Friday, January 23, 2015


For most of its existence, the Manresa stop stood alone between Leonard and Ellicott. But in 1918, a firm under the leadership of Donald M. Crist and Irving Carl called the Ferro Products Company established an iron processing plant on the hills above Manresa Beach. The land they purchased had previously been owned by the College of Santa Clara, a Catholic institution that eventually became the University of Santa Clara. The beach, then known as Zils Beach after its original owner, Peter Zils, was known for its black sands, rich in magnetite which was used to make sponge iron and steel alloys. Almost immediately, the new firm was sued by a local, Henry Goetz, who complained that Crist and Carl dumped its refuse material on the surrounding countryside. The partners won the case since they owned the property. Soon afterwards, they began increasing their productivity and petitioned the Southern Pacific Railroad, whose Santa Cruz Branch passed directly in front of their facility, for a siding and stop.

The "Playland Special" near Rob Roy and Cristo, overlooking Manresa Beach, May 28, 1939. The building in the background is the Ferro Products Company refinery. Photo by Wil Whittaker. (Jim Vail Collection)
Initially, the company appears to have used the nearby Manresa station to ship out its product. But upgrades to the facility in late 1920 prompted the railroad company to dedicate a special siding just for the facility. Thus "Cristo"—named after Crist—became a stop in June, 1921, located 90.8 miles from San Francisco via the Mayfield Cut-Off and 8.4 miles from Watsonville Junction. A freight-loading platform was built for the firm on the northeast side of the tracks. The siding was small, only long enough for three cars. Passenger service via a flag-stop was maintained for local commuters, though it was not listed on the non-commuter schedules. By the mid-1930s, the stop had been removed from timetables except as a casual flag-stop, which means it was footnoted as an additional stop outside of the standard timetable. The station did not have any other facilities and appears to have mostly been a freight stop, despite the option of a passenger stop.

The Ferro Products Company became the Ferro Products Corporation in late 1921, with new corporate offices installed in San Francisco and the company passing under the management of D.C. Jackling. The president of the new company, A.J. Maclean,  took over for Don Crist, while Crist became general manager. The company became a branch of the Triumph Steel Company in early 1925. In 1932, the company shifted to creating stainless steel at a new $150,000 steel plant erected on the site of the old iron plant. Meanwhile, the Triumph Steel Company became the American Alloy and Steel Company.

The railroad siding continued in agency books as late as 1941, after which this historian's records do not extend. Problems with the facility upgrade in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, may have ended the company's presence in Santa Cruz County as newspapers no longer record the company or Crist after October 1932. It is likely the company left Santa Cruz at around the time, abandoning the siding. In this case, the Southern Pacific simply left it in its agency books, awaiting a time when those books would be cleaned of abeyant stops.


  • Clark, Donald. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2007.


  1. I was at La Selva Beach this afternoon and I saw a section of 40-45 pound narrow gauge rail that had be excavated from the area where the siding was at Robroy.

    Howard Cohen

    1. Very cool but also somewhat strange. Those tracks haven't been narrow-gauged since 1883. Unless those tracks are that old, which is doubtful, I suspect they are from something else. Perhaps they fell off a train in 1908 or were used for an in-house track somewhere along the line.

    2. Maybe the camera has distorted it a little, but that rail is looking wide (or fat); I wonder if a narrow-gauge line would prefer narrow rail that could be bent into sharper curves. If I was there I might have measured the height and width, top and bottom, for the record. Nice photo, and fun to think of the possibilities.

    3. To finish what I started, I didn't find any mention of different rails being used for standard and narrow-gauge track. I was searching for products that might have a thinner cross-section for the kinds of curvature found at Roaring Camp as I have no idea how one bends steel for such extremes.

      I did find some pretty clear weight limits that would demand the upgrading of rails, particularly around 1910.

  2. Hello Derek,

    Railroads have always had pretty bad habits when it comes to discarded materials. A lot of times when rail and other materials are changed out the old material is just discarded off to the side of the right of way or down a hill and left there. There are a lot of sections of this small rail from the original narrow gauge lines between Davenport and Pajaro and aren't too hard to find if your looking for them.

    Jeffrey Weeks
    General Manager


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