Friday, July 25, 2014

Liddell & San Vicente

Liddell and San Vicente Creeks according to an Ocean Shore
Railroad survey map from 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
In 1851, George Liddell obtained a parcel of land from the Williams Brothers' Ranch Laguna property. Liddell was a recent immigrant to Santa Cruz, only arriving in the United States from England in 1850. His stay alongside the creek that forever was named after him was one year. In that year he operated a small sawmill, possibly for the Williams brothers. By 1852, he had moved into the mountains where he built a new steam-powered saw mill. Liddell died in 1864.

The lands returned to the Williams brothers and they quickly turned the mouth of the creek into a place called "Williams Landing". For sixteen years—from 1853 to 1869—a ship landing and chute system was employed off the bluff over Liddell Creek. Although the landing was abandoned in 1869, the Williams brothers continued to produce lumber, tanbark, lime, and oil on their rancho. By the late 1880s, they no longer owned the property and George E. Olive & Company purchased the landing for its own use, renaming it "Olives Landing." Olives Landing was upgraded with a longer cable chute, but the venture appears to have failed since there is little mention of the name after 1889.

It is likely that Louis Moretti purchased the land from George Olive at some point in the 1890s. In 1901, Moretti became the senior partner in the Coast Land & Dairy Company, which included five dairies running along the coast south of Davenport. In 1912, a small natural pond along Liddell Creek, known as Liddell Spring, was ceded to the City of Santa Cruz for the purpose of providing water to the city.

It was during Moretti's ownership that the Ocean Shore Railroad passed through the property. The railroad established a small freight station here, though their primary stop was further south at Yellowbank. "Liddell", as the station was named, was a simple flag stop located 9.6 miles north of the Ocean Shore Depot in Santa Cruz and 1.2 miles south of the Davenport station. There is no evidence that a freight spur, siding, or even a platform was located here, and indeed the 1912, at right, does not even mention the stop suggesting it may have disappeared by that year. During its short existence, it likely served as a picnic stop for northbound tourists wishing to dip their feet into the Pacific Ocean. The sign—and any other structures—would have been on the west side of the tracks, the east being controlled by the Southern Pacific's Coast Line Railroad. The Coast Dairies company continued to exist until 1996, but the Ocean Shore Railroad was already suffering by the mid-1910s and small unnecessary stops such as this may have been abandoned early.

The Coast Line also established a northern stop for the Coast Dairies at San Vicente Creek just south of Davenport, though they bypassed Liddell Creek. San Vicente Creek was likely named after Vicenta Rodriguez, wife of the earliest owner of Rancho San Vicente, Blas A. Excamilla. Saint Vincent, after whom she was named and from which the creek ultimately gained its name, was a Spanish fourth-century deacon and martyr of the Diocletian Persecution. Her name was the feminized variant of that name. Blas obtained the rancho in 1845 at the age of 20. It ranged from San Vicente Creek to the future site of Davenport Landing. It was sold in 1853 to Peter Tracy. The creek formed the northern boundary of the Coast Dairies property and served as the northernmost flag stop for Southern Pacific Railroad service to the dairies.

As with Liddell, there was likely one of the five dairies near the mouth of the creek and the stop allowed employees to commute while the site may also have served as a picnic stop for excursion trains. To underly its status, it never appeared in station books or timetables, emphasizing its minor status along the route. It was located roughly 10 miles north of the Southern Pacific Depot in Santa Cruz and only about 0.2 miles south of Davenport's primary passenger station just south of the cement plant. The station platform, if there was any, would have been on the east side of the tracks.

Railroad service to Liddell ceased no later than 1920, since in that year the Ocean Shore Railroad went defunct. The tracks remained until 1923 when the San Vicente Lumber Company abandoned the line. Rail service to San Vicente probably ceased around the same time, though it may have continued to as late as 1959 when the Suntan Special trains ended and passenger service to Santa Cruz County was abandoned. In the late 1990s, the entire property to San Vicente Creek was purchased by various parties and then donated to the state as the Coast Dairies State Park. The mouth of Liddell Creek has been named Bonny Doon Beach for decades, though it was likely called Liddell Beach at the turn of the century. San Vicente Creek's mouth serves as Davenport's primary beach and is usually called simply "Davenport Beach".

  • "Coast Dairies Property: A Land Use History", Coast Dairies Long-Term Resource Protection and Use Plan: Draft Exiting Conditions Report for the Coast Dairies Property, Section 1.0. <> (Accessed 18 July 2014).
  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).


  1. I have not ever heard of the Suntan Special operating in the 1950's beyond Santa Cruz except for once a year when it continued up to Henry Cowell Park at Felton. However, there was
    apparently at least one separate excursion train which ran to Davenport during this period.
    I would be interested in knowing just how many of these excursions were operated.
    It is not well remembered but there was one passenger train a year, the Big Trees Picnic Train,
    which ran to Felton through 1965 from the Bay Area. After this, Southern Pacific refused
    to run any more passenger trains on the branch saying the track was "being maintained for light
    freight service only."

  2. Postscript: I meant to comment that this was another great, informative article with information
    I have never read about on these intriguing stations on the Southern Division of the Ocean Shore
    Railroad! More good work, Derek! I can hardly wait for the next station history!


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