Friday, December 13, 2019

Tunnels: Hogsback (Tunnel 7)

Contrary to popular belief, there were actually two tunnels originally located in San Lorenzo Gorge. The first and better known was the Coon Gulch Tunnel under Inspiration Point. But the oldest railroad tunnel in all of Santa Cruz County was actually located 1.3 miles to the south, located beneath the solid granite promontory known as the Hogsback.
The only known image of Tunnel #7 under the Hogsback from a newspaper lithograph, May 1880.
The San Lorenzo River carves a relatively straight south-south-eastward path from its origin in Castle Rock State Park to the Monterey Bay twenty-one miles to the south. But that straight route gets interrupted by the Hogsback, which forces the river to twist awkwardly to the north before wrapping around the rocky outcropping to continue its inevitable journey to the sea. The granite block was named after its appearance, rising above the river like a giant hairy hog's back raised to the sky. And just like the river, the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad could not get around this obstacle except by going through it.

Indeed, the San Lorenzo Valley Railroad planned to bore a 900-foot-long tunnel through the base of the Hogsback to bypass the obstacle and maintain its even grade up the river, but since the project failed, the tunnel was never bored. The California Powder Works, however, drilled an equally-long tunnel  through the Hogsback to reach its gravity-fed reservoir located on the north side. When the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad came along, its route was built much higher on the ridge, almost at a level that could simply build over the Hogsback, but the grade was already steep and the promontory was its highest point. To decrease the grade enough so a standard consist could reach the summit, the company decided that a tunnel was the most logical solution.

Construction on the Hogsback tunnel began in early 1875 by Elliot & Muir, and it only took a few months to bore. The result was a 127-foot-long tunnel through a relatively low point in the rock. For four years, the tunnel functioned adequately for the small locomotives and narrow-gauge trains that used it. But when the South Pacific Coast Railroad leased the line in 1879, surveyors concluded that the tunnel was too narrow and low to support its larger trains.

In July 1879, crews completely rebuilt the tunnel inside and out. They shifted the bore slightly to reduce the curve and lowered the bottom of the tunnel sufficiently to allow trains of appropriate heights to pass through. The end result was a tunnel over twice as long—282 feet—and troublingly spacious in the middle. It opened to through traffic in November 1879 as Tunnel 7.

The cut through the Hogsback, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
The fate of the tunnel, however, was sealed from almost the beginning. The ceiling was never far from the top of the Hogsback and the extra space inside added by the South Pacific Coast Railroad made it prone to debris frequently falling from the roof. This made it abundantly clear to the railroad that the solid granite had lost much of its initial integrity. In 1898, a work crew was preparing the tunnel for further widening in anticipation of the standard-gauging of the now-Southern Pacific line. Their probing prompted a complete collapse of the top of the tunnel. The only solution was to daylight the tunnel—the first of two tunnels to be daylighted along the route between San José and Santa Cruz. It was dismantled and the sides cut back enough to protect the tracks from further rockfalls and allow for standard-gauge trains to pass. Soon, all evidence of the tunnel was erased.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Western Portal: Approx. 37.0112N, 122.0497W
Eastern Portal: Approx. 37.0105N, 122.0493W

Today, there is little to differentiate the location of this tunnel from the surrounding right-of-way except a substantial cut through the Hogsback. Trespassing is not advised as the route is owned by Roaring Camp Railroads and remains an active line, especially during summer months. It is also a narrow-cut so there is no place to easily escape an approaching train. The location serves as the boundary between Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and Paradise Park Masonic Resort.

Citations & Credits:
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2007.
  • MacGregor, Bruce. The Birth of California Narrow-Gauge. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Curiosities: The Henry Cowell Lime & Cement Company

Tourism is by far the most popular industry in Santa Cruz County today, and it has been for nearly fifty years. But that was not always the case. From its settlement by Spaniards in the 1790s to the end of the Mexican period, leather production and ranching were important industries, ones that continued until quite recently. Logging was probably the most famous industry, with formal redwood timber operations begun by Isaac Graham in the 1840s and significant cutting happening across the county well into the 1920s, and still continuing today along the North Coast. But another industry once held a strong grip on Santa Cruz County, that of lime production and processing.

Closeup of a lithograph of Santa Cruz showing the Davis & Cowell Lime warehouse at the
bottom of Bay Street above Cowell Beach, with the beginning of the Cowell Wharf at right, 1889.
[Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District]
The roots of Ben Lomond Mountain, which stretches from the west bank of the San Lorenzo River to Big Basin and Waddell Creek, is rich in veins of limestone, evidence that the mountain once served as the bottom of a great shallow ocean millions of years ago. Until the manufacture of Portland cement was made more efficient in the late nineteenth century, lime-heavy products were staples in building and construction in the United States. Quicklime, for example, was used in steelmaking, in plaster and mortar, as an acidity regulator in food, as a type of lighting (limelight), in paper production, and in several chemical processes. Most notably, lime mortar framed and mixed with sand produces sand-lime bricks (white bricks), which were used in construction projects for thousands of years until the early twentieth century when Portland cement (concrete) came into normal use.

Diseño of El Rancho Cañada del Rincón en el Río de San Lorenzo de Santa Cruz, about half of which Davis & Jordan purchased in 1859. [Bancroft Library]
From the Mexican period, the Santa Cruz region has produced limestone in some small quantity, but it was only after statehood in 1850 that commercial amounts were produced. Many companies sprang up in the mountains, especially in the vicinity of Rancho Rincon and in the area now occupied by Pogonip County Park, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (including the Fall Creek Unit), and the University of California, Santa Cruz. The lime vein through this part of the county was long and rich and provided plenty of limestone to aspiring companies. It was to this environment that two men were attracted by the rumors of easy wealth and relatively simple access to the limestone.

Portrait of Albion Jordan, c. 1860s. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Isaac Elphinstone Davis and Albion Paris Jordan were unassuming engineers from New England when they first traveled to California in 1849 in search of gold. They first met each other in Trinity County and joined in partnership in 1851 to run a steamship between San Francisco and Stockton. Davis already knew of the lime potential of Santa Cruz County, having visited briefly in 1849, and both men were very interested in entering the lime industry. After discovering lime deposits near Palo Alto, the men opened their first kiln and began selling commercial lime in June 1851. Shortly afterwards, Jordan opened a second kiln outside Lexington, south of Los Gatos. Finally, in mid- to late-1853, the partners opened their first kiln outside Santa Cruz.

Crews working at the lime quarry on the northeast side of the Davis & Cowell property, c. 1880s.
[Friends of the Cowelll Lime Works Historic District]
Their first kilns were near the top of Bay Street while their quarry was downhill to the east, within Rancho Rincon. Renting the land at first, Davis & Jordan quickly bought everything they could in order to own the entire operation. Lacking roads and railroads to export their goods, the partners bought the wharf at the bottom of Bay Street in 1854 so they could ship their lime products. Two years later, they extended the wharf and bought the Santa Cruz, a tall ship that could transport people and products between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. With their operations in full swing, Davis & Jordan made the bold move to purchase much of Rancho Rincon in 1859, acquiring over 5,800 acres of redwood-rich land that could be cut and used to fire the kilns, as well as provide new sources of limestone. Soon, tramways and skid roads criss-crossed the gap between the limekilns at the top of the hill and the timber tracts, sawmill, and quarries to the east.

Worker cabins on the Cowell Ranch, c. 1880s. [University of California, Santa Cruz]
Despite some financial ups and downs, Davis & Jordan beat out the competition and were well on their way to dominating the local lime market when Jordan became ill in 1865 and sold his interest in the company on July 1 to Henry Cowell. He died in November 1866 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery beside other local lime industry pioneers. Davis, meanwhile, shifted corporate operations to San Francisco, where he became a well-known magnate and was urged several times to run for office. After Jordan's death, he continued to live in the city while Cowell took on the role of local operator.

The Davis & Cowell Lime Works at the top of Bay Street, Santa Cruz, 1866.
Stereograph by Lawrence & Houseworth. [Getty Museum]
For nearly twenty-five years, Davis & Cowell operated the largest lime operation in Santa Cruz County. Cowell himself was not well-loved by the community. Almost immediately after coming on a partner, he entered into a long legal dispute with Frederick Hihn over the right-of-way of the San Lorenzo Valley Railroad, which was planned to pass directly through Rancho Rincon. Cowell fought Hihn to a standstill, eventually taking their case to the California Supreme Court, which ruled that a railroad must compensate property owners for trees and other features destroyed or upended by the railroad crews. Like Jordan and Davis, Cowell was from New England and came to California during the Gold Rush. In San Francisco, he co-founded a mercantile store with his brother, John. While there, Cowell invested in the Queen of the West, a schooner used frequently to transport lime for Davis & Jordan.

Portrait of Henry Cowell.
[Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District]
Cowell saw the potential of the Santa Cruz lime industry immediately and tried to get into it in any way possible. He tried to purchase part of Rancho Rincon. When that didn't work, he tried Rancho Zayante, also to no avail. He then invested in Davis & Jordan, which positioned him to buy out Jordan in 1865. He, his wife, and their six children moved to Santa Cruz shortly afterwards to manage the business on behalf of Davis.

Portrait of Isaac Davis, 1868. Photograph by Ralph H. Shaw.
[Center for Sacramento History]
Cowell was ruthless in managing the company, and for good reason. Squatters and cordwood thieves were very common and Cowell paid people to keep them off his land. Plans to build a toll road through Rancho Rincon between Felton and Santa Cruz were briefly hijacked by Cowell, who offered land for the road in exchange for collecting the toll. A compromise was made and a new route and road were built (the future State Route 9), but Cowell continued to throw roadblocks at it, slowing its construction and miring the toll company in lawsuits. Cowell also attempted to acquire the entire main beach, from the bottom of Bay Street to the San Lorenzo River, but the governor intervened. Most of these measures, as well as the lawsuit against the San Lorenzo Valley Railroad, were intended to stop competitors, who were mostly located around Felton at the time, from getting their goods to market.

Portion of a Davis & Cowell receipt, 1889. [Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District]
Nonetheless, Davis & Cowell thrived during the 1860s to 1880s. They acquired a moderate-sized competitor on Adams Creek in 1869, and drove most other competition out of business. By the time that Davis died in September 1888, only the IXL Lime Company on Fall Creek and the H. T. Holmes Lime Company in Felton still provided any competition. Meanwhile, Santa Cruz County had become the single largest producer of lime in the state, with nearly one-third of all lime made in California coming from just these three firms. After Davis's death, Cowell purchased a controlling interest in the company and it was rebranded Henry Cowell & Company. Besides continuing the lime business, Cowell invested heavily in real estate, especially in Marin, San Mateo, San Benito, and Monterey Counties, and the Sacramento Valley.

Lime barrels being loaded onto a steamship at the end of the Cowell Wharf, c. 1890s. [UCSC]
The lime company saw a lot of expansion between 1888 and 1920. Even as the Bay Street kilns continued to put out thousands of barrels of lime per year, the newly-acquired kilns on Adams Creek were upgraded and also put into full production. The Cowell Wharf at the end of Bay Street was still in heavy use, catering to two company-owned steamships and several other ships (hence Steamer Lane), until 1907, when a storm washed out a huge portion of it. At this time, the company decided to shift toward shipping via rail and set up a third kiln along the railroad tracks at Rincon, where the company once operated a sawmill and had a barrel warehouse. He also managed to finally buy out the IXL Lime Company in Fall Creek around 1901, leaving only Holmes to rival him in the county. Outside the county, Cowell diversified his investments, eventually owning property in twenty-three counties in California and investing in dozens of different industries, from bitumen and asphalt to cattle ranching.

The Cowell family on the Cowell Ranch, c. 1890s. [Cowell Historical Society]
In December 1898, Cowell reincorporated his business as the Henry Cowell Lime & Cement Company, a move that brought four of his children onboard and suggested a shifting in priorities toward [Portland] cement production. Five years later, on August 4, 1903, he died from a combination of old age, shock at the sudden death of his daughter Sarah, and lingering problems caused by a gunshot wound delivered to him by an insane man. Cowell was never a popular man and generally avoided the limelight except in courtrooms. After his death, his eldest son Ernest V. Cowell took over management of the company.

Portrait of Ernest V. Cowell, 1880. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The Cowell company lost almost all of its possessions in San Francisco during the earthquake and fire of 1906, but Ernest used the opportunity to expand fully into the Portland cement industry, building a new plant near Mt. Diablo in 1908 that operated for nearly forty years and ensured the longevity of the firm. While the Bay Street and Rincon kilns continued to operate, the Adams Creek and Fall Creek kilns were eventually shut down due to their remoteness.

Two of Henry Cowell's daughters in front of the family's ranch house, 1880s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Ernest died suddenly in March 1911 and Samuel "Harry" Cowell became the next president. Harry oversaw the closure of the kilns on Bay Street, which left the Rincon kilns the only remaining Cowell lime operation in the country. The problem was that Harry was not especially interested in the lime and cement industry. He loved raising livestock, such as bison and elk, and was not much of a traveller like his father and brother had been. The remaining Cowell children, Harry and his sisters Isabella and Helen, also were unmarried and had no children, leaving the future of the company in doubt.

Cowell employees posing at the main quarry at the northeast corner of the Cowell Ranch, c. 1890s.
[Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District]
In the final years of the Rincon plant, Harry did not employ new workers and kept the operation going primarily to give the old staff something to do. The workers were all too old to fight in World War II and the lime industry had mostly collapsed by the 1940s, but Harry just ate the loss and kept it going. The facility finally shut down in 1946, at which point the Henry Cowell Lime & Cement Company essentially shut down. Harry was the last member of his family, dying in February 1955. Helen died in 1932 and Isabelle in 1950. Thus, Cowell and his descendants are gone, but their legacy lives on.

Remnants of the lime works on the University of California campus at Santa Cruz, 2015.
Photograph by Julia Gaudinski. [Santa Cruz Waves]
While Henry Cowell had never been much of a philanthropist, except to his church, Ernest gave a large bequest to the University of California and Santa Cruz High School. He also left large amounts to his workers in Santa Cruz, especially those who had worked for the company for many years. Harry liked a bit of quid pro quo in his deals, but he still was immensely generous in the end. In 1952, Harry donated the westernmost part of the Santa Cruz main beach—Cowell Beach—to the city, while also gifting new money to his father's old Sunday home, the Congregational Church of Santa Cruz. The next year, he negotiated with the State of California to donate all of his family's portion of Rancho Rincon to the state to create a park, so long as the Santa Cruz County Big Trees Park was included and Henry Cowell's name was included in the title.  Thus, it became known as Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. His S. H. Cowell Foundation later donated millions of dollars toward establishing hospitals and, most importantly, the land for the University of California, Santa Cruz, which is situated on the former Cowell Ranch. Further funds were used to finance Cowell College and the Cowell Student Health Center. The organization continues to fund education programs and other non-profit activities throughout Northern California today.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, November 29, 2019

Stations: Rincon

In the days when México still controlled California, San Lorenzo Gorge was largely a single land grant that went by the name Rancho la Cañada del Rincon en el Río San Lorenzo de Santa Cruz (Ranch in the Canyon of the Bend in the San Lorenzo River of Santa Cruz). The property was not overly productive nor profitable, but during the 1860s, a small sawmill and accompanying paper mill were established in a flat clearing beside the Eben Bennett Toll Road between Santa Cruz and Felton. The property shortly afterwards passed into the control of the Davis & Cowell Lime Company.

An excursion train steaming through Rincon, 1952. Photo by Jim Holmes. [Jim Vail]
When survey and grading crews for the San Lorenzo Railroad passed through the area in 1868, they stuck close to the river far below, avoiding Sawmill Flat which angered the lime barons, who received no compensation for the timber that was cut on their land by the railroad. Furthermore, the right-of-way was to difficult to access, meaning that they also would not benefit from railroad access. They promptly sued the company and the railroad project fell apart having never lain a single rail.

The flat at Rincon with an excursion train passing through, July 23, 1950. Photo by W. C. Whittaker. [Jim Vail]
Enter the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad. In late 1874, the railroad incorporated and almost immediately started surveying a new route up San Lorenzo Gorge. Rather than following the more logical route low in the canyon, the company realized that it needed to gain the support of the lime company. Therefore, it graded its right-of-way much higher along the canyon wall. At a point about one hundred yards south of Sawmill Flat, it crossed the highest point on the line. South from here, the grade was a continuous incline down to the Monterey Bay, but to the north, it was a relatively gradual downward slope to Felton.

Piles of empty barrels along the siding at Rincon, 1907. The old warehouse can be seen at left while a train approaches from the north.
During the Santa Cruz & Felton years, Davis & Cowell never used the railroad, but they did require a 300-foot siding be installed at Sawmill Flat, just in case they needed it. And since it was the first flat area on the route to Felton, it became the primary passing zone for the two trains that operated along the line. The railroad named the location El Rincon, for the rancho, but when the South Pacific Coast Railroad took over the line in 1879, it renamed the location Summit, since it was the highest point on the old route. The station did have one semi-permanent occupant: a railroad agent who lived in a small cabin alongside the tracks and walked the route to Felton every morning to ensure that there were no slides or fallen trees on the right-of-way. In 1883, after four years operating as Summit, the location resumed its old name of Rincon, and that name has remained in use ever since.

The Cowell Lime & Cement Company lime kilns at Rincon during their height, c. 1920s. [Margaret Koch]
For many years, Rincon was little more than a waiting area for South Pacific Coast and, later, Southern Pacific Railroad box- and flatcars. Because of the steep grade from Santa Cruz, shorter trains sometimes hauled heavy loads to the siding at Rincon and then assembled full consists for the long run to San José, Oakland, and San Francisco. In 1885, Davis & Cowell built a small warehouse beside the tracks at Rincon so that lime barrels could be loaded and unloaded there. Full barrels were picked up from the warehouse and taken to various destinations, while empty barrels were dumped along the side of the siding here for reuse. This exchange system increased substantially after Davis died and Cowell took full control of the company in 1889.

View of the Cowell lime kiln facilities at Rincon from above San Lorenzo Drive (Highway 9), 1930s.
[University of California, Santa Cruz]
Around the turn of the century, Cowell began heavily shifting his preferred transport method to railroad. The destruction during a storm in December 1907 of his ancient pier, located at the end of Bay Street, forced the issue and suddenly expanding operations at Rincon became a priority. Where previously Cowell had used redwood timber to heat his lime kilns, the trend in 1907 was toward crude oil. And oil was most efficiently and safely transported via rail. As a result, the area around Rincon was quickly upgraded into the Cowell Lime Company's primary kilns, opening in 1909.

Closeup of the abandoned limekilns at Rincon, 1950s. Photo by John Cummings. [Jim Vail]
The seven new kilns at Rincon operated continuously, day and night, and ran off oil and steam. While the quicklime that they produced was not of the highest grade, the speed with which they could produce saleable quicklime more than compensated for the quality. A cooperage was built beside the kilns and a worker village sprang up along the east side of the tracks, above the river. Tens of thousands of barrels of quicklime were produced each year that this facility operated.

An excursion train passing by the abandoned Rincon limekilns, 1950. Photo by Fred Stoes. [Jim Vail]
To address the increased activity at the location, Southern Pacific installed a longer standard-gauge siding in 1907, that eventually reached 1,300 feet in length. A second siding was also added that ran along the fronts of the kilns, while a spur was built in front of the new storage warehouse. During the off season, a station agent lived in a shack beside the tracks and railroad employees often called upon the agent during bad weather or while waiting for the train to be loaded by work crews.

Abandoned worker cottages across from the Rincon lime kilns, 1950s.
Photo by John Cummings. [Jim Vail]
The kilns at Rincon thrived until the 1920s, and lingered through the Great Depression and war years. After Cowell himself died, his heirs continued the company for a little longer but eventually lost interest as demand for quicklime and lime products in general declined. In 1946, the plant at Rincon shut down, although most of the structures remained. The homeless soon moved into the abandoned warehouse, worker cottages, and other structures. Meanwhile, excursion trains often stopped at Rincon to let off anglers and hikers. Hopper cars from the Olympia sand quarries sometimes sat on the sidings at Rincon, waiting pickup by a passing train.

Hopper cars parked outside the Cowell warehouse at Rincon, 1950s. Photo by John Cummings. [Jim Vail]
The sidings at Rincon were removed in 1960, not long after Southern Pacific had switched to diesel locomotives that could handle the climb to Olympia and back without needing to unload cars. The property itself had been sold by the Cowell family to the State of California in 1954 to form the larger part of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The remaining buildings were removed in the 1960s due to safety, security, and aesthetic concerns. The kilns, however, were collapsed and partially buried, but still remain today, currently obscured by blackberry and poison oak bushes.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0125N, 122.0538W

Today, Rincon is easily and legally accessible. It is located near the south boundary of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park along State Route 9 at the large pullout north of where the railroad tracks cross the highway. Everything from the parking lot to the tracks was part of the former Cowell limeworks or hosted tracks. Roaring Camp Railroads has an easement for the right-of-way but this is one of the few areas where the public is able to enjoy the tracks without condemnation by locomotive engineers. The location is popular for mountain bikers, who climb up the old hauling roads and mule trails above Rincon to access Pogonip and the University of California, Santa Cruz main campus. It is also popular with anglers, who head down the hill to the river, where it is especially wide and relatively calm. During the summer, the tracks are still used up to four times per day by the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway, so caution is advised when loitering near the tracks.

Rincon Station, 2012, looking south toward Santa Cruz. The limekilns, warehouse, and sidings were located to the right, while the worker cabins were along the tracks to the left. [Derek R. Whaley]
Citations & Credits:
  • Logan, Clarence A. "Limestone in California," California Journal of Mines and Geology 43:3 (July 1947): 175-357.
  • Peery, Frank A., Robert W. Piwarzyk, and Allan Molho. "Getting the Lime to Market." In Limekiln Legacies: The History of the Lime Industry in Santa Cruz County, 150-155. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum of Art & History, 2007.
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Sights: Inspiration Point

The picturesque splendor of San Lorenzo Gorge was not lost on even the earliest Western settlers to pass through its depths. Almost as soon as the Eben Bennett Toll Road was completed in 1867, people began to photograph and seek out beautiful views of the southernmost portion of the San Lorenzo Valley. At a tight curve on the toll road, approximately 2.5 miles south of downtown Felton, the road widened very briefly, allowing for a pull-out and rest stop on the way to Santa Cruz. This place proved to have several unique and photogenic characteristics.

Colorized postcard of Coon Gulch and San Lorenzo Gorge
from Inspiration Point, c. 1920s. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
From the place that became known as Inspiration Point, a steep ledge fell off to the river far below. This meant that there were very few trees blocking the view of the gorge. Conveniently, the river made several sharp curves, as well, making the gorge somewhat wider here and increasing the range of visibility to the south. The redwood-speckled hills gave a year-round green shade to the surrounding mountains, heightening their unique qualities. Deep in the gorge, one could sometimes hear the rushing waters of the San Lorenzo River as it passed over some of its few rapids sections. And midway between, from 1875, the railroad tracks between Felton and Santa Cruz ran through a dangerous section known as Coon Gulch, where the scenic views below were countered with the ever-present threat of landslides from above.

A lumber train crossing over the two bridges along Coon Gulch, c. 1877. Photograph by F. A. Cook. [PacificNG.org]
Perhaps one of the best known features of this overlook is the concrete arch bridge built by the Southern Pacific Railroad built in March 1905. The original trackage along Coon Gulch was built by the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad in 1875 and required two short bridges to cross the steep gullies that ran down the hillside.

Closeup of a Santa Cruz & Felton locomotive parked on the Coon Gulch composite bridge, 1878. Note the damage to the right side of the bridge from falling debris. Photograph by F. A. Cook. [UC Santa Cruz Special Collections]
While the southernmost bridge was a simple trestle, the northern bridge required a rather unique construction of a truss bridge low in the gulch with a trestle erected over it. To encourage debris off the bridge, the side of the bridge facing the river was sloped using thick redwood planks, although this technique was only moderately successful.

An early postcard showing Coon Gulch from Inspiration Point, c. 1880s. [Bancroft Library]
As the line was being prepared for standard-gauging at the turn of the century, the decision was made to attempt to resolve the issues plaguing the Coon Gulch trackage. The smaller bridge was completely removed and replaced with a concrete fill. The larger, deeper bridge, however, was replaced with the concrete arch that still exists today.

A telephoto view of Coon Gulch, showing the new concrete arch bridge
and the filled concrete plug, c. 1905. [Ken Lorenzen]
This new structure accomplished two goals: it reduced the damage that could be caused by falling debris, and it reduced the curve through this section of track, since the original bridge was not able to substantially bend, forcing the track entering and exiting it to curve more sharply.

A Southern Pacific freight train heading to Felton over the concrete arch, c. 1940s. [Unknown provenance]
From 1905 to the present, the view from Inspiration Point became one of the most famous photo stops in Santa Cruz County. In the early years of the automobile, especially the 1920s, colorized postcards of the location began to circulate en masse, further emphasizing the location. And since the second-growth redwood forest around the area had not yet grown to full maturity as it has now, most of the scenes show both the river and the railroad tracks. Indeed, often postcard creators added a train to photographs to add to their artistic merits. As with many postcards of the time, many of these are in fact from the same image, but with small changes or artistic differences.

These are part of the earliest-known postcard series, featuring a Model T Ford with the river out of frame:

Postcard with a red Model T, c. 1920s. [Unknown provenance]
Postcard with a black Model T, c. 1920s [Unknown provenance]
These are part of the second series of postcards, where a pedestrian path has been added between the road and the cliffside and the river is now visible:

Postcard by F. R. Fulmer, c. 1930s. [CardCow]
Beginning in the 1930s, postcards of the area became somewhat rarer and the novelty of colorizing photos or, for that matter, editing them had faded. Artists during the Great Depression were more interested in photo-realism and, as such, took more mundane, but equally picturesque, photos to sell as postcards:
A monochrome postcard from the late 1930s, showing no train or car, just scenery. [Ken Lorenzen]
Also, the emphasis moved away from Inspiration Point itself and more toward the view from the point, specifically the railroad tracks and the concrete arch. This may have been part of an artistic movement toward romanticizing industrial works that was popular at the time:

Postcard showing Coon Gulch, 1930s. [Santa Cruz MAH]
Postcard showing a train crossing the concrete arch on its way to Santa Cruz,
taken from Inspiration Point, c. 1930s. [Santa Cruz MAH]
Colorized postcard of the concrete arch and San Lorenzo Gorge, c. 1930s.
Compare the colors to the postcard at the top of the page. [Ken Lorenzen]

Sepia-toned postcard of the above colorized postcard, c. 1930s.
[Mount Hermon]
And people took their own photographs, of course. The following are just a few of thousands that likely exist in private collections and museum archives across the world:

Photo of a train crossing over the concrete arch heading toward Felton,
taken from Inspiration Point, c. 1940s. [Santa Cruz MAH]
An excursion train crossing the cement arch in Coon Gulch, June 11, 1939.
Photograph by Wilbur C. Whittaker. [Jim Vail]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0241˚N, 122.059˚W

Today, Inspiration Point sits alongside State Route 9 within the boundaries of Henry Cowell Redwood State Park. It is now an official location within the park, aptly, albeit uncreatively, named Vista Point. It can be found on the east side of the road exactly two miles south of the Henry Cowell entrance log outside Felton. There is ample parking, although be aware of drivers coming from the south, as there is a blind curve and locals often take it faster than is advised. While it is not as scenic as it once was—primarily because the redwood trees have since grown to such a height that they block the once-broad view—it is still a sight to behold, especially for people unfamiliar with the scenic beauty of the San Lorenzo Valley.

Citations & Credits:
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2007.
  • MacGregor, Bruce. The Birth of California Narrow-Gauge. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Tunnels: Coon Gulch (Tunnel 6)

At one time, San Lorenzo Gorge hosted two railroad tunnels. The first was the more southernly tunnel through the Hogsback. But further north, beneath Inspiration Point, a second tunnel was situated at the top of a perilous ledge known as Coon Gulch. When the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad first constructed its line down the gorge in 1875, it did not have the funds nor engineering prowess to surmount the short rock outcropping at the northern end of the gulch. Instead, the pioneering narrow-gauge built a tightly-curving track around the rock, nicknamed by crews "Cape Horn," calculating that its small trains and short consists could handle the turn without significant difficulty. While they were correct in their assessment, they had not anticipated their purchase by the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1879.

The original Tunnel 6 with a recognizable remnant of the old right-of-way around the rock outcropping, c. 1890. Note the sheer hillside above the eastern portal. [UC Santa Cruz Special Collections]
When the first surveyors were sent by the South Pacific Coast in mid-1878, it was abundantly clear to them that the curve north of Coon Gulch would not work with their somewhat bulkier trains and longer consists. The two passenger cars that operated along the eight-mile Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad route already had encountered difficulties, with their stairs being shorn off multiple times due to the close proximity of the outcropping as the train turned around it. Southbound locomotives also occasionally stalled around this turn. The South Pacific Coast's solution was to construct their eighth and final railroad tunnel in the Santa Cruz Mountains through the outcropping, thereby surmounting the problem entirely.

A photograph from inside Tunnel 6 looking south down Coon Gulch, c. 1890s.
Photograph by Oscar V. Lange. [Unknown provenance]
In the Fall of 1879, a team of engineers led by Ed Mix began boring through the solid granite rock. An early winter storm delayed the project when rockfalls from above almost completely sealed the incomplete passage. But crews worked on, eventually creating a 338-foot-long tunnel that was completed in December. More rockslides from storms in March and April delayed the opening of the route by a month and the tunnel may have been extended slightly at this time in an attempt to divert debris in the future. Little more was done to improve the tunnel over the next twenty years as the South Pacific Coast and, later, the Southern Pacific Railroad used it regularly on their runs between Santa Cruz and San José. During this time, the tunnel was designated Tunnel 6.

Rocks did not always fall when trains were off the tracks, as this 1901 photograph reveals. A boulder struck this train as it approached Tunnel 6, derailing the locomotive and possibly some of the cars behind it and stopping the train in its tracks. The longer cross-ties used at this time reveal that the standard-gauging of the route was in progress, although it would be several more years before this section was actually upgraded. [Public Domain]
The upgrading of the line to standard gauge at the turn of the century gave Southern Pacific a chance to finally address the annual nuisance of rockfalls on the tracks outside the eastern (south-facing) portal of the tunnel. In 1903, the tunnel was renumbered Tunnel 5 due to the daylighting of the Los Gatos Creek Tunnel. At the same time, the old track around the outcropping was temporarily reopened and widened while the tunnel itself was widened to support standard-gauge trains. This upgrading proved useful as it could be used in future years to bypass the tunnel when slides closed it temporarily. The interior of the tunnel was expanded significantly and reinforced with new redwood timber posts, while large concrete portals with slide barriers were installed outside both portals. A guard rail was installed outside the tunnel, as well, to further protect trains from derailing due to excess debris on the tracks. The new tunnel was opened in September 1905, although the standard-gauging of this section would not be complete until 1908.

The rockslide shed extending out from the eastern portal of Tunnel 5, c. 1940s.
[Unknown provenance]
In the years afterwards, one more significant improvement was made: the addition of a rockfall shed outside the eastern portal. This thick redwood shed, probably installed in the 1920s, allowed debris to fall from the hillside above directly onto the right-of-way without imperilling the trains passing below. The integrity of the shed probably began to suffer at some point and it was removed, and efforts to control and maintain the hillside more regularly since then has been ongoing, with mixed results.

A Southern Pacific locomotive roaring out of the eastern portal of Tunnel 6 on its way to Santa Cruz, c. 1930s.
[Unknown provenance]
Tunnel 5 continued to be used even after Roaring Camp Railroads purchased the branch line in 1985. It served as a key feature of the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway's Beach Train for several years until a fire inside the tunnel in January 1993 led to a catastrophic landslide that collapsed the tunnel almost completely. It was the only railroad tunnel in the Santa Cruz Mountains to be destroyed by fire and the most recent tunnel to be abandoned (the only operating tunnel left is beneath Mission Hill). Roaring Camp decided to once more reactivate the shoofly track around the rock outcropping, widening the so-called Butte Cut in such a way that trains could safely run around it without too much difficulty. However, it remains the sharpest turn on the route and locomotive crew must take the turn with the outmost caution to avoid derailment.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Western Portal: 37.0245˚N, 122.0588˚W; Eastern Portal: 37.0236˚N, 122.0599˚W

The location of the former Tunnel 5 is approximately 0.2 miles south of Felton Junction, where the Garden of Eden path from the Toll House Resort meets the railroad tracks. Very little of the tunnel is visible today except for the retaining walls on both sides of the rock outcropping. Trespassing is not allowed as this is an active rail line and the Butte Cut is a blind curve, so especially dangerous for explorers not paying attention.

Citations & Credits:
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2007.
  • MacGregor, Bruce. The Birth of California Narrow-Gauge. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Curiosities: Sunset Magazine

Santa Cruz County may have been a relatively minor cog in the Southern Pacific Company's massive railroad empire, but its appeal as a tourist destination meant that it had increased visibility among the parts of the machine. In its inaugural May 1898 issue, Sunset magazine featured a seven-page illustrated section promoting Summer Holidays Among the Hills: Santa Cruz Mountains and Shasta Resorts. It was not the last time that the merits of Santa Cruz County would be highlighted.

Cover of a c. 1905 issue of Sunset. Caption reads: "A mother walks her baby boy
up off the beach; in the background, happy bathers cavort in the surf. The boy is
carrying a nice stalk of dead kelp." Art by Maynard Dixon.
By 1898, the Southern Pacific Railroad had embedded itself as a facet of everyday life in the American Southwest. For thirty years, the company had built railroad lines, purchased and developed properties, and invested in massive resort and industrial projects. But the age of the subscription magazine had finally reached the West Coast and Southern Pacific realized its potential as a way to promote itself and its services.

The cover of the first issue of Sunset, May 1898. The view is from Oakland
looking West through the Golden Gate. This cover was reused for the first
two years of the publication. [Stanford University Libraries]
The Passenger Department of the Southern Pacific Company led the charge through its new illustrated magazine Sunset, an obvious reference to the railroad's primary and much-touted Sunset Route between Los Angeles and New Orleans. The magazine was published from San Francisco at a cost of 5¢ per issue, or 50¢ for an annual subscription. In its first year, the publication included no outside advertisements under the assumption and hope that subscriptions and self-promotion would cover all costs. The magazine's creed read: "Publicity for the attractions and advantages of the Western Empire."

Advertisement in the March 1899 issue of Sunset promoting the Hotel Del Monte.
[Stanford University Libraries]
The purpose, scale, and scope of the magazine evolved rather drastically during its years under Southern Pacific control. Its inaugural issue outlined the initial plans for the magazine:
Its aim is the presentation, in a convenient form, of information concerning the great states of California, Oregon, Nevada, Texas, Louisiana, and the territories of Arizona and New Mexico—a rich and inexhaustible field over which the dawn of future commercial and industrial importance is just breaking.
The pioneers in this field have laid a foundation strong and deep for the superstructure to be erected in the coming years, and, whether you share in its building or witness its growth from afar, it is a factor of the future which must be reckoned with--therefore we expect to interest you.
The resources of this great western empire for the husbandman, stockman, and miner, and for the tourist and health seeker, will be treated in these pages as fully as space will admit, as concisely as the subjects will warrant, and at all times—truthfully.
These words hid a rather obvious meaning: this magazine will promote the activities of the Southern Pacific Railroad in developing the American Southwest. The fact that the railroad company owned or was heavily invested in many of the businesses was not as blatantly emphasized.

From a 1903 issue of Sunset. The caption reads: "Trainload of eighteen cars of apples leaving Watsonville for the East, October 12." Photo by E. L. Clark.

In actuality, the magazine did precisely what it needed to do when it needed to do it. When there were public complaints about freight rates, the magazine would advertise the wide range of industries connected to the network. When politicians or authors, such as Frank Norris in The Octopus, criticized Southern Pacific's West Coast monopoly, the magazine promoted the interconnectedness of Southern Pacific with its local rivals and East Coast partners. It helped that the magazine circulated widely on the East Coast, where political decisions were made by people that did not interact with Southern Pacific services on a daily basis.

From a 1903 issue of Sunset. The caption reads: "A typical Santa Cruz landscape."

The content of the magazine was primarily visual and literary in its content. The first issue included artwork of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra accompanied by poetry and descriptive prose. This was followed by a short story by Paul Shoup and then a collection of news items, anecdotes, and company announcements and advertisements, all concluded with a poem by Fred Emerson Brooks appropriately entitled "Sunset." Featured sections focused on the natural environments of the Southwest and were accompanied by beautiful photographs and artworks, some colorized, all in order to attract potential property investors, settlers, and businesses. It cannot be forgotten that the railroad had received from the government and Western states over 25 million acres of land throughout the area and needed to sell or develop it.

A panoramic photograph of the Casa del Rey Hotel and Boardwalk Casino included in the August 1911 issue of Sunset. The caption reads: "It looms ahead like a long battleship, painted for times of peace. This is the Casa Del Rey, at Santa Cruz, California, the house of double garden. A triple-arched bridge leads from the hotel to its adjunct, the Casino, set in a blaze of color at the edge of a golden bathing beach." 
Southern Pacific offered space in each issue to local government bodies so that they, too, could promote their towns and resources to eager investors, settlers, and tourists. At one point or another, nearly every substantial town or city along Southern Pacific-owned track took the opportunity to promote itself, with some describing potential uses for the nearby land, some highlighting the people, and some explaining specific facets of the community. Both San José and Pajaro, for example, took the opportunity to clarify how to pronounce their names.

“The Old Witch tree, among the ancient cypress along the famous
Seventeen Mile Drive, at Monterey, is the symbol of the
enchantment that holds this region of surpassing beauty.”
From the February 1914 issue of Sunset.
[Stanford University Libraries]
It is interesting to note that the arrival of Sunset occurred just when the first automobiles were appearing on American streets. Initially, Southern Pacific promoted the motorcar as the perfect way to visit the hard-to-reach places, especially along the California coast. And as car ownership increased, so too did Sunset's promotion of viable road trips, even far afield of Southern Pacific tracks. The goal was to sell the Southwest, and while the railroad was important in the long-term, Southern Pacific figured the automobile was not an immediate threat.

June 1918 issue of Sunset, with art by Matto Sandona. The caption reads:
"We miss you but we're, oh, so proud of you."
To attract female readers, Sunset included special sections focused on modern living and society. There were also not-so-subtle hints that women out West had more freedoms and opportunities. More generally, the magazine showcased museums, theatres, and expositions on the West Coast in the hope of proving that life in California was on par with the East Coast elite. To further pull in women and educated men, the magazine featured literature and poetry from some of the best Western writers including Jack London and Bret Harte.  Accompanying these writings were beautiful artworks that emphasized the glory of the Wild West. Such art also took a prominent place on the covers of each issue beginning at the turn of the century.

The cover of the December 1909 issue of The Pacific Monthly.
[MagazineArt.org]
Sunset's evolution from a corporate promotion tool to a popular, wide-reaching illustrated magazine was relatively fast but still occurred in stages. For the first sixteen years, the magazine focused primarily on railroad matters, even if such was not always obvious. But in 1912, Southern Pacific purchased the Portland-based Pacific Monthly and rebranded the magazine as Sunset: The Pacific Monthly. With this merger, the magazine reached a truly nation-wide audience but also became more than it was originally intended. As a result, Southern Pacific sold it to a group of its employees, who pledged to continue to use it to promote the railroad's services, albeit less obviously.

April 1914 cover of Sunset, one of the first after the takeover
by Woodhead, Field & Company. Art by Jules Guerin.
[Stanford University Libraries]
The primary reason for the sale in 1914 was the fact that the Southwest and West had changed dramatically over the past sixteen years. It was no longer the Wild West of old but had become a settled place, due in a large part by Southern Pacific promotion. And with war on the horizon, Southern Pacific had other priorities so needed to move on. Woodhead, Field & Company took over the magazine on behalf of the railroad and immediately began shifting its reach to attract a truly national readership. One of its first moves was to abandon the former digest format of the periodical and adopt the standard size of other illustrated magazines. It also abandoned the Wild West tropes to focus instead on the "Pacific Coast," in the hope of making the West appear more tame to Eastern tastes. Alongside this change, a news section was added to each issue that discussed West Coast items and included editorials, and commentaries.

December 1923 cover of Sunset. [Philsp.com]

The changes that occurred to Sunset in the late 1910s and 1920s were drastic in scale but flowed naturally from the earlier Southern Pacific magazine. New and upcoming authors were brought in to write literary pieces. A new push was made to draw national authors to the magazine in the hope of making the West Coast appear more American rather than some untamed, distant wilderness. Meanwhile, political articles became more commonplace and featured more prominently in the 1920s. Perhaps the most famous contributor to the magazine throughout the Southern Pacific and Woodhead/Field era was David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University, who wrote exposés about Asian-American relations and the rights of Asians living on the West Coast.

Cover to the March 1928 issue of Sunset, showing a cowboy receiving a bowler
hat in the mail, signalling a change taking over the old West.
By the time the Great Depression set in, Sunset was in many ways the magazine for the Southwest and West Coast. It reflected the identity of people who had settled and lived there. It touched on topics that were important to them. And, especially in the 1920s, it advertised to them directly rather than to East Coast investors. It was undeniably the high point of the magazine as a Western promotional periodical and the height of Southern Pacific's reach, even if its sales were not always spectacular and struggled to keep up with similar East Coast magazines.

The Grand Canyon as depicted in Sunset issue September 1934.
Art by Maynard Dixon. [Stanford University Libraries]
The magazine's sale to Laurence W. Lane in September 1928 permanently shifted its direction away from its Southern Pacific days. Lane had worked for Meredith Publishing Company for fifteen years helping produce Better Homes & Gardens. He saw the potential in Sunset to become another lifestyle magazine, albeit one focused more on Western living. His editorial and content changes first appeared in the February 1929 issue and included the abandonment of The Pacific Monthly tagline, which was soon replaced with The Magazine of Western Living, as well as the change to an art deco style on the covers. Inside, the magazine very quickly came to resemble so many similar magazines across the country, with the focus shifted toward a balance of interviews with celebrities, content written by celebrities, and lifestyle advice. Some political items were retained and the central articles still often focused on Western travel, but the audience for the magazine had changed and, with it, the element that made Sunset unique.

The Lane family on horseback at Quail Hollow Ranch, c. 1940s. [Friends of Quail Hollow]
The Lane family continued to control the magazine until 1990, when it sold the monthly to Time Warner. In 1937, the Lanes purchased a rural ranch north of Felton along Zayante Creek which they named Quail Hollow Ranch. They used the property to entertain guests and vacation in the summer months. It was sold to Santa Cruz County in 1986 for use as a county park. Today, Sunset continues to exist as a Western lifestyle magazine, now based in Oakland and run by Regent, L.P., which bought the magazine in November 2017. However, since 1990, the magazine has struggled for readership and is now only published bimonthly.

Citations & Credits: