Friday, October 18, 2013

The Triple Trestles

In 1887, the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, operated by the Dougherty brothers, began construction of a narrow-gauged extension railroad north of Boulder Creek. One of its first hurdles, quite literally, was the problem of crossing not one, but three waterways in close proximity just north of the town. Trestles would have to be built that would cross Boulder Creek, the San Lorenzo River (SLR Trestle #8), and Bear Creek.

W.S. Rodgers survey map of Boulder Creek, 1905. (Courtesy University of California, Santa Cruz digital collection)
Fortunately for modern historians, Winfield Scott Rodgers surveyed the town Boulder Creek in 1905 and included this triple ford on the topmost part of his map. It seems the lower two trestles were almost continuous, with only a small part sitting on solid ground between Boulder Creek and the river. A longer tract of land spread across two lots in a residential subdivision before crossing Bear Creek and Park Avenue (now Bear Creek Road). The right-of-way then continued north along the east bank of the San Lorenzo River.

Close-up of the Boulder Creek Trestle as its heads north, from
larger photograph of Boulder Creek freight yard.
(Courtesy Bruce MacGregor, A Centennial)
Nothing is known about the construction techniques used for two of these bridges. The bridge furthest to the south, crossing Boulder Creek, however, is shown just barely in a circa 1895 photograph of Boulder Creek's freight yard. As expected, this bridge was almost completely made of redwood. Since the Dougherty Extension Railroad was likely never broad-gauged, it can be presumed that all the trestles along this line remained redwood and probably rather cheaply made. However, since passenger service did, at times, continue up all the way to the Dougherty Mill (Riverside Grove) it is possible that the trestles between Boulder Creek and Riverside Grove were reinforced with steel, though this is unlikely.

The majority of the Dougherty line was pulled up around 1917 after its use to sell tracts of land in and around the mill sites was finished. Presumably, the trestles were also removed around this time. Curiously, though, the auto bridge to Old Bear Creek Road, which provides access to the subdivision mentioned above, sits directly atop the original site of the Bear Creek Trestle. This trestle was not repurposed, but the gap it left in the properties here was obviously reused to allow vehicle traffic to the subdivision. How locals accessed the subdivision prior to that is unknown since Rodger's map does not show such a bridge. Homes sit atop the right-of-way along this entire section and there appears to be no remnant of the Dougherty line visible here. The path of the right-of-way continued on the east bank of the river and follows roughly the western properties along Huckleberry Lane until that road turns away from the river.


  1. Fascinating! I was not aware of these triple trestles! I knew the line out of Boulder Creek
    headed north went this way but I had no idea that three trestles were involved! Good work!

  2. Derek. I assumed that the triple trestles existed and this was confirmed when I saw a survey map (Town of Boulder Creek by L.D. Norton 1899). I had not seen this later map 1905 by W.S. Rodgers.
    If you would like to further tour this area of the 3 peninsulas. Let me know as I know quite a bit about this area, as I lived there for over 8 years and my mother currently lives there. I also am good friends with the owner's of this property. Keep up the great work!

    1. Someone asked where the Dougherty Extension crossed the San Lorenzo River
      from the east to the west side north of Boulder Creek and it appears it was at Wildwood.
      Does anyone have information to the contrary?

    2. Hopefully I will be able to answer this more fully soon. I've found one map, I believe, that shows a few of the crossings. Cunningham Mill, indeed, is the first time it crosses back to the west side of the river since Boulder Creek. The further up the river you get, though, and that harder it gets to track.