Friday, October 3, 2014


Though the Santa Cruz Railroad was intended primarily as a freight line, its use as a passenger line was never ignored and, indeed, it was emphasized at times. One of the railroad's benefits was that it ran near the beach throughout much of its length between Pajaro Junction and Santa Cruz. Between the San Lorenzo River and Woods Lagoon, a small jetty of land included a small beach area. The land was originally owned by a Mr. Doane.  In 1884, this land was purchased by F.M. Mott of Sacramento from Mr. Woods, after whom Woods Lagoon is named. Mott developed it into a farm and summer home. In the early 1880s, he visited the New Jersey coastal village of Sea Bright and took the name home with him.

Seabright Beach and Wood's Lagoon, c. 1895. (SC Libraries)
Camp Alhambra, designed by Thomas Pilkington, dominated the area directly above the river to the west of Seabright Beach. It was the only resort between Camp Capitola and the Santa Cruz Main Beach. The entire resort was composed of a long, low building surrounded by cypress trees. Eventually, out buildings such as cottages and cookhouses were built. Captain Hall and his daughter, Mrs. Green, ran Camp Alhambra for seven years beginning in 1882, until they parcelled the property out in 1889. Seabright Park was built soon on one of the larger parcels.

Seabright Beach in the early 1900s. 
The Southern Pacific Railroad began advertising the property by the late 1880s as an aquatic getaway with most of the visitors coming from San José. The railroad station for Seabright was built in 1898 on the southeast corner of Railraod Avenue (later Seabright Avenue). The stop had served as a flag-stop since the early 1890s and continued as a flag-stop through to the 1910s. It was located 119.5 miles south of San Francisco via Pajaro Junction. In 1909, the line was reassessed via the mountain route and Mayfield Cut-off and measured 80.3 miles from San Fransisco. It had no siding or spur and the first station shelter was open-air with back-to-back rows of benches, built in the shadow of the Seabright Hotel. The Seabright streetcars of the Union Traction Company also used the station, making it one of the few railroad/streetcar transfer stations in the city.

Seabright Station, 1907. (Museum of Art & History – M. Jongeneel Collection)
Seabright got itself a post office on April 13, 1899 but the annexation of Seabright into the City of Santa Cruz in February 1905 ended the post office's existence. Forty-five years later, a new post office was built across the tracks and, though formally called the East Santa Cruz Branch, it is frequently referred to as the Seabright post office. Part of the allure of Seabright was the Castle. James A. Pilkington, son of Thomas, built what was formally called the Seabright Bathhouse in 1899. The design of the building mimicked that of a castle, though it had, in reality, wood walls. In the 1920s, Pilkington's son, Louis, expanded the facility to include a dining room and other features, while renaming the medieval structure the "Scholl-Mar Castle", after his business partner, Conrad Scholl. By the 1940s, it became the Casa del Mar restaurant, while the 1950s and 1960s saw the building converted into an art gallery.

Castle Beach in the early 1960s.
A streetcar parked beside the station, c. 1910s. (Surf, Sand & Streetcars)
Seabright Station was upgraded at some points in the early 1910s to a larger structure with a small ticket office beside a covered passenger waiting area. This marked the station's evolution from a flag-stop to a seasonal station. In the 1920s, the station had been moved across the tracks and the passenger waiting area enclosed and converted into a baggage storage room. By 1921, a short spur had been built beside the station heading into the Santa Cruz Fruit & Olive Canning Company. In 1926, Seabright became one of three stops along a short segment of automated block signals heading toward the depot in Santa Cruz. Block signals helped control traffic along narrow lanes and were used here since there were no sidings between Capitola and the Santa Cruz depot. Seabright remained in use as a passenger flag-stop until early 1942 when all passenger traffic within Santa Cruz County was halted for the war. Passenger service never resumed and Suntan Specials passed by the former stop without giving the option for a flag.

Second Seabright Station, after its closure in 1942. (Jim McGowan)
The station building survived into the 1950s but was finally demolished. Murray Street now passes through the site of the original station shelter while the second station site is now a dirt parking lot. The Canning Company spur persisted into the 1980s before finally being removed, with the old canning facility converted into Pacific Edge. Castle Beach, meanwhile, was established as a part of Twin Lakes State Beach in 1955 though the construction of the harbor in 1964 permanently separated it from its former neighbor. The Seabright Castle was demolished on March 24, 1967, after a major storm damaged the building beyond repair. Erosion also had an impact on the surrounding cliffs, further damaging the Castle and other buildings in the area. Directly across from the site of the Castle, the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum with its iconic bronze whale was built at Tyrrell Park.

The demolition of the castle, 1967. (Rex Walker Collection)

  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2007).
  • Elizabeth M.C. Forbes, "Reminiscences of Seabright: Excerpts", Santa Cruz Public Libraries  <> (Accessed 3 October 2014).


  1. According to Rick Hamman, on page 229 of CENTRAL CALIFORNIA COAST RAILWAYS,
    regular passenger service was discontinued between Watsonville Junction and Santa Cruz
    on February 8, 1938. The March 21, 1937 Employees Timetable shows Seabright as still
    a flag stop for Trains 187-188. My understanding of Automatic Block Signalling (ABS) is
    that it only regulates train movements and not grade crossings and speed limits. It's only
    purpose to this day is to keep trains from colliding into each other. I am sure this is something
    you could confirm easily.

  2. Correction: The title of Rick Hamman's book is CALIFORNIA CENTRAL COAST RAILWAYS.
    published by Pruett Publishing Company, Boulder, Colorado, in 1980.

    1. Or Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002). That is the info for the second edition, which was largely a reprint but with a new chapter at the end and a few sidenotes added to the text.

      Regarding ABS, you are correct. They did manage traffic more than anything else. Traffic was regulated on the employee timetables while level crossings were handled by remote triggers beginning in the 1920s. Crossing guards had to manage them before that.

  3. I lived on E.Cliff drive in 1960, before Apt.'s were built overlooking the Pajaro River, and stubbed my toe on that rock below the Castle, while wearing my cheap sandals. Thanks.


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