Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A.K. Salz Leather Tannery Spur

Salz Leather Tannery Spur today, heading into Las Animas Concrete
An extremely short spur on the Southern Pacific's Mountain Route was the A.K. Salz Leather Tannery facility located between Golf Links and Eblis just north of Highway 1. The freight spur was probably in use throughout the entire existence of the Mountain Route, possibly as far back as South Pacific Coast days, only ceasing use in the 1980s. Sometimes confused with Eblis siding in the Portero District, the sole purpose of the Salz Spur was to deliver tan bark to the factory and ship out tanned leather hides. 

Las Animas Concrete Plant and Salz Leather Tannery in the 1970s. The railroad track and spur are at the top-left.
Two box cars for leather hides are parked on the tracks awaiting loading. A load of leather hides are sitting on a
truck in the center, just below the large white shed. (Courtesy Scott French from Las Animas)

Forklifts in the 1970s hauling tan oak split stuff.
A long freight barn stored most of the tan bark and still exists today (visible at center-right in the photograph above). The siding could hold up to three boxcars which, after the 1930s, were marked "For Hide Service Only" on their sides. After the mountain route closed, service continued to the sand plant at Olympia and to Big Trees for a number of more years. Eventually, Big Trees ceased to  attract visitors via the rail line and the sand plant closed shop, leaving Salz Tannery as the only stop the Southern Pacific catered to past Santa Cruz Station. Though limited service continued to Santa Cruz Station up until the 1980s, journeys down Chestnut Street and under Mission Hill were infrequent and ceased entirely by 1985 when the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific began operating along the line.

Salz Leather Tannery along the San Lorenzo River. The Southern Pacific
right-of-way is barely visible at the top-left, with Highway 9 running
down the center-left of the photograph. (Santa Cruz MAH)
A.K. Salz Leather Tannery itself dates to 1861, and many of the buildings still at the site today date to before 1900. It was originally opened as James Duncan and William Warren Tannery in 1857 at a different site, eventually moving to the current site in 1861. In 1867 it was renamed Kron Tannery after Jacob F. Kron. He later renamed the company San Lorenzo Tannery. Ansley K. Salz only obtained full ownership of the facility in 1929, thus the site was serviced by the railroad prior to its ownership by the Salz family. In the 1940s, the company developed "California Saddle Leather" and began to massively export leather across the United States. In 1950, Norman Lezin, the son-in-law of A.K. Salz, became owner and president of the company until 1956 when he sold it to Pacific Industries. From that point forward, the company vacillated between Salz-Lezin family ownership and outside ownership. The company finally closed in 2001 and today is an art community.


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