Friday, February 6, 2015

Laguna & Nuga

1914 USGS map showing Nuga deep in the sloughs of Watsonville.
Not far from Watsonville, mired in the sloughs that populated the western part of that city, the Santa Cruz Railroad setup a small agricultural freight stop for the Martin family named, conveniently, "Martins". The station was established on July 1, 1876, making it one of the first scheduled stops on the new railroad's line. It was located next to Watsonville Slough between the outlets of Hanson and Harkins Sloughs. It had direct access to the Watsonville Beach Road (W. Beach Street) and the Port Watsonville pier. What precisely Thomas, William, and R. Martin did on their property is not entirely clear; the area was known for its pastures and ranch land so it can be surmised that they engaged in a similar endeavor.

The stop became "Laguna" at some point in the 1890s. By this time, a 1,528-foot-long siding had been installed on the south side of the mainline track and running most of the length of the property. The station is recorded in timetables as having full passenger and freight service in the early 1900s, though the station became a flag-stop after 1909, retaining scheduled freight service. The station was located 3.7 miles north of Pajaro Junction (later Watsonville Junction) and 103.8 miles from San Francisco. After the completion of the Mayfield Cut-Off in 1909, the distance to San Francisco was reduced to only 95.6 miles. In that year, Laguna received a strange name change: the name was inverted and the first and last letters dropped, creating the station name "Nuga". It retained this name the the remainder of its existence.

Nuga had its siding extended to 2,065 feet in 1911 and 2,553 feet the next year. By 1913, it was capable of holding 39 freight cars on its track, which is not an insignificant trackage. A platform was added for the station as well in 1912, though no other services were installed at the site. Over the following twenty years, the siding shrunk down slightly to support only 33 cars and its status was demoted to that of a passing track, suggesting that by June 1941, the location no longer required regular freight service. Considering the high concentration of agricultural produce in the area, it can be supposed that Nuga was simply an agricultural freight stop, but its original status as a passenger station suggests that it may have had another function originally as well, possibly as an early jump-off point for streetcars running to Watsonville's pier and Camp Goodall at the beach, or for students of the nearby Beach School. Alternatively, one newspaper in October 1909 suggests that it was an aggregate collection site.

One interesting note about Nuga is that it was the lowest point on the entire Southern Pacific branch line, being only 8 feet above sea level. The tracks often flooded here from ocean swelling as well as the sloughs, which brought in debris from the hills. Whenever the Santa Cruz Branch sustained storm damage, Nuga was one of the places worst hit, with the tracks often flooded under feet of water.

Nuga was abandoned by the Southern Pacific Railroad in March 1957. No photographs of this station have been forthcoming. The location of the station was along the tracks at the last curve before entering the Watsonville freight yard from the north. The nearest road is W. Beach Street but the original access road to the station has since been turned into agricultural fields.


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


  1. Another interesting article, Derek! The map you show a portion of includes two railroads long
    gone. Just below the Southern Pacific track is the streetcar line you mentioned, the
    Watsonville Traction Company, also known as the Watsonville Railroad & Navigation Company,
    which by one source operated from 1904-13, paralleling Beach Road out to Port Watsonville
    from Watsonville. Below that, is the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad which ran parallel
    to the Pajaro River for a stretch and ran from Watsonville to the Salinas area from 1890-1929.

    1. I'm a little too lazy, and no longer living in the immediate area, but I was always interested in unscrambling the original path and history of the Salinas River, Elkhorn Slough, the old Elkhorn railroad stop, and even that one last building that housed a gun club before its demolition (around 1985). The PVC Railroad and its route, the Monterey & Salinas Valley (?) narrow-gauge, and there is even a Monterey, Fresno & Eastern Railroad on an old map of Watsonville that I'm looking at right now. I guess that I'm a fan of the long view of things, especially when they have remained so inexplicably hidden.


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