Friday, June 20, 2014

Parsons Beach

Ocean Shore Railway Company survey map, 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
Between Santa Cruz and Davenport, the Ocean Shore Railroad provided more stops for local passengers and freight than the Coast Line. There are many possible reasons for this, but the Ocean Shore was a much more limited line, especially after 1906 when connecting the line to San Francisco was pretty much a lost cause, thus they needed as many patrons as possible. It is in this attitude that they provided a small stop at Parsons Beach where Baldwin Creek flows into the Pacific Ocean.

The beach was named after Dr. George Parsons, the landowner who purchased this small section of Rancho Refugio from José Bolcoff on 1 December 1854. Parsons was an English dentist with an office in Santa Cruz as early as 1850; details before that date are unknown. By 1905, when the railroads were running through the property, M.L. Baldwin owned the property. To the south, C. Lombardi held land, while just to the north, the Scaroni family operated a dairy.

The Ocean Shore Railroad maintained a small spur lagoon near the beach on the west side of the tracks, 5.7 miles north of the Ocean Shore Depot in Santa Cruz. The spur was accessible from the south and terminated at the end of the bluff where a cut was required for the right-of-way. The spur was 390' long and the stop hosted a small wooden shelter. The actual purpose of the stop and spur are unknown, though the former was probably for local beach-goers and the family while the latter was likely for agricultural crops and other freight. Information regarding the career of M.L. Baldwin is lacking from the historical record, leaving the function of the property up to speculation.

When the Ocean Shore ceased providing service along the line in 1920, the stop at Parsons Beach ended service as well. The tracks remained for another three years as the San Vicente Lumber Company used them, but even those were pulled in 1924. The remaining set of tracks through the property are those of the Southern Pacific Railroad (now the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway). Today, Parsons Beach is called Four Mile Beach (because it is located four miles north of the Santa Cruz city limits), though it also is called Tiger Beach occasionally. A somewhat expansive lagoon sits beside the railroad tracks in this area and the original Ocean Shore right-of-way exists as a local access road for farmers. The entirety of the beach is within the bounds of Wilder Ranch State Historic Park, thereby making the beach a state beach. Public access is permitted via a parking area along CA State Route 1 and a short dirt road.


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


    1. Not bad. I think I'd remove the spur and create a double ended siding either above or below this location; and if there was enough traffic I'd align spring-loaded switches to allow trains to bypass without stopping. I would then scoop the dirt and remove the bluff, making a trough leading to the beach. Add a cement platform and either a 'bus shelter' or a larger colonnade structure as a flag-stop. Then maybe a wide cement sidewalk aimed towards the beach that would extend for about 100 feet.

      There, fixed.

    2. Thank you Derek for providing information on such an obscure station I would never have
      expected to learn the history of. This section of railroad has received so little attention
      through the years and you are filling a real void with articles such as these! I look forward
      to your next efforts as you head up the Ocean Shore towards Davenport and Swanton.


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