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If you have information on local railroads, photographs or railroad documents, or you feel a mistake has been made or information omitted from an article, email me at This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Monday, November 11, 2013

Phillipshurst Trestle (SLR Trestle #2)

Google Map of Phillipshurst Trestle.
By far the most difficult to access of the Boulder Creek branch San Lorenzo River trestles, though easily spotted via Google Maps, the trestle located 0.2 miles south of Phillipshurst flag-stop is also the longest of all of those found in the San Lorenzo Valley. The original narrow-gauged trestle was built in 1885 by the Pacific Bridge Company for the Felton & Pescadero Railroad, a subsidiary of the South Pacific Coast Railroad. How this trestle was constructed is not known, though it was undoubtedly built of redwood piers and pilings. Unfortunately, all evidence of the original trestle at the site was destroyed when it was broad-gauged.

Phillipshurst Trestle as viewed facing south down the San Lorenzo River.

Phillipshurst Trestle as viewed facing north from the base of the first pier.

Phillipshurst Trestle as viewed facing south from the base of the four pier.

Phillipshurst Trestle as viewed facing north from the third pier.
The trestle was upgraded by the Southern Pacific Railroad sometime prior to June 1907 to support broad-gauged traffic. During this upgrade, the entire trestle was removed and replaced with a modern, prefabricated steel frame truss trestle supported by six 20-foot concrete piers and two concrete curbs. The high number of piers were required since the river was especially broad in this spot, though the river itself rarely flowed between more than the southernmost piers. The southernmost pier sported a large, terraced retaining wall along and in front of it, while two of the center piers had large concrete bases, probably intended to separate out debris so as not to cause a log jam.

Closeup of the first pier of the Phillipshurst Trestle, with large terraced concrete retaining wall.
No extant photographs of the trestle have survived to the present, so it is unclear precisely the configuration of the trestle. It is highly possible that there were between one and three prefabricated truss bridges installed atop the piers, judging by the length of the span crossed. Remnant pieces of redwood, long since cut, remain between the southern curb and the first pier suggesting those, at least, were not spanned with a steel bridge but rather a redwood causeway. Steps also are built into the backside of the first pier, leading under the trestle to the opposite side, where they climb up another set of stairs before continuing up a cement incline toward ground-level. In contrast, the northern curb is simply a shortened pier with a fill behind it. No evidence of an actual concrete curb could be found on the north side.

Stairs climbing up behind the first pier of the Phillipshurst Trestle.
Like the rest of the Boulder Creek branch, the steel bridges were removed in 1934 after the branch had shut down. The piers themselves remain, however, a testament to the engineering quality of turn-of-the-century bridge builders. Indeed, the San Lorenzo Valley Water District still runs a pipe over the bridge piers through hooks installed on the east side of the piers.

The southern curb of the Phillipshurst Trestle.
Northern approach to the Phillipshurst Trestle, from the end of River Road.
The northern curb/pier of the Phillipshurst Trestle with fill behind it.
Google Map satellite view of the Phillipshurst Trestle.
Accessing the site is extremely difficult unless one knows the owners of the adjacent properties. The site is accessed directly from the south through a gate at 10390 California Drive in Ben Lomond. Though the gate blocks access, the trestle itself is entirely on non-residential property and can be seen, albeit barely, through the gate. From the north, the trestle is only accessible via 2005 River Road, which is both a gated community and a gated home. However, if one can gain access this way, it is the most direct. Again, the property is not owned by the adjacent home, but access is blocked. With those two methods generally barred, the next easiest is by walking down to the river via 10350 Highway 9 where a large clearing is easily accessible from the highway. From there, follow deer paths down to the river, though be careful because the terrain is treacherous. There are places where the river can be crossed by hopping over stones. This is recommended rather than sticking to the western bank as the eastern bank is mostly level and dry. The piers are easily accessed once the eastern bank is reached.


  1. Absolutely fascinating Derek! I never got to this trestle and had no idea there was this
    much to it nor this much left of it nor how high it was! An expedition here is definitely
    in order! I have managed to find many old relics of railroads in the Bay Area but
    somehow this one slipped through my fingers!

  2. I went to this trestle site on November 15 andI have to say it was well worth the effort down
    the steep slope to the river and getting my feet slightly wet. This bridge was far more impressive
    than the other bridges between Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek. I even found a couple of
    large rails in the sand near the trestle. It puzzles me that I have never seen photographs
    of this bridge in service or not and that I have not seen it mentioned in any of the history
    books dealing with this railroad. But maybe you, Derek, will be the one to find these!
    Thank you for your persistence in getting to this trestle site! It was nothing like what
    I expected was here!

  3. I would make note if the piers were much lower than the curbs on all visited bridge sites, so that we can know if girder-style spans were used. I don't quite have a reason for recording this, but it seems simple enough and could be of use to someone. I might even tape string to a pier and measure it off to the next pier - easily done in the case of this trestle - as another piece of information for someone's use. I'm not a historian, so I'm not sure of the value or lack of value in bothering with this; it just seems easy to obtain while there.

    1. I read this page once again and I see where it was determined that these were truss-style spans, and since the piers look rather close together I'm guessing that these were smaller and open at the top, like the Wildwood span. In any case, I think there is less information on the bridges leading up to Filbert, so my comments are still worthwhile.

      One more very obscure measurement on maybe the last physical items left to us: the rails that Duncan found, it could be useful to put a ruler to the height and width (at the base) of these and collect any info stamped onto their sides. Someone, someday, might appreciate the effort.