Friday, July 12, 2019

Railroads: Felton & Pescadero Railroad

The idea of building a railroad between Santa Cruz and the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River was not new in 1883. As early as the mid-1860s, the San Lorenzo Valley Railroad had a similar idea, although legal disputes caused the project to fail before a single track was lain. The San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company inverted the idea by planning to build a fourteen-mile-long v-flume between the city and the headwaters in 1875, but the dearth of year-round water sources between Santa Cruz and Felton forced the company to build a railroad between those two points instead. The Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad and the flume company were subsequently purchased by the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1879 to constitute the final six miles of its route between Alameda Point and the Santa Cruz Main Beach. But with the opening of that line in May 1880, the railroad still had not solved the longstanding problem of a railroad line up the San Lorenzo Valley.

A South Pacific Coast Railroad engine parked at Boulder Creek, c. 1886. [Derek R. Whaley]
For three years, the South Pacific Coast Railroad worked to straighten curves, reinforce bridgework, build short branch lines and spurs, and otherwise cleanup the trackage it had built over the previous seven years. Meanwhile, the poorly aging flume that ran eight miles north of Felton was incapable of meeting the increased demand for lumber by the rapidly-growing Santa Clara Valley. A better solution was required. On June 13, 1883, the railroad incorporated a wholly-owned subsidiary, the Felton & Pescadero Railroad. The plan was to build the route in two stages: first the track would venture six miles to marshy clearing to the south of the junction of the San Lorenzo River and Boulder and Bear Creeks (the Turkey Foot). At a later point, the track would be extended an additional twenty miles to the top of the San Lorenzo Valley and down Pescadero Creek to the coastal settlement of Pescadero.

Map showing the Felton & Pescadero right-of-way running atop George Treat's land on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River with both South Pacific Coast depot grounds visible on either side of the river, c. 1883. [Felton Grove]
Surveying for the line probably began before June 1883, but a final survey prompted residents in both Felton and the town of Lorenzo, south of the Turkey Foot, to increase property prices in the hope of making some easy money. In both instances, the gamble failed spectacularly. The railroad decided to bypass downtown Felton by extending a line from the company's new station on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River. The railroad did not cross the river until after passing through Pacific Mills (Ben Lomond) three miles to the north. The old Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad terminus remained in downtown Felton, but it was increasingly neglected by the railroad and was eventually removed as a passenger stop by Southern Pacific in the early 1900s. At Lorenzo, the railroad likewise bypassed the town, sticking close to the river along its west bank rather than venturing closer to the town center. The stop for the town was only two blocks away, but it had few facilities and the line's terminus was a quarter mile to the north below what would soon become downtown Boulder Creek.

A South Pacific Coast Railway train turning the bend near Lorenzo to head into Boulder Creek, c. 1900.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Grading work for the narrow-gauge line began almost immediately and it is unclear precisely how the railroad interacted with the flume during construction. It took nearly two years for the line to be built and the flume continued to operate during this time, suggesting that the flume was only dismantled after the railroad was fully constructed. However, it is equally possible that the flume was cut back in sections at places where lumber could be adequately transferred to waiting rail cars. This could have occurred near Rubottom (Brackney), Pacific Mills, and Reed (Brookdale), among other places. Seven bridges over the San Lorenzo River were required, as well as bridges over Newell, Love, and Clear Creeks and other smaller tributaries. Boulder Creek was eventually chosen as the terminus because of the large area of land available for a freight yard and due to the fact that one of the company officials had purchased the property several years earlier in anticipation of such a railroad. The expansion of the town of Boulder to the south, across the eponymous creek, was also part of this arrangement and the town of Boulder Creek was essentially born with the arrival of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad there in 1885.

New Almaden Depot outside the quicksilver mines south of Campbell, c. 1887.
[Laurence E. Bulmore Collection at History San José]
Advertisement for the South Pacific Coast
Railroad showcasing a roundtrip to Boulder Creek
and many of the company's local slogans, c. 1890.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Construction of the railroad line halted at Boulder Creek as the company's investors gathered revenue to fund the long slog to Pescadero. The construction of the branch line to the New Almaden quicksilver mines south of Campbell also likely delayed further projects in the San Lorenzo Valley for a time. Lumber from the South Pacific Coast's customers in the valley was sent to fuel the fires in the mercury refineries at New Almaden, so the two projects were closely related. During this time, the flume was definitively cut back to Boulder Creek and its terminus was set directly across from the new Boulder Creek depot building, erected in 1886. It may have also been sold to a private firm since it disappears from company records after 1885.

With the completion of the New Almaden Branch in November 1886, attention should have returned to the Felton & Pescadero Railroad, but events were moving that would prematurely end any such plans. Throughout 1886, South Pacific Coast principal owner James G. Fair was in negotiations with Southern Pacific to lease his company to his competition. Despite proving the financial potential of a narrow-gauge railroad network, Fair apparently tired of his railroading scheme and wanted out. On May 23, 1887, he consolidated all of his railroad companies together to form the South Pacific Coast Railway Company, which he promptly leased to Southern Pacific on July 1 of the same year. May 23, therefore, marks the official end of the company.

The Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company's locomotive known as the Dinky (originally the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad's Felton), emblazoned with Boulder Creek & Pescadero Railroad livery, c. 1910. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
The legacy of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad lived on in several ways. The line itself became first the Felton Branch and eventually the Boulder Creek Branch and remained in use as a passenger and freight line until January 1934. Meanwhile, in 1888, the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company finally achieved one of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad's goals in extending the line further north, albeit as a privately-owned railroad. This line, at times fancifully called the Boulder Creek & Pescadero Railroad, eventually reached the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River in 1898 and remained in operation until 1915.

A section of the Santa Cruz Lumber Company's railroad right-of-way along Pescadero Creek south of its mill, 1936.
Photo by Emmanuel Fritz. [UC Berkeley]
Southern Pacific seriously considered purchasing the line and extending it to Pescadero in 1905. Indeed, the Coast Line Railroad was partially incorporated to achieve this goal. Multiple surveys were conducted and a route up Feeder Creek and across to a branch of Pescadero Creek was decided before the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake threw all such plans into disarray. The removal of the tracks north of Boulder Creek in 1917 permanently ended any attempts to reach Pescadero via Boulder Creek. In an interesting twist, however, the Santa Cruz Lumber Company did, a decade later, build an isolated railroad line along Pescadero Creek, although it never reached the town to the north nor connect to Boulder Creek to the south.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald T. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2007.
  • Robertson, Donald B. Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: California. Caldwell, ID: Caxton Press, 1986.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Curiosities: Big Basin

In the year 1900, California had only had one state park: Yosemite. It was a lush wilderness carved out of the earth by earthquakes and glaciers over millions of years. And it had giant sequoia (sequoiadendron giganteum), the largest trees on earth—thousands of them! But the tallest trees in the world were found elsewhere, and a substantial selection of these coast redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) grew along the remote northern edge of Santa Cruz County in a mountain hollow called Big Basin.

The Animal Tree, named after its large burls, at the California Redwood Park, c. 1905. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
For millennia, Cotoni and Quiroste, both Ohlone, Native Americans visited the hidden glen at the headwaters of Waddell Creek to harvest plants and gather food. The area was rich with several species of deer and elk and the Ohlone were not opposed to burning their prey out of the forest when hunting became difficult. Native American activity declined and then disappeared entirely by the mid-nineteenth century as the Spanish brought all of the local Ohlone to Mission Santa Cruz. American interest in the redwoods of the San Lorenzo Valley, south of Big Basin, began as early as the 1840s with early pioneers such as Isaac Graham but boomed as Gold Rush immigrants turned south to settle in Santa Cruz County. The death of Graham in 1863 helped opened the San Lorenzo Valley to settlement.

A tie camp run by Henry Middleton's near Big Basin, c. 1901. Photo by Andrew Hill. [History San Jose]
Within fifteen years, logging and lumber companies appeared up and down the San Lorenzo Valley, with some such as that of the Harmon Brothers mill on Boulder Creek operating precariously close to Big Basin, just across the crest of Ben Lomond Mountain. Henry L. Middleton eventually purchased the majority of the basin with the intention to harvest the old growth redwood timber there once adequate provisions were in place to haul it down the grade.

An exploration party at Big Basin including, from left, Louise C. Jones, Carrie Stevens Walter, J. F. Coope, J. Q. Packard, Andy Baldwin, Charles W. Reed, W. W. Richards, and Roley, c. 1890s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
While few probably thought of Big Basin when the San Lorenzo Valley flume was constructed in 1875, the completion of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad to Boulder Creek in 1885 certainly marked a milestone in the history of Big Basin in two decidedly divergent ways. For the first time, tourists could venture up to Big Basin to enjoy the beautiful redwood groves and the pristine meadows and trickling brooks. As early as 1886, the Moody and Cress livery stable in Boulder Creek and William Marshall Elsom's stable in Ben Lomond would took picnickers and campers up to Big Basin. The railroad itself briefly operated stage service over Saratoga Gap between Boulder Creek and Pescadero, hinting at the possibilities of a railroad line over the same route.

Ladies measuring the diameter of a coast redwood at Big Basin, c. 1905. [Unknown Collection]
But the natural inverse of the close proximity of the railroad to Big Basin was increased interest by Middleton in harvesting his valuable timber atop the mountain. Indeed, Middleton became an important investor in the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, partnering with the James Dougherty in the ownership of the main Boulder Creek general store and helping fund the construction of the Dougherty Extension Railroad—often nicknamed in newspapers the Middleton Railroad—in 1888. The threat of deforestation within Big Basin was mounting and some influential people united to ensure the redwood groves were preserved for future generations.

Warden's Lodge at Big Basin, c. 1928. [Doug Kuntz Photography]
Andrew P. Hill, notorious for being removed from Big Trees in Felton for illegally taking commercial photographs of the trees, visited Big Basin in 1900 with a company of Bay Area businessmen, journalists, and politicians. He helped bring the matter to the attention of the wider public while he and others, such as recent Lieutenant Governor William Thomas Jeter and Josephine Clifford McCracken, organised a preservation society called the Sempervirens Club and gathered sponsors to permanently protect the area. By this time, James Dougherty had died and most of the San Lorenzo Valley was logged out—it was the make or break moment for Middleton. He was a capitalist and wanted to derive a profit from his land, but he also understood the importance Big Basin had come to play in the minds of tourists and conservations. He was willing to bargain and, with the intervention of the Sempervirens Club, he sold the property to the State of California, leading to the creation of the state's second park: California Redwood Park. Middleton, rather appropriately, was designated provisional park warden and donated additional land to house the warden's lodge.

A rugged bridge in California Redwood Park, c. 1925. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The creation of the park was the first and most important step, but the most pressing issue remained access. When it first opened, only one relatively crude road linked the main campground at Big Basin to Boulder Creek. Internally, there were no roads at all. As early as the 1890s, locals speculated that some form of rail transport could be built to Big Basin. By 1905, Southern Pacific was surveying routes to Pescadero Creek from several miles north of Boulder Creek, with plans to eventually build a branch to the redwood park, although the 1906 Earthquake shelved these plans an they were never seriously revived. The Ocean Shore Railway also considered constructing a line either up Waddell Creek or, more likely, up Pescadero Creek until a branch could turn south into Big Basin. Other proposals ranging from streetcars and funiculars to gondolas appeared periodically in local newspapers, but none were actually built and rail access never came to Big Basin.

Main entrance to California Redwood Park, c. 1920. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
A proposal to connect Big Basin to the old Saratoga Toll Road near Waterman Gap was made as early as 1905, but it was not acted upon until 1911 and was not completed until 1915, in time for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. By the 1920s, however, this route became the "official" park entrance, marked with an overhead arch in a meadow and a scenic drive through along the rim of the San Lorenzo Valley. Nonetheless, the majority of traffic still came via Big Basin Way between Boulder Creek and Big Basin. In the 1950s, both of these roads were taken over by the state to become Highway 236.

The Auto Tree at California Redwood Park, c. 1920. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
As vehicular access to the park became easier, a 21-foot diameter, fire-damaged redwood tree at Governor's Camp was hollowed out to allow automobiles to drive through it. The tree remains at the park but cars are no longer able to drive through it.

Redwood Inn at California Redwood Park, c. 1920. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The Redwood Inn was the first formal lodge at Big Basin. Over the years, the facilities at the park were expanded and preserved. As part of the government's employment efforts in the 1930s, a team from the Civilian Conservation Corps built a new nature lodge and park headquarters at Governor's Camp while also erecting bridges, cabins, campground stoves, trails, a swimming pool, and a large campfire in the middle of the park.

The swimming pool at Big Basin, c. 1940s. [Capitola Museum]
While the campfire with its redwood stage is probably the most iconic structure built in this period, the swimming pool was certainly the most popular. Thousands of people swam in the pool every summer of the 1940s and 1950s. Its ultimate closure was not due to disuse but rather a failure to meet safety and hygiene standards as well as a feeling by some that it distracted from the natural beauty of the park.

Monterey pines along Waddell Creek near its mouth, c. 1910.
[Wieslander Vegetation Type Mapping (VTM) Collection at UC Berkeley]
Since it first opened in 1902, the park has continued to grow by leaps and bounds. In 1906, Middleton's Big Basin Lumber Company sold 3,901 acres to the California Redwood Park Commission, a government agency setup to purchase and otherwise acquire additional land for the state park. A decade later, another 3,785 of federal land was transferred to the park. The park was renamed Big Basin Redwoods State Park in 1927, probably in anticipation of other state parks opening in Central California. In 1968, the Sempervirens Fund, a successor the original preservation club, set out to acquire as much of the Waddell Creek watershed as possible. By 1982, almost all of Rancho del Oso was annexed to the park, allowing for the creation of the Skyline to the Sea Trail between Governor's Camp and Waddell Beach on the Pacific Coast. One of the group's first victories was the establishment of Castle Rock State Park in 1968, and efforts have continued since then to connect Big Basin via trails to Castle Rock, Butano State Park, and Portola Redwoods State Park, all of which sit atop the ridge-line of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Today, Big Basin encompasses over 18,000 acres and remains one of the most popular state parks in California.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, June 28, 2019

Maps: Dougherty Extension Railroad

The main trunk line of the Dougherty Extension Railroad, built by the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company between 1888 and 1897, measured over 8.5 miles long—longer than the Southern Pacific Railroad-owned branch line that it extended. But unlike that branch line, this rugged lumber railway was not constructed at one time but rather extended at least twice from its original terminus at Doughertys, four miles north of Boulder Creek, to its ultimate end near the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River. Through that journey, the track crossed the river up to ten times, as well as several other substantial streams. Its narrow-gauge of 36 inches allowed it to take sharper turns and climb steeper grades than the usual railroad, but the Dougherty Extension Railway rarely needed to. The gentle curve and slow climb of the upper San Lorenzo Valley offered obstacles, but none were especially difficult to surmount. No tunnels were required as with the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains nor were high and intricate bridges needed, as with the Loma Prieta Branch.

Two men sitting on a cut and debarked log near the F. A. Hihn Company mill on Kings Creek, c. 1910s.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
The railroad line departed Boulder Creek near modern-day Junction Park, crossing Boulder Creek, the San Lorenzo River, and Bear Creek via a trio of bridges. From here, the railroad tracks kept to the east side of the river, bypassing old downtown Boulder Creek. Near where the river passes under State Route 9 today, the railroad also crossed the county road, continuing north between the road and the river for roughly 1.5 miles. This was likely where a short spur for the Harmon Mill was located, although its precise location is uncertain. The right-of-way along this stretch can sometimes be glimpsed, although homes have now been built atop the former railroad route in this section.

Dougherty Extension Railroad line north of Boulder Creek, 1897-1917. Not all streams and roads marked. Mills not located directly beside right-of-way only notated by its spur. [Derek R. Whaley]
About 1.4 miles north of town, at the bottom of Two Bar Road, a spur for the Morrell Mill was located, probably ending near the current Lee & Associates Rescue Equipment building. Another 0.5 miles north, another spur probably broke off near Spring Creek Road for the F. A. Hihn Mill on Kings Creek. The spur likely paralleled State Route 9 for a short distance before ending somewhere in the vicinity of the Boulder Creek Roadside Cafe and Garrahan Park. Loads of lumber brought down Kings Creek Road from the mill on Logan Creek would have been transferred to waiting flatcars here.

Piles of cut timber sitting in the lumber yard at Boulder Creek, c. 1910. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Just 0.1 miles north of the switch was the location of the Cunningham & Company mill, one of the first patrons of the Dougherty Extension Railroad. The mill dammed the river just to the north, near Pleasant Way, and the railroad tracks passed directly through the property, crossing the San Lorenzo River to the north, after which it headed down River Drive. After the mill closed, the area north of the river developed into Wildwood around 1909.

River Road marks the former right-of-way throughout most of this section until the road ends on the boundary with Camp Campbell. The track remained on the west side of the river here, passing through Camp Campbell and Camp Harmon. Remnants of the right-of-way survive in this section but trespassing is not encouraged. The track ran for nearly two miles without interruption north of the Cunningham mill before finally encountering the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company property.

Property survey showing the original Dougherty Extension Railroad (black and white line) with its end-of-track at the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company Mill at Doughertys, 1889. [Library of Congress]
The mill at Doughertys was a substantial facility when it finally went into full operation in the 1890s. A track remained on the west bank of the river, wrapping around the property, while another track crossed the river to access the mill. Two spurs broke off here to reach the face of the mill and the lumber stacks that stood there. Another short spur on the west bank of the river provided the company's locomotive, the Dinky (formerly the Felton) access to its engine shed. To the north, the main track crossed the river again and merged with the west bank trackage. A tiny maintenance spur sat to the east of the tracks, as well. Together, the reunited track crossed the river for a third time, this time to the east bank, where it remained for 0.8 miles.

Roughly 0.3 miles north of Doughertys, a spur broke off the main line and headed up Feeder Creek to the west, crossing the river in the process. This was probably the most substantial spur off the Dougherty Extension Railroad at 1.5 miles long, and it terminated at the Chase Company mill up the creek. Around 1905, this right-of-way, abandoned in the mid-1890s, was considered as a potential route to reach the Pescadero Creek watershed, a long-time goal of Southern Pacific in the San Lorenzo Valley. The earthquake in April 1906 ended any hopes for a railroad line between Boulder Creek and Pescadero.

Back on the main line, the track crossed back to the west bank near modern-day Fern Drive, which also marks the right-of-way. Indeed, the right-of-way between State Route 9 and the river north of Doughertys is relatively undeveloped and can be found with little difficulty below the road to the west. Rotting crossties can sometimes be found in this area, often under overgrowth. The area north of Fern Drive on the west bank of the river is more difficult to access but the right-of-way in this area is better preserved. Another 0.7 miles beyond the end of Fern Road, the railroad reached McGaffigan Switch, where the company superintendent lived. The right-of-way in this area follows Scenic Way a short distance before passing through several properties.

The one-mile stretch to the north of McGaffigan Switch is also the most substantial surviving portion of right-of-way. While private properties sit atop the first 0.4 miles of this stretch, limiting access without trespassing, the final 0.6 miles are all part of Castle Rock State Park and can be accessed by heading south from the Saratoga Toll Road. There are several sections of intact crossties, and even a few bits of rail visible to those paying attention. One piece can even be seen hanging over the river from a pull-out off State Route 9. Trains ceased using this section of track around 1913, when the Waterman Creek mill shut down.

Waterman Switch, the switching yard for lumber coming down from Waterman Gap, was located just a short distance down the Saratoga Toll Road. A marquee sign marks the site, although cars are no longer allowed in the parking lot here. The Saratoga Toll Road parallels the railroad right-of-way for a while, but the right-of-way becomes increasingly difficult to discern from this point. Trains only operated in this area from 1897 to 1901 and most of the bridges in this section were very crude and not intended to withstand more than a few years of use. Nonetheless, the end-of-track was still 1.7 miles north of Waterman Switch, near where the San Lorenzo River forks east of Beekhuis Road. The best way of discerning the railroad's path through this area is through shallow cuts and surviving bridge abutments. Small sections of crossties can also be found periodically.

USGS map showing the maximum length of the Dougherty Extension Railroad, 1902. Note: the mapmaker did not always accurately map the topography of the area and often confused tracks with the road and river. [US Geologic Survey]
Just as it was constructed, so too was the Dougherty Extension Railroad demolished in steps. It is likely the northernmost 1.5 miles of track was removed around 1902 to expand the switching area around Waterman Switch, with additional track possibly removed to the Kings Creek spur. The portion between Wildwood and Waterman Switch remained in use until 1913, when the mill on the ridge shut down. The trackage to Wildwood was retained and maintained at a relatively high standard until 1915 as a passenger line for potential property investors and future residents. But the railroad was replaced with a bus in the summer of 1915, thereby marking the end of all service along the Dougherty line. The track was scrapped in late 1917 for use in World War I and the crossties were left to rot. Over time, the right-of-way was sold off in parcels, but large portions remain undeveloped.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, June 21, 2019

Bridges: Dougherty Extension Railroad

Close-up of the Boulder Creek bridge as its heads north,
from a panoramic photo of Boulder Creek.
[Bruce MacGregor, A Centennial]
Grading and rail-laying crews working for the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company in the spring of 1888 had quite the challenge before them. The company's new mill was to be located four miles north of Boulder Creek along the San Lorenzo River, with a stop for the Cunningham & Company mill two miles north of town. But to get to these two sites, the river and several significant creeks needed to be crossed, in the former's case several times. Beyond the company's mill, one more major creek was encountered before the river began zig-zagging through an ever-narrowing canyon as it reached its headwaters. Here, too, grading crews had to build bridges of increasingly crude quality until the final logging camp was reached eight miles north of the line's junction with the Southern Pacific Railroad yard.

W. S. Rodgers survey map of Boulder Creek, 1905. [UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
The line's first obstacle was the triple threat presented by Boulder Creek, the San Lorenzo River, and Bear Creek just north of the yard. Creating the so-called Turkey Foot, these three waterbodies twisted and turned into each other, forcing bridge engineers to cross all of them just to reach the relatively even grade on the opposite side.  Winfield Scott Rodgers' survey map of Boulder Creek shows how these crossed heading north at a northwest angle, cutting through a small housing subdivision and crossing Bear Creek Road (then known as Park Avenue). A snippet of a panoramic photograph  of the town shows the first of these bridges, which appears to be a rather simple design with an open wooden deck upon which two tracks merged just before reaching the midpoint of the bridge. The structure of the bridge beneath the deck is unfortunately not known nor is the composition of the other two bridges, although they were probably similar in style.

The short truss bridge crossing the San Lorenzo River south of Wildwood, c. 1910s.
[Rick Hamman]
The right-of-way continued on the east side of the San Lorenzo River, where it required a bridge of an unknown type over Two Bar Creek 1.2 miles north of the Turkey Foot. The next significant and documented structure is located 0.7 miles north of that, just north of the Cunningham & Company mill, where the Dougherty Extension Railroad crossed to the west bank of the river for the second time. The bridge used here was perhaps the highest-quality of those along the line. It was a redwood framed Pratt truss span that may have been designed to support standard-gauge trains. The bridge was likely a later addition, replacing an earlier unknown structure, and may have been added in the early 1900s, when Southern Pacific was considering purchasing and upgrading the route to build a line to Pescadero. It became an iconic set-piece in Wildwood marketing in the 1910s and appears in several photographs from the time.

At the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company mill, located 1.4 miles to the north of the Cunningham & Company mill, the last photograph bridges can be found. While one track wrapped around the river, avoiding the need for bridges, the main line crossed the river twice in order to access and then proceed beyond the mill. These bridges were much more crudely built, composed largely of cut redwood tree trunks with crossties set atop them. Despite this low-cost design, the bridges were incredibly robust and were able of supporting large lumber trains leaving the mill. Two such bridges sat at the south of the mill, crossing the river roughly parallel to each other.

Dougherty Mill #2 at Riverside Grove, with two trestles barely visible in the photograph. The San Lorenzo River Trestle is at left beside the ox bridge while a second trestle is visible at right heading over a small creek. [Rick Hamman]
Remnant trestle at Riverside Grove, late 1970s. [Rick Hamman]
To the north of the mill, another bridge of similar design crossed the river as it meandered back to its original alignment around a U bend. Rick Hamman photographed the remnant of this bridge in the late 1970s, although it has since disappeared, probably due to flooding in 1982. In this photograph, it is clear that large logs also held the bridge aloft from below, providing it with extra support. A vehicular bridge originally ran beside this structure allowing access to the mill from the north. The mill pond sat directly beneath the bridge, undoubtedly causing problems when pond levels were too high since the river is not especially deep in this area.

Beginning in 1893, the Dougherty Extension Railroad began snaking up the San Lorenzo River, ultimately reaching its headwaters four miles further north around 1898. None of these bridges were photographed but remnants of some of them show that most were of a similar design to those at the company mill. The railroad first crossed over the river a fourth time roughly 500 feet north of the mill, near modern Bean Avenue off Teilh Drive. A spur broke off about 0.6 miles to the north to go up Feeder Creek and the Chase Company Mill. This bridge probably had a rather interesting design since it had to cross a broad and deep ravine created by the confluence of the creek and the river. Just slightly to the north, the main line crossed back to the west side of the river near Fern Drive to access the logging camp at McGaffigan Switch.

North of this crossing, the line remained on the west bank until just beyond Waterman Switch, roughly 2.0 miles from the Feeder Creek spur. How many times the railroad line crossed the river in its final two miles is unclear and may never be known with certainty. The river winds a lot in this area, and the ever-narrowing valley forced the track to criss-cross it constantly. These bridges would have been of extremely crude quality, in most cases simply logs tossed across the river with tracks placed atop them and packed dirt abutments on either end. The track likely crossed four times before reaching its end. Bridges and culverts to span smaller bodies of water were also likely required across the entire right-of-way from Boulder Creek.

Access Rights:
Nothing survives of any of the bridges except one very degraded structure inside Castle Rock State Park near the San Lorenzo River's headwaters. The bridges north of Wildwood may have been removed as early as 1913, when this section of track ceased to be used. The bridges further to the south were removed in 1917 when the rail was scrapped. Access to most of the bridge sites are via private property, although parts may be seen from various roads in the area. Nonetheless, little to nothing survives of these crude redwood-built structures. Trespassing is not encouraged.

Citations & Credits:

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Freight Stops: Waterman Switch

For almost an eternity, nothing had disquieted the dark wilderness at the top of the San Lorenzo Valley. Native Americans rarely if ever ventured so far, while Spanish and Mexican explorers and settlers took easier routes into the valley, far from the San Lorenzo River's headwaters. In this high mountain glen, some of the last of the valley's giants soared, perhaps not as high as their older cousins further to the south at Big Trees or up Big Basin, but these giants reigned undisturbed. That is, until Buckskin moved in.

James "Buckskin" Lawrence was the first and only resident of the area, having settled there in 1868. Buckskin knew the value of his land—the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Transportation Company had briefly considered his property as the start of the flume until additional surveys convinced the company to establish the flume further to the south. Nonetheless, Buckskin eagerly capitalized on the interest by founding Rocky Ridge in 1875. Despite acquiring a post office in that same year, the settlement never materialized and the post office closed two years later. A school related to the community, founded in 1876, did survive for nearly a decade and supporting all of the children living north of King's Creek, but it too ultimately failed. Buckskin still lived on the property when the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company extended its Dougherty Extension Railroad 1.5 miles north from McGaffigan Switch and directly across the homesteader's parcel.

The lumber company had only moved to its mill north of Boulder Creek in 1888, and despite promises that decades worth of redwood timber were available along either bank of the San Lorenzo River north of the mill, timber crews proved the truth of the matter: the valley was running out of viable old growth redwood trees fast! With the trackage moved to Buckskin's property, the company established a logging camp at the site. At the time, it likely had no name and may have been considered a temporary loading area, exploiting the large meadow that spread out in front of Buckskin's front door.  But for the next seven years, lumber crews continued to operate from the site, which functioned as a loading zone for logs that were hauled down the hills by oxen and donkey teams. Additional logs passed through the area on flatcars that came from the end-of-track 0.5 miles further up the river. At least one spur or siding and possibly more were installed at the camp to allow these flatcars to pass without impeding operations. The site operated until early 1900 when the company determined that all viable timber in the upper San Lorenzo Valley had been cut.

For the next two years, the struggling company considered ways that it could access its timber resources at the headwaters of Pescadero Creek, a short distance from this logging camp but almost entirely uphill and in an adjacent valley. The company had purchased prime timberland along there from the Davis & Cowell lime company in the late 1880s. Davis & Cowell, in turn, had acquired it from Frederick H. Waterman, who had purchased the land in the 1870s, but never actually used it for anything. Now the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company wanted to try and do something with it, but accessing the tract was nearly impossible. They finally decided in 1902 to attempt to use a skid road that worked in tandem with a cable winch to control the descent of logs down from Waterman Gap. A steam donkey was installed at the logging camp at the bottom of the ridge, and it was at this time that the site finally became known as Waterman Switch, since it was where logs arriving from Waterman Creek were transferred to waiting flatcars for processing. The operation proved too costly and the company finally went bust in early 1903, prematurely ending the operations along the ridge.

Lumbermen posing for the camera near the mill on Waterman Creek, 1905. [Derek R. Whaley]
In February 1903, the disparate lumber companies of the San Lorenzo Valley consolidated to form a new collective: the California Timber Company. This new firm had several goals, but their primary function was to more effectively harvest the timber on Waterman Creek. While one crew cut a new road to the mill from Waterman Switch, another worked to transfer the machinery of an old mill from Bear Creek to Waterman Creek. Within a few months, the mill was ready to cut timber into lumber. A large logging camp arose at Waterman Gap alongside the millpond. The mill itself achieved a capacity of 60,000 board feet of lumber per day via its 125 workers. After cutting the timber, lumber was carted down the wagon road to Waterman Switch, where it was loaded onto flatcars and taken to Boulder Creek for transfer to Southern Pacific Railroad trains.

The California Timber Company Mill along Waterman Creek, c. 1910. [Santa Cruz Museum & Art & History]
The mill at Waterman Gap continued to operate for a decade, enduring the 1906 Earthquake and establishing a record for most timber cut in the San Lorenzo River in one day at 109,441 board feet. Waterman Creek and the other tributaries of Pescadero Creek owned by the lumber company were finally logged out in 1913, at which point the California Timber Company moved onto other ventures. The tracks to Waterman Switch remained in place for several more years, eventually being scrapped in 1917. In 1924, Santa Cruz County annexed the logging road and eventually upgraded it during the Great Depression to support automotive traffic. It became the northernmost portion of State Route 9 within Santa Cruz County soon after the end of World War II. In 1947, the county briefly considered converting the area around Waterman Switch into a reservoir to supply Santa Cruz with water, but the Newell Creek watershed was ultimately chosen instead leading to the creation of Loch Lomond. The state eventually purchased the area of Waterman Switch in 2004 to create a trail link between Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Castle Rock State Park via the old Saratoga Toll Road, which also passes through the area.

Location of Waterman Switch. [Google Maps]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.2078N, 122.1434W

The site of Waterman Switch is legally accessible to the public. It can be visited along the Saratoga Toll Road near the southern end of Castle Rock State Park. The toll road is marked by a train-shaped mailbox and a gated road. Unfortunately, parking is at a premium in this area and the sharp turn of the old wagon road creates a dangerous area for pedestrians. Once beyond the gate, continue for 1/8-mile down the old toll road. At the site of Waterman Switch is a kiosk that has some out-of-date information printed on it. The Dougherty Extension Railroad right-of-way through this area is still visible, especially when heading south from beside the train-shaped mailbox. Any relics of the Waterman Switch operation itself are no longer visible except for the right-of-way. Along Waterman Creek, it is unknown whether any remnants of the mill remain, though an extant log dam continues to block the stream according to the "Pescadero-Butano Watershed Assessment: Final Report" of March 5, 2004, although this may likely be from later activities along the creek.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Freight Stops: McGaffigan Switch

The Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company would not have found the success it did without the careful supervision of Patrick J. McGaffigan, who served as superintendent the company's operations north of Boulder Creek for a decade. McGaffigan, in addition to his skills as a manager, also became a relative of the Dougherty family through his daughter, Angeline B. McGaffigan, who married William James Dougherty, Jr., in 1897. As superintendent, McGaffigan was constantly on the move with timber crews, overseeing the cutting of specific groves and the loading of timber onto rolling stock for transport for the mill. As the tracks wound up the San Lorenzo Valley past the mill beginning in 1890, McGaffigan found it inconvenient to live so far from the site of the logging activities.

He settled on a site 1.5 miles to the north of the mill that sat on a small hill that overlooked the Dougherty Extension Railroad tracks. Due to the heavy logging in the area, McGaffigan's home could probably look all the way south to the mill and quite a distance to the north, allowing him a good view of the activities over which he superintended. Although there are no surviving photographs of his home, descriptions of it suggest an elaborate and expansive Victorian-style house easily visible to anybody in the area. The fame of the home as a waypoint along the railroad and the likely presence of a short spur below the home gave the location the name McGaffigan Switch.

The site, though, probably served a dual purpose, at least initially. When the track was first extended in 1890, it may have terminated at or near the site of McGaffigan Switch and served as the Dougherty mill's first logging camp. There is certainly enough space for such a camp at the site, which today is a narrow meadow along the west bank of the San Lorenzo River. The next location that could have functioned as a logging camp is Waterman Switch, which was not established for several more years, giving further credence to the idea that a logging camp was here. As with many logging camps, especially along railroad lines, the camp probably hosted a small shingle mill to process timber that was either too small to cut into lumber or had broken during felling. This would provide an explanation for the current name of the road through the area: McGaffigan Mill Road.

Direct logging operations at McGaffigan Switch were fairly short-lived. Logging crews relocated their primary logging camp to Waterman Switch around 1897 and probably moved the shingle mill to the new camp at this time. While it is unclear whether McGaffigan continued as superintendent after 1897, both he and his son, James, remained at the home for several more years.  The fate of the property after they left is unclear, but it seems to have been demolished by the time the San Lorenzo Park subdivision was established in 1932. The railroad tracks were removed no later than 1917, although they went out of use around 1914 when the California Timber Company ceased operations above Waterman Switch. Patrick McGaffigan died in 1917 at his home in San Francisco.

A rusting narrow-gauge rail sitting behind a property along the former right-of-way at McGaffigan Switch, 2013.
[Derek R. Whaley]
The site developed into San Lorenzo Park, a small subdivision laid out by R. J. Dillon in 1932. It consisted of small private cottages, a service station, a general store, and a swimming hole. Unfortunately, Dillon failed to file proper paperwork and the subdivision reverted to Isaiah Hartman, who subsequently transferred the property to the Wood Brothers. The Woods developed the park and sold lands, but the subdivision never thrived, partially due to the economic conditions of the Great Depression and partially due to the remoteness of the locale.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1955N, 122.1466W

The site of McGaffigan's Switch is easy to find. It is located along McGaffigan Mill Road along State Route 9 roughly 5.5 miles north of Boulder Creek on the west side of the road. Notably, it is the last road before drivers enter Castle Rock State Park. Few relics of the railroad or mill survive. Along the former right-of-way, which is only accessible from behind a home, a few rails still sit stacked alongside a shallow cut. Otherwise, the road itself sits atop the railroad route, burying any remnants. The precise location of the shingle mill is unknown. While the road is public, the homes remain private properties and trespassing is not advised.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railroads. Santa Cruz: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • McCarthy, Nancy F. When Grizzlies Roamed the Canyons. Palo Alto, CA: Garden Court Press, 1994.
  • Robinson, Lisa A. Images of America: The San Lorenzo Valley. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2012.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Freight Stops: Chase Lumber Company Mill on Feeder Creek

A mile beyond the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company mill on the San Lorenzo River and five miles north of Boulder Creek, James B. Sinnott owned a homestead. When he first moved there in the mid-1880s, he probably cut down the redwood groves and sent them downriver either on the flume or on skid roads to Boulder Creek for processing into lumber. Afterwards, he established "Sky Ranch," upon which he likely raised some cattle and horses. Very little is known of the Sinnott family of Sky Ranch, but members of it remained there into the 1920s. The property itself was leased in the late 1880s to the business partners Peery & Steen to harvest lumber.

In 1889, when the Dougherty Extension Railroad was lengthened for the first time beyond Doughertys, the route encountered Sinnott's ranch. An agreement between the lumber company and Sinnott was struck allowing the railroad tracks to pass through a corner the property. The next year, the Chase Lumber Company purchased a tract of timber northwest of Sky Ranch and decided that the most feasible way to get the timber to market was to build a spur off the Dougherty Extension Railroad to the mill. The Sinnott family was once again asked to grant a right-of-way through their land and, once they allowed this, Sinnott Switch became an informal stop along the rail line marking where the Chase mill spur broke off from the main extension railroad line. There is no evidence that the Sinnotts ever used the railroad at their mill, but several members of the family were active in local lumber operations so it is possible that they used the track to get to Doughertys and Boulder Creek, possibly through an arrangement with the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company.

The Chase Mill on Feeder Creek around 1895, showing the main structure in the back, a tramway at right, and the spur tracks somewhat obscured at left with a lumber car parked in the background. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
The Chase Lumber Company was a local firm run by Stephen H. Chase, who had been active in the area for longer than the Dougherty brothers. He began with a small lumber mill near the Summit in 1863, the first operation in the Santa Cruz Mountains to haul its lumber to San José. The success of the venture prompted Chase to expand operations and build a planing mill in San José. One of his new mills was erected on Boulder Creek in 1884, which gave him a better idea of the San Lorenzo Valley logging industry as a whole. He initially used Bear Creek Road to ship his lumber, but switched to using the Felton & Pescadero Railroad when it was completed in 1885. The next year, he founded S. H. Chase & Company and, in 1889, he bought space in Santa Cruz for a lumber yard, thereby entering the competitive Santa Cruz market against Frederick A. Hihn, the Grovers, the Loma Prieta Lumber Company, and Cunningham & Company. To support this increased business, Chase purchased from Cunningham & Company several parcels near the headwaters of Feeder Creek five miles north of Boulder Creek.

Google Map showing the rough route of the Chase Mill Spur, with
Sinnott's Switch at bottom and the Chase Mill at top. [Google Maps]
In 1891, Chase reincorporated as the Chase Lumber Company and began construction of the mill alongside the installation of a one-mile-long spur along the south bank of Feeder Creek from Sinnott Switch. Like the line it connected to, the spur was narrow-gauge and crudely made, but it did require a bridge across the San Lorenzo River, which may have been an impressive structure since the river cuts a broad and deep gulch in this section. The mill opened at the beginning of the 1892 season but shut down shortly afterwards due to a poor economic climate. In late autumn of the same year, much of the railroad trackage was destroyed in a landslide, forcing Chase to invest more in a mill that had yet to turn a profit. He decided to close the mill on Boulder Creek and turn all of his focus on the Feeder Creek mill. But profits would never come.

In 1893, a lumber racket emerged in the Bay Area which encouraged price fixing. Chase refused to join and the Southern Pacific Railroad, which was invested in the scheme, retaliated by increasing Chase's freight costs at Boulder Creek. Chase fought the racket and eventually settled out of court. In the meantime, his mill finally began to make money in the mid-1890s. At peak capacity, the mill processed 25,000 board feet of lumber per day, which amounted to five carloads. The company continued to operate along Feeder Creek until around 1899, eventually relocating its operations to a tract along Laguna Creek near Davenport, followed by a small tract along Smith Grade in Bonny Doon. In 1905, Chase sold his lumber yard in Santa Cruz to the California Timber Company and left the county permanently.

Chase died in 1915 but his son, J. A. Chase, continued to run the corporation for several more decades, albeit with a shifted focus on Northern California. The firm probably shut down in the late 1950s. The former trackage to Feeder Creek was seriously considered by Southern Pacific as a viable route to the Pescadero Creek basin until the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906 forced it to abandon all plans for future expansion in Santa Cruz County and its environs. The tracks to the mill were probably pulled around 1900 but may have lingered along with the rest of the Dougherty Extension Railroad until 1917.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1918N, 122.1525W

Almost nothing of the Chase Company mill or the spur to get to the mill survives today. The area through which the spur passed has remained uninhabited, a forgotten path on the south bank of Feeder Creek just south of Fern Drive north of Boulder Creek. Only a few cross-ties remaining visible, with most either buried or rotted away. A single piece of track stuck in a tree near the bottom of the grade is the only strong evidence remaining of the spur. The mill property is still a large block of land spanning almost all of the Feeder Creek basin and is rated for industrial use, though it is not currently being utilized for such. The junction of Feeder Creek with a smaller creek marks the rough site of the mill and some abandoned timber used in the construction of the mill still sits in disorderly piles around the site. Curiously, Google Maps records the address of the mill as 480 Chase Mill Road, despite the fact that no such road actually appears on any map. Clearly the legacy of Chase mill lives on.

Citations & Credits: 
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • "Nicholas Paul Sinnott", Monterey County: Biographies.
  • Payne, Stephen Michael. "Felling the Giants", Santa Cruz Public Libraries. (From Stephen Michael Payne, A Howling Wilderness: A History of the Summit Road Area of the Santa Cruz Mountains 1850-1906, Santa Cruz: Loma Prieta Publishing, 1978).
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Freight Stops: Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company Mill

The Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company was no rookie on the field in the spring of 1888. Founded in 1873 by William Patrick Dougherty with the support of his younger brother, James, the company had systematically harvested almost all of the saleable timber along the western side of Los Gatos Creek in the 1870s, after which it did the same along the upper half of Zayante Creek. But a massive fire in August 1886 destroyed the lumber mill at Zayante and forced most of the residents of the mill town to flee to other areas in the San Lorenzo Valley. The Dougherty brothers replaced the burned husk with a large shingle mill later that year, but the remaining timber was insufficient to justify a resurrection of the once-impressive lumber mill.

In the several years prior to the fire, the company had begun buying tracts of timber along the San Lorenzo River north of the flume mill (later Cunningham Mill) in areas that the San Lorenzo Valley lumber flume did not or could not reach. With sufficient lumber providers located further south along the flume, there was no reason to harvest timber north of the flume mill, so thousands of old growth redwood forest sat idle, awaiting a change in the market. The disaster at the Zayante mill finally convinced the Doughertys to relocate to this untapped area.

Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company mill north of Boulder Creek, 1895. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
As December 1887 approached, company workers began grading a railroad bed between the the Felton & Pescadero Railroad yard at Boulder Creek and the proposed Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company mill site four miles to the north, just below a convenient bend in the river where a dam could easily and relatively naturally be installed to create a mill pond. Most of the initial machinery for the mill was composed of surviving parts of the Zayante mill, supplemented with the newer machinery bought in late 1886 to replaced the destroyed components. These parts arrived at the new mill in May 1888, after the railroad tracks to the site were completed. Cunningham & Company, which was a sometimes partner and other times rival of the Doughertys, provided the lumber used in erecting the mill. When the mill opened on June 1, 1888, it was capable of producing up to 60,000 board feet of lumber per day. Over 100 workers, mostly foreigners, lived and worked at the mill prompting the creation of the Dougherty School in 1889. But as so often happens with sawmills in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Dougherty brothers' first mill north of Boulder Creak met a fiery end in September 1888, less than four months after opening.

1892 Sanborn Map of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company facilities north of Boulder Creek.
[UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
The brothers subcontracted their orders to Cunningham & Company, which reaped great profits during the following year, although this unexpected influx of money led to the company's overextension and collapse during the recession of the 1890s. Meanwhile, the Doughertys rebuilt. A new mill was operating by November but the mill did not return to full operation until the following spring. From 1889 to 1891—three seasons—the mill fulfilled its contracts and ran at capacity. And then, in October 1891, the mill burned down for a second time. By this point, Cunningham & Company had moved its operations to Santa Cruz so the Santa Clara Mill & Lumber Company simply purchased the recently-vacated mill of its rival and relocated it to the north. As the 1890s recession receded in the mid-1890s, the Doughertys began increasing productions and improving facilities, reaching a daily capacity of 50,000 board feet.

This third and final mill is well documented by two Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. The main track of the Dougherty Extension Railroad, which originally terminated at the mill, eventually continued north on the east side of the main mill. Two spurs, however, broke off to terminate in front of the mill, while four tramways also ran from the mill in order to shuttle lumber onto stacks. A third spur crossed the San Lorenzo River to the west of the mill and wrapped around the entire facility, reuniting with the main track north of the mill. It was along a short branch of this spur that the Doughertys installed an engine house for their single locomotive, the former Santa Cruz & Felton locomotive popularly nicknamed the Dinky (originally the Felton). Photograph evidence also confirms that another spur broke off from the mainline north of the mill at terminated a short distance to the east behind the employee cook house. This may have been where the locomotive's water tower was installed.

1908 Sanborn Map showing the California Timber Company facilities north of Boulder Creek in their final years.
[UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
Doughertys, as the mill and surrounding settlement became known, reached its peak in the late 1890s, although William Dougherty never lived to see this having died in 1894. His brother, James, and Henry L. Middleton, a prominent lumber investor and Boulder Creek's de facto mayor, continued to direct the company in its final years. During this time, Doughertys became a popular tourist location, with picnickers visiting on weekends and camping in unharvested redwood groves or areas that were already in the process of recovery further to the south. As must inevitably happen, though, the timber tracts in the San Lorenzo Valley were nearly all harvested by the end of the century. In 1900, the Dougherty Extension Railroad was extended to its maximum length after which time operations shifted to harvesting a tract of timber near Waterman Gap. In 1902, company's final property along Bear Creek was cut, although it is unclear if the timber from this location was processed at Doughertys or in Boulder Creek. James Dougherty's death in July 1900 signalled the spiritual end of operations, even if they limped along for two more seasons.

In 1903, the Dougherty widows, Middleton, and Loma Prieta Lumber Company chief investor Timothy Hopkins consolidated most of the remaining lumber operations north of Boulder Creek into a new firm titled the California Timber Company. The company quickly packaged up most of the mill's machinery and hauled it far up Bear Creek to a tributary called Deer Creek, which they harvested for several more years. Meanwhile, the remains of Doughertys sat mostly vacant. Some former employees continued to live in their cottages while just to the north, plans were put in place to found a new subdivision named Driftwood, centered around James Dougherty's former home of the same name. The venture proved fleeting, though, and the most of the remaining residents moved elsewhere. The railroad tracks through the site continued to be used by workers at the Pescadero mill until the end of 1913, after which the school shut down and the track was pulled for scrap. Despite several attempts to start a subdivision there, none succeeded for over two decades.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1714N, 122.1397W

The area of Doughertys eventually became the subdivision known as Riverside Grove, established in May 1935. It is accessible off of State Route 9 from Teilh Drive. The mill site itself is south of Riverside Grove, located at the end of Either Way off of Teilh. No signs of the mill or railroad track remains in the immediate vicinity due to subsequent residential developments. A reminder of logging days remains with "Lake Street" sitting along the former site of the log pond. Some property lines also still hint at the railroad's right-of-way, although the right-of-way is otherwise difficult to discern in this area.

Citations & Credits:
  • Hamman, Rick. California's Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Robinson, Lisa A. Images of America: The San Lorenzo Valley. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press, 2012.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Freight Stops: Hihn Mill on Kings Creek

James King is not a person that comes up much when discussing Santa Cruz County history. Born in Missouri, King later established a small cattle ranch and homestead in a clearing two miles north of Boulder Creek at the confluence of a small meandering creek and the San Lorenzo River. King disappears from history soon after this, but he lives on through the creek named after him. By the mid-1880s, the area of Kings Creek was teeming with activity. Near the bottom of the creek, the flume had its primarily mill, which in later years became home to Cunningham & Company. Further up the creek, homesteads arose and various lumber firms cut timber well into the 1900s. But enough virgin redwood survived for the F. A. Hihn Company to make a profit.

F. A. Hihn Company crews posing for a photograph at the Kings Creek mill, 1908.
[Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
On April 18, 1906, the earth shook and operations at Hihn's mill at Laurel ground to a halt. Although the mill returned to operations shortly afterwards, damage to the railroad line ensured that only small amounts of lumber could be hauled out of the isolated valley at the top of Soquel Creek. Fortunately for the lumber industry, demand was now at a peak with half of San Francisco burned to the ground and thousands of buildings across the Bay Area in need of repair or rebuilding. Hihn began searching across Santa Cruz County for other available timber tracts to harvest and his eyes fell upon Kings Creek, where a settler named Newman owned a large unharvested parcel.

Primary Hihn mill on Kings Creek, 1908. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
In early 1907, F. A. Hihn Company crews began hauling equipment up to the junction of Kings Creek and Logan Creek, a small seasonal tributary. There crews erected a small 30,000 board feet capacity mill that utilized steam-powered saws, probably brought over from Laurel. Although most of the mill was constructed by March, poor weather and a recession delayed opening of the mill until September. There was also talk at this time of extending the Dougherty Extension Railroad up Kings Creek from the bottom of the valley, with plans to even extend the line to Los Gatos. These plans fell apart, though, and only a short spur at the bottom of Kings Creek, splitting off from the main track near the old Cunningham mill site, was ever installed to cater to the mill.

The tramways to the lumber stacks at the Kings Creek mill, 1908. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
In April 1908, full operations at the mill finally began with a crew of 45 men cutting trees and timber. Good financial and weather conditions allowed operations to continue until November of that year, with a total yield of three million board feet produced in just the first full year of operation. For the next two years, the mill continued to cut at capacity with all of the lumber shipped to the Santa Cruz Lumber Company yard at the Santa Cruz Union Depot. A corporate takeover in 1909 meant that the lumber, once cut, became the property of the Hihn-Hammond Company, but that barely impacted daily operations.

Two horse teams idling in the lumber yard at the Kings Creek mill, 1908. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
In November 1910, crews determined that there was insufficient timber for another season and the mill closed. The equipment was removed and returned to Laurel, which resumed its former status as the primary Hihn mill in the county for several more years. Southern Pacific once again returned to the idea of building a branch line between Boulder Creek and Los Gatos in 1912, but the idea never materialized. The spur track was probably removed soon afterwards. The area around the spur was developed into Wildwood No. 2 and Rices Junction, while the mill property itself returned to a state of nature.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Approx. 37.1850N, 122.1228W

The site of the mill is now a private property located 2.5 miles up Kings Creek. Nothing visible remains of the mill, although ironically, a more modern railroad flatcar functions as a bridge over the creek today. Trespassing on the property is not advised.

Citations & Credits: