz Railroad in 1881 and the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1887, but the two routes maintained separate gauges of track and, therefore, remained separate from each other. Southern Pacific trains continued to use the tunnel for the next twenty years. But the migration of the deceased into the tunnel was certainly not aided by the enlarging of the tunnel to support standard-gauge trains around 1907. This enlargement saw the rounded Santa Cruz & Felton tunnel portals replaced by square-framed portals that remain in place today and the lengthening of the tunnel to 927 feet, probably by excavating down slightly and widening the interior. The ceiling too was lifted to a dangerously shallow depth from the Upper Plaza, but it has since been reinforced repeatedly, although water constantly drips inside the tunnel due to the thin, chalky soil. Prior to and during standard-gauging, two other tunnels were daylighted resulting in the tunnel beneath Mission Hill becoming Tunnel 6.

The eastern portal of Tunnel 6, 2012. Photographer unknown.
Roaring Camp Railroads purchased the line, including Tunnel 6, in 1985 and has since been responsible for its regular upkeep. A tunnel maintenance and repair car is often parked on the Eblis siding outside the western portal. To keep out vagrants and avoid accidental fires, the tunnel is now typically gated except during the day in the summer when the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway's Beach Train makes regular trips through the bore. With the destruction of the tunnel below Inspiration Point in 1993, the Mission Hill Tunnel remains the only railroad tunnel in Santa Cruz County still used for its original intent.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Western Portal: 36.9791N, 122.0296W
Eastern Portal: 36.9765N, 122.0299W

The western portal of the tunnel is located behind San Lorenzo Home & Garden Center off Mora Street. The eastern portal, meanwhile, can be found near the intersection of Chestnut Street, Chestnut Street Extension, and Green Street. Under no circumstances should people enter the tunnel without the expressed permission of Roaring Camp staff. Indeed, even walking down the tracks beyond the limits of the sidewalks can be dangerous since the right-of-way is especially narrow in places.


A Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway locomotive heading into the western portal of Tunnel 6, 2012.
Photographer unknown.
Citations & Credits:

Friday, March 13, 2020

Streetcars: Pacific Avenue Street Railroad

Downtown Santa Cruz was not always situated on the floodplain to the north of the San Lorenzo River below Mission Hill. In the 1790s, the Franciscan friars found this area to be too prone to flooding and centered their community on the hill, where it was protected. For the next sixty years, Mission Hill was the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, with the secular settlement of Branciforte situated on a similar hill across the river. But after California statehood in 1850, new settlers arrived and began construction a central business district in what was named at the time the Lower Plaza, spanning down Willow Street and Front Street from Mission Hill to Beach Hill.

A Pacific Avenue Street Railroad horsecar passing under the Grand Arch of the Native Sons of the Golden West celebration, September 1888. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Things changed quickly, though. By the mid-1870s, Willow Street had become Pacific Avenue and the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad had drilled a deep cut through Beach Hill to reach the Railroad Wharf which was under construction at the beach between the older Powder Works Wharf and still older Cowell Wharf. The Santa Cruz Railroad, largely financed by Frederick Hihn and still under construction at the time, had meanwhile widened the small outlet through Beach Hill where Neary Lagoon seeped out into the sea. Hihn took advantage of all this activity in the Lower Plaza to establish the first horse railway line, the Red Line, which opened on August 3, 1875.


Initial service ran from the St. Charles Hotel at the junction of Mission Street and Pacific Avenue, and then down Chestnut Street along the Santa Cruz Railroad line to the Leibbrandt bathhouse, where the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk sits today. It was an imperfect affair, but it worked...for a little while. Facing issues with mixed ownership, Hihn broke off the horsecar line from the Santa Cruz Railroad on January 12, 1877 and incorporated the former as the City Railroad Company. On August 31, 1877, Hihn also incorporated a second company, the Front Street Railroad, which he intended to run up Cliff Street and then around the backside of Beach Hill until it merged with Front Street (essentially the Laurel Street Extension today), ending in front of the St. Charles Hotel, as well. This latter franchise was never completely, however.

A horsecar trotting down Pacific Avenue on a rainy day, 1880s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
By the time that Hihn's horsecar operation was in full swing, another player had entered the scene and barged right on through to the goals without bothering to consider its competition. The Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad was intended from the beginning to be a freight line that would run from Felton to the Railroad Wharf at the Santa Cruz beach. But part of this operation initially involved a railroad line that went straight down Pacific Avenue through the deep cut in Beach Hill. Annoyingly for the railroad, the city mandated in January 1875 that no steam operations could run south of Mission Street along Pacific Avenue, so horses were required to haul fully-laden lumber flatcars the final mile to the wharf. It was an inconvenience the railroad company eventually avoided by boring a tunnel through Mission Hill to the end of Chestnut Street, where the line could parallel the Santa Cruz Railroad to the beach.

A lumber team parked outside the Centennial Flour mill behind Beach Hill with a Pacific Avenue Street horsecar attempting to pass around the traffic jam, late 1870s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
However, as part of the January 1875 agreement with the city, the railroad did not only agree to run only horsepower through downtown Santa Cruz, they were strongly encouraged to operate a horsecar line as well. On January 13, four days after the previous agreement, several investors in the railroad were given a horsecar franchise that could run from Mission Street down Pacific Avenue to the beach. The company was also required to maintain the roads through which its tracks passed. As it happened, the railroad itself opened to through operations to the beach on October 1875. The company was not required to run a horsecar line until 1877, and the investors waited as long as they could to do so. In October 1876, they incorporated the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad Company, again with many of the same investors as the larger railroad, although it was at this point that James P. Pierce of the Pacific Manufacturing Company in Ben Lomond first became directly involved with the various railroad projects in the county.

A lone horsecar travelling along the lower end of Pacific Avenue on its way to the beach, 1880s.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Pierce was a wealthy New Yorker who had some luck during the Gold Rush and became both a banker and manufacturer. In the mid-1870s, he was in the process of building a large lumber empire with the timber tracts above Ben Lomond and along Newell and Love Creeks as his main source. This gave him a definitive edge in the local railroad game, and made him somebody who could affectively complete with the incumbent juggernaut, Hihn. Within months of incorporation, the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad was taken over by Pierce, who was responsible for building, expanding, and supplying rolling stock for the entire line. To differentiate it from Hihn's Red Line, this new horsecar system ran as the Yellow Line.

A Pacific Avenue Street Horsecar parked outside Leibbrandt's Neptune Baths, 1880s.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The Pacific Avenue Street Railroad competed directly with the Red Line almost immediately, with trackage rights extended along the Santa Cruz Railroad route all the way to the Leibbrandt bathhouse on the beach. But Pierce was not quite as capable as he wished and his line languished as winter rains damaged the route and funds and supply problems meant he did not have the ability to repair and upgrade the tracks to resist this annual nuisance. The actual construction of the extension tracks to the bathhouse was not completed until January 1880, while the extension up Mission Street to the Upper Plaza at Walnut Avenue was finished in March. These expansions helped ensure the survival of the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad Company. Meanwhile, Hihn's franchise failed utterly at the end of 1880, culminating in the sale of the Santa Cruz Railroad and the City Railroad to the Southern Pacific Railroad on April 28, 1881. The next year, Southern Pacific abandoned the Red Line permanently and the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad found itself without any competition in the horsecar business.

Two Pacific Avenue Street horsecars along the Esplanade near the Neptune Baths on a busy summer day, late 1880s.
 [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The golden years of the Pacific Avenue horsecar line were the early 1880s, when Pierce convinced the Santa Cruz city council to grant him everything he wanted and needed for his line, including the installation of several switches to allow cars to pass at convenient locations. He also was allowed to abandon sections of track that were less profitable now that the company had no competition. The tracks terminus at the San Lorenzo River beyond the Leibbrandt bathhouse was cut back to immediately in front of the baths in early 1883. Meanwhile, Pierce attempted to abandon entire Mission Street extension in late 1883, but public opposition forced him to abandon the plan and ultimately resign as president of the company. Tired of all the local politics, Pierce left the area and ultimately abandoned the lumber industry as well, converting his mill town into Ben Lomond.

View of Pacific Avenue looking north with a Pacific Avenue Street Railroad horsecar at the end, 1880.
[W. C. Casey]
Pierce and his colleagues eventually sold the line outright in May 1887 to a new group of investors. They quickly began refurbishing the rolling stock and upgrading the trackage to support more cars running more frequently to meet demand. The fact that Charles B. Younger, a close friend of Frederick Hihn, was involved finally made the company respectable in the eyes of Hihn. The company's next move was to extend trackage outward. Approval to extend the Mission Street trackage was approved at the expense of a new firm which sought to expand horsecar services on the West Side. At the same time, the old Front Street route of Hihn's vision was finally approved, although it would only begin at Laurel Street and continue down Cliff Street.

Horsecar tracks heading down Pacific Avenue shortly before the line was replaced with electric streetcars, late 1880s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Competition finally returned in the form of the East Santa Cruz Horse Railroad in December 1889, but this new company's domain was decidedly outside the zone of the Pacific Avenue lines. But it encouraged more localized competition. A lack of progress in extending the Mission Street lines gave more power to rivals who sought to build their own networks atop the marine terrace, especially once Garfield Park was established in 1890. The company was still debating its future plans when, in May 1891, a new player entered the scene that completely collapsed the local horsecar industry. Convincing the city council of the merits of an electric streetcar line, the Santa Cruz, Garfield Park & Capitola Electric Railway Company was quickly granted rights-of-way from Mission Street to Garfield Park, down Walnut Avenue to Front Street, and to various other important locations throughout the Lower Plaza, including along the Laurel Street Extension to the bathhouses. It was to be the end for the Yellow Line.

By November 1891, the first electric streetcars were running on the completed trackage. The end finally came when the city allowed the new streetcar line to install track down Center Street, two blocks away from Pacific Avenue, and down the esplanade. This completely surrounded or paralleled the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad's operations. On August 6, 1892, the railroad sold all of its franchise rights, rolling stock, and trackage to the Santa Cruz, Garfield Park & Capitola Electric line. Within months, the tracks were torn up and replaced with standard-gauge tracks and electrical wiring was installed to support the new operations. The old rolling stock was sold off in April 1893 and the last hint of the horsecar system disappeared

Citations & Credits:
  • McCaleb, Charles S. Surf, Sand & Streetcars: A Mobile History of Santa Cruz, California. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum of Art & History, 2005.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Freight Stops: Mission Orchard

Below Mission Hill at the southern end of the former Mission Orchard, later called Eblis, the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad ran into a problem: its otherwise straight route between Pogonip to the Santa Cruz Main Beach was blocked by Mission Hill. The solution was simple enough: run the train around Mission Hill and down Pacific Avenue to the beach. This idea was fine in theory, but proved unpopular in practice, namely because lumbering steam trains hauling a dozen over-laden cars down the center of the commercial district was not conducive to good business. While the company decided at this point that a tunnel through the hill would be the best option going forward, it also decided that the clearing beside River Street in the shadow of the hill would have to suit for its engine house.

The Mission Orchard engine house near Mission Hill, 1870s. [Randolph C. Brandt]
Since the late 1860s, River Street (including North Pacific Avenue) along the eastern side of Mission Hill served as the industrial district of town. The arrival of the railroad in 1875 made this even more the case. The Santa Cruz & Felton engine house was located in the vicinity of where San Lorenzo Lumber & Home Center sits today. It was a crudely-built wood structure with not much to offer, but it provided adequate housing and repair facilities for the company's two locomotives and some of its rolling stock. A generous yard between the hillside and River Street gave room for spare crossties and rails, as well as replacement machinery for the stock. Its location also made it easy for crews to get to work early and return home at respectable hours.

The Santa Cruz Foundry on River Street (North Pacific Avenue), c. 1880s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Just next door along River Street was a series of heavy industrial businesses that often supported the railroad. Down the street from the engine house was the Santa Cruz Foundry, owned by Thomas and Morton Amner. Beside that was the Santa Cruz Gas Works, across from which was the New Foundry, run by W. H. Martin. Both foundries worked on commission for all of the local railroads, but had an especially close relationship with the Santa Cruz & Felton, helping it build rolling stock, repair the locomotives, and craft rails, spikes, frogs, and other metalworks for use on the line. The relationship between the gas company and railroad is less certain, but it likely provided oil and grease used in the company's operations. At the end of the block, the St. Charles Hotel marked the end-of-track for steam service from 1875 to 1876 and was also the de facto passenger station throughout the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad's independent existence, which ended soon after the South Pacific Coast Railroad purchased the line in 1879.

The acquisition of the railroad by the South Pacific Coast marked the closure of the Mission Orchard engine house. The larger locomotives used by the South Pacific Coast meant it needed a larger house, which was built further down the line where the Santa Cruz Union Depot would later be erected. Meanwhile, the Mission Orchard was abandoned by the railroad. The Pacific Avenue Street Railroad, a horsecar line, had shared space with the Santa Cruz & Felton near its engine house and likely continued to use the track throughout the 1880s, possibly until shortly after James P. Pierce sold the line in 1887 and it was renovated and expanded. Not long after the horsecar line left, the trackage between the St. Charles Hotel and the point where the track entered River Street was cut. The only remnant was a short spur between the mainline and River Street around Mission Hill.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the Cunningham & Company Planing Mill & Lumber Yard, 1892.
[University of California, Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
A new tenant took over the Mission Orchard site in 1889. James F. Cunningham had been a Felton merchant before he became a major investor in the lumber industry north of Boulder Creek. By the time the Felton & Pescadero Railroad was completed to Boulder Creek in 1885, he had begun shifting operations north. He took over the former flume mill around 1887 and then assisted in the construction of the Dougherty Extension Railroad through the next year. With his lumber mill and timber operations in the north secured, he shifted his focus to downtown Santa Cruz, where he built a large planing mill along the old spur outside the Mission Hill tunnel. The mill had storage space for 1,500,000 board feet of lumber accessible from the spur or a tramway. But the move to Santa Cruz brought him into direct competition with both Frederick Hihn's Santa Cruz Lumber Company and the megalithic Loma Prieta Lumber Company, as well as smaller players such as the Grovers. Within two years, Cunningham was pushed out of Santa Cruz and his business merged with Grover & Company in 1894 and was completely dissolved in 1897.

Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the Cascade Steam Laundry facility off River Street, 1905.
[UCSC Digital Collections]
The vacated buildings were soon taken over by A. E. Stumer and his Cascade Steam Laundry company. The mill became the main laundering facility while the lumber sheds were converted to wagon sheds or abandoned. Stumer sold out to Lindsay L. and M. R. Morrison in 1897, although Morrison left in 1901 and was replaced with Andrew Denison. Whether the company used the railroad spur during this time is unknown, but it seems unlikely. In any case, the company vacated the site by mid-1905 and relocated to the corner of River Street and Water Street.

An inaccurate Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the City Corporation Yard in 1917. The spur line likely no longer existed when this map was updated. [UCSC Map Collections]
In its place, the Santa Cruz Cement Block & Brick Company took over the site, but the San Francisco Earthquake in April 1906  seems to have ruined the business. The entire company was sold to W. H. Booth, who continued to run it for a fear years from the site, but he eventually sold or leased the lot to the City of Santa Cruz for use as a gravel plant for paving local roads. It is unclear whether the tracks continued to pass into the property at this time—the existing Sanborn Fire Insurance map is simply an edited copy of an earlier map and does not accurately show the conversion of the railroad line to standard gauge in 1908. If the rails did still exist, they were likely not upgraded and disconnected from the mainline. Aerial photographs from the late 1920s certainly do not show a spur passing into this property.

The site of the Mission Orchard spur at left, now occupied by San Lorenzo Lumber & Home Center, 2012. Mora Street in the foreground. [Google StreetView]
The Santa Cruz City Corporation Yard remained at the site until 1966, when it was moved north to near Salz Tannery. The Santa Cruz Lumber Company owned by George N. Ley took over the property shortly afterwards. They had been operating out of the former Sinkinson & Sons planing and sash mill across the tracks and north two blocks, but they wanted to have a more visible commercial presence in the city and felt that the corporate yards would provide them that desired visibility. There is no evidence that the company ever used the railroad tracks, despite the fact that they pass directly behind the property and other former Santa Cruz Lumber sites did accept rail deliveries. The  In 1986, the company became Redtree Properties and promptly sold the retail business to the family of a former employee, the Butchers, who incorporated the San Lorenzo Lumber Company. They continued to run the company until 2004, when it was absorbed into Lumbermens, which became ProBuild in 2006. Popular resistance to the name reverted it to San Lorenzo Lumber & Home Center four years later.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9793N, 122.0287W

The site of the Mission Orchard engine house and its successors is in the trapezoid west of River Street between Mora Street and Mission Hill. The corner is entirely dominated by the San Lorenzo Lumber & Home Center, the main building of which approximately occupies the site of the former Cunningham planing mill. A former road, Quintana Street, now serves as most of the parking lot to the center. The railroad track continue to pass behind the facility, but no remnant of a spur remains.

Citations & Credits:

  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Zayante Publishing, forthcoming.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Stations: St. Charles Hotel

For four brief years, from 1875 until 1879, railroad traffic between Felton and Santa Cruz called a small area to the north of Mission Hill home. The city of Santa Cruz, appreciative of the new railroad line to Felton, was considerably less enthused about trains running down Pacific Avenue. As a result, a city ordinance was passed banning all steam locomotive activity along Pacific Avenue. This resulted in two significant changes. First, the railroad began construction of a tunnel through Mission Hill in order to bypass downtown entirely on its way to the Railroad Wharf. Second, the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad Company was created to run horsecars down Pacific Avenue, bringing revenue to the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad while putting its mostly useless downtown tracks to good use. Interest in the railroad route to Felton also increased substantially, causing the company to reconsider its original plan to run as a freight-only line.

Mission Street heading up to Mission Hill, with the St. Charles Hotel at right, 1880s.
[Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
The St. Charles Hotel did not begin life as such. In 1867, William Anthony and Joseph Ruffner erected a two-story hardware store at the corner of River Street and Mission Street. Upstairs, there was a small tin shop run by Anthony, while a grocery store run by S. W. Field and J. W. Brown occupied the northern half of the building. Charles Brown bought the structure around 1872 and completely renovated it, adding a wrap-around porch and third story and converting the entire establishment into a deluxe hotel he named the St. Charles. It opened to the public as the second substantial hotel in the city on June 11, 1873 and was initially run by William N. Cummings, who was known locally for operating a popular livery stable. A description of the hotel in the February 7, 1874 Weekly Sentinel extols:
"This hotel is one of the finest in the place, and can easily accommodate 75 persons. It is elegantly furnished throughout, the rooms are comfortable, large and airy, and a feature is, that, with the exception of one room, they are well lighted by windows, direct from the outside. In addition to this, a stairway leads to the roof, upon which is an observatory, where a most enchanting view may be obtained of the beautiful bay of Monterey, and every point of interest in Santa Cruz. Here also is a space surrounded by a neat and safe railing, where children of the guests can sport and play to their heart's content, in the open air, without danger. The kitchen and dining room are well arranged, and conducted in the highest skill of the caterer's art. At present there are few transient guests, but the coming season it is expected there will be more than the usual rush of summer visitors, for which event Mr. Cummings is making ample preparations."
Downstairs in the hotel was a saloon run by C. H. Bury, called by the Weekly Sentinel "one of the neatest and most gorgeously furnished saloons ever fitted up in Santa Cruz." The hotel quickly became a central hub when a stage service adopted the hotel as its Santa Cruz station for journeys to Pescadero in January 1874. The next year in June, another stage line, this time to Watsonville, adopted the St. Charles as its northern terminus. Finally, in October 1875, the Pacific Avenue Horsecar Railroad began operating down Pacific Avenue to the beach, and it used the St. Charles Hotel as its northern terminus.
Earliest photograph of the St. Charles Hotel, before it was the hotel, c. 1870. A hardware store and grocery store sit downstairs while a tin shop is upstairs. Photograph by B. C. Gadsby. [Santa Cruz Sentinel, Aug. 4, 1910]
By the time the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad opened in October 1875, the St. Charles Hotel had become an important hub for many local transportation lines. And since it sat at the southern limit of where a fully-rigged train could pass before the city ordinance kicked in, it made it a perfect location for the southern terminus of the railroad to Felton. After only a year of informal but profitable service, the railroad caved and purchased two new passenger cars in July 1876: a first-class car with glass windows and a second-class car without glass windows. Most of the trains that went up to Felton were mixed freight-passenger, but this did not stop passengers from travelling between the two towns, especially during the summer months.

Sanborn Fire Insurance survey map showing the location of the St. Charles Hotel at the corner of River Street
and Mission Street, 1883. [University of California, Santa Cruz, Digital Collections]
Like most hotels in the area, proprietorship of the St. Charles passed between owners frequently. In 1874, Cummings' tenure ended and he was replaced with James Montgomery. The next year in November, Walter Barr took over management, but he fled the town in February 1876 with unpaid debts. It was probably at this point that Charles Brown sold the property to Henry Cowell. Cummings returned briefly to oversee the sale of much of the hotel's movables. Joseph Bloch of Salinas then came in to renovate and reopen the hotel with a four-year license under Cowell. It was he who ran the hotel for the remainder of the time that it served as the railroad's passenger depot, until late 1879, at which time the South Pacific Coast Railroad opened its new passenger depot two blocks away, at the northern end of Chestnut Street outside the southern (eastern) portal of the Mission Hill Tunnel.

Stereograph of the St. Charles Hotel, c. 1876, by Romanzo E. Wood. [California State Library]
Curiously, only months after the depot opened, Bloch left the St. Charles Hotel despite having another year on his contract. A sheriff's sale in September 1879 sold most of the hotel's furnishings. A notice in an October 4 Sentinel article noted: "The St. Charles is not a success. Its location is not the best." The sudden closure of the hotel and departure of Bloch left ownership of the hostelry in doubt. A lawsuit between Louis Schwartz and Henry Cowell over the property erupted in May 1880 and nothing more is heard of the facility until July 1883, when Mrs. M. P. Ray was brought on to reopen the hotel.

The St. Charles Hotel with guests on the balcony and porch, c. 1890s.
[Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jun. 17, 1956]
In May 1884, J. F. Woodward, former proprietor of the European Hotel of Leadville, Colorado, and the Hawaiian Hotel of Honolulu, took over from Ray. Ellen Neary Nolan then took over in November. During this time, the hotel continued to serve as a major station for several different transportation systems. Another horsecar line, the East Santa Cruz Railroad Company, passed directly in front of the hotel with a stop there, while the Hartman Bros's stagecoach line to Boulder Creek used the hotel as its Santa Cruz terminus. After surviving a major city fire on the evening of May 30, 1887, the St. Charles Hotel fell into a bit of a dark age.

The St. Charles Hotel from Pacific Avenue, with the Anthony Block in the foreground, c. 1890s. [Preston Sawyer]
While it remained an important stage and horsecar stop, only information on the saloon exists for the next few years. Apparently, Nolan continued to run the hotel until May 24, 1894, when Noah M. Knight took over as proprietor, but he closed the hotel a month later for unknown reasons. It reopened almost exactly a year later in 1895 under the management of Mrs. W. B. Drew of Felton, but it shut down again two months later due to lack of business. The relocation of the Santa Cruz railroad depot to the end of Center Street in 1893 was cited by the newspaper as a leading reason for this decline in patronage, as well as a general lack of upgrades to surrounding buildings since the 1887 fire. The hotel sat vacant with the exception of the saloon for the next seven years, although E. B. Pixley briefly rented out rooms to overflow from his own nearby hotel in September 1899 for California Admission Day.

In December 1902, Juanita B. Leoni finally received permission to reopen the hotel and immediately began renovating it. The aged hotel opened with a gala on April 4, 1903 to much praise and excitement, but it only lasted the summer. By October, Leoni had left and the Cowell estate was once again searching for a proprietor. It found its final managers in March 1904 in the persons of Mrs. Phebe F. Douglass and Mrs. N. C. Wiggs, who ran the hotel as the Waverly Rooming House. Douglass took sole control of the business in July but a mysterious death at the hotel in October quickly scared away customers. Douglass began posting a notice in the Santa Cruz Surf in December attempting to attract customers who had heard reports about the hotel and the note appears to have worked since she remained in business throughout the 1905 and 1906 seasons.

By 1907, Douglass had abandoned the hostelry, except for existing tenants, the last of whom left in early 1909. The structure was abandoned permanently thereafter except as a polling place during local elections. It became a home to squatters and vagrants until the morning of May 7, 1919, when the structure was severely damaged in a fire that gutted the top two stories. After sitting unoccupied for a year, the burned wreck was finally demolished in April 1920 by W. H. Booth. The next January, Cowell received permission to install a Standard Oil service station at the site, which remained at the location for several decades.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9772N, 122.0273W

The site of the St. Charles Hotel is currently an open lot at the junction of Mission Street and Pacific Avenue. Recently it has been developed as an informal park, with several young redwood trees planted among a pathway line by rocks. An old concrete wall, now painted, marks the hill-side of the property. A building housing Crossroads and Serpent's Kiss sits behind the site along North Pacific Avenue. Nothing of the original hotel remains and the streetcar tracks have long since been removed.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, February 21, 2020

Stations: Eblis

Deep beneath the bowels of Holy Cross Catholic Church atop Mission Hill, under the old Spanish cemetery, mostly forgotten, lies a dark, dank tunnel through which the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway passes daily through Hell! Okay, not exactly Hell, but rather through Satan! Or at least a devil. Oh my, this has gone off track entirely. Let us begin again...

Advertising poster for the book release of Zoraida, 1895. [Public Domain]
In 1894, William Le Queux published the serialized novel Zoraida in local newspapers to great acclaim. The story told of an enchanting Algerian Moor who fell in love with a Spanish soldier and converted to Christianity in order to elope with him. The tale was racy, exciting, and quite popular with working class men who had Oriental dreams. And in the story, the name Eblis—Arabic for Satan or a devil—was invoked several times, often to describe the courtesan Zoraida.

Meanwhile back in Santa Cruz, the Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way just to the north of Mission Hill was finally transitioning into an industrial district in the early 1890s. The mission orchards—the Potrero—had long been off limits to developers but the end of the cattle industry within the Santa Cruz city limits meant that the area could transition to other purposes. From the very beginning of the railroad in 1875, the area had hosted the old Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad's maintenance shops as well as served as the northern terminus of the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad. After the South Pacific Coast Railroad took over in 1879, the maintenance shop was moved down the track and the spur became host to the Cunningham & Company planing mill. But the railroad did not note most of these developments on timetables.

The year 1899 brought many changes to the local timetables, one of which was the addition of the Tunnel 8 Siding just north of the Mission Hill Tunnel. But this name did not stick. Registered officially in the station books, released January 1, 1899, the name was changed by April to Eblis in what can only be a reference to the siding's location in the shadow of the Holy Cross Church on Mission Hill. The church sat on the location of the original destroyed Mission Santa Cruz and was built between 1885 and 1889, so was a relatively new feature on the landscape. The word Eblis is extraordinarily rare in the United States and undoubtedly derives from the Le Queux's story that had circulated just four years earlier in local newspapers. It also is the only Arabic loan word used to describe a location in Santa Cruz County.

The specific station point for Eblis is just north of Mora Street, which is itself off River Street. It is at this point that a long siding breaks off the right-of-way. The siding originally continued north to Coral Street before rejoining the mainline, but this was truncated back to just south of Highway 1 when the freeway was built in 1956. Technically, Eblis station encompasses the entirety of the siding's length, from Mora Street to Coral Street, and all the spurs that once broke off from the parallel lines in this section. These businesses included Cascade Steam Laundry, the Santa Cruz Cement Block & Brick Company, the Santa Cruz City corporate yard, Sinkerson & Sons, the F. A. Hihn Company, Santa Cruz Lumber Company, Associated Oil, Standard Oil, Richfield Oil, Union Oil, Texas Oil, Poultry Producers of Central California, Graniterock, and perhaps even the Salz Tannery, which sits just beyond the northern end of the siding.

One of the first Beach Trains temporarily parked at Eblis, 1986. [Jack Hanson]
In what was probably intended as a rebranding effort, in September 1927, Eblis was removed from timetables and replaced with simply Mora Street, which was listed as a flag-stop rather than a more formal station. This likely reflected the fact that Eblis was and almost always had been exclusively a freight stop, and one in which the actual station point did not overly matter since all of the local customers had their goods delivered directly to private spurs. Like Eblis, Mora Street was a reference to Mission Santa Cruz and was named after Bishop Mora, the last head of the California diocese before the Mexican revolution forced the Spanish out of California. Mora was known to visit Santa Cruz frequently and the street was subsequently named after him by early town planners. Notably, station books from the time do not note Mora Street and continue to call the location Eblis, and confusingly both names appeared together on timetables from 1928 until May 31, 1931 despite the two names marking nearly identical locations.

A Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway locomotive parked on the Eblis siding during a track repair project, 2012.
[Howard Cohen]
Throughout most of its history, Eblis (and Mora Street) were considered flag-stops on the line, but no station structure other than a sign were ever erected for the location. When Roaring Camp Railroads purchased the route in 1985, the deal included the siding at Eblis and the right to handle any freight from nearby customers, which the railroad has periodically done. More often, the railroad uses the siding to temporarily park its tunnel repair car and other rolling stock.

The Eblis station point on Mora Street with the tunnel repair car parked on the siding, 2011. [Google Maps]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9804N, 122.0298W

Eblis remains an active station point for the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway. Although freight only rarely passes through the station and no freight patron has used the station for several decades now, it is still an officially registered station. As such, trespassing is not permitted on the right-of-way, although the station site is essentially the intersection of Mora Street and Amat Street, where the siding breaks off from the mainline.

Citations & Credits: