Friday, June 27, 2014

Gordola & Scaroni

Ocean Shore Railroad 1912 Survey Map. (UC Santa Cruz)
The Coast Line and Ocean Shore railroads shared very few stops between Santa Cruz and Davenport. One place that could not be ignored, however, was a large dairy owned by the Scaroni family along the North Coast of Santa Cruz County just south of Majors Creek.

Pio Scaroni first settled on his portion of Rancho Refugio in 1868 after moving from Gordola, Switzerland. Scaroni became well known for his butter and cheese, eventually becoming an American citizen in 1884. Pio diversified his properties over the following years and became, in addition to his dairy business, one of the top growers of artichokes in the north county. In 1901, a portion of his properties were also leased to the Santa Cruz Oil Company to enable bitumen mining. Pio died in 1931, though his descendants continued to own the land until 1998.

The combination of agricultural output, dairy goods, and petroleum products brought the two rival railroads straight through Scaroni's property. Rivals until the end, the Ocean Shore got the privilege of naming their stop Scaroni, located 6.6 miles north of the small Santa Cruz Depot building. The Coast Line Railroad, coming to the game late, was forced to use a secondary name for the stop, Gordola, named after Scaroni's home town. Their station was located 4.8 miles north of the larger Southern Pacific depot in Santa Cruz, 85.6 miles south of San Francisco via Santa Cruz and the Mayfield Cutoff.

In the end, the Coast Line won out. At Scaroni, just south of Majors Creek, the Coast Line built a 2,500' long siding, long enough to support 27 waiting boxcars and flat cars, with a second shorter spur adjacent to it.  Since the Coast Line was on the eastern side of the shared right-of-way, its siding and spur were also to the east. The northern end of the siding terminated just before Scaroni Road, then simply a county road that ended at the Scaroni farm house. Meanwhile, the Scaroni stop maintained by the OSRR had no siding or spur and was located on the wrong side of the property for anything other than passenger use. Both railroads had to bridge, and subsequently fill, a small unnamed seasonal creek that was in this area, the culvert of which still sits under the right-of-way today.

The Ocean Shore Railroad closed in 1920 and the San Vicente Lumber Company took up the tracks in late 1923. The right-of-way in this area is used as a farm vehicle dirt road, though it has long lost its ballast and grading. The Coast Line, later Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and now Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway, remains intact but the siding and spur have both been removed with no trace of them remaining. In 1998, the Scaroni family sold this entire property to the state of California and it has since been appended onto Wilder Ranch State Historic Park, acting as its northern coastal boundary.


  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).

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