Friday, September 29, 2017

Maps: Vasona to Cats Canyon

The 4.5 miles of South Pacific Coast and Southern Pacific Railroad trackage that once ran from Vasona, near modern-day California State Route 85, to the top of Cats Canyon, now the James J. Lenihan Dam, was both a scenic and industrial stretch. Miles of prune orchards gave way to scenic Vasona Reservoir, after which the railroad passed by the industrial part of Los Gatos, where numerous businesses maintained businesses alongside the track. Then, almost immediately after leaving Los Gatos, an untamed wilderness consumed the railroad right-of-way as the tracks entered into Cats Canyon. While these extremes were not unique on this line—the tracks in Santa Cruz accomplished a similar feat—they certainly made the ride to Santa Cruz multifaceted.
Vasona Junction and registry booth, c. 1940s. [James Bunger]
Map of Southern Pacific trackage between Vasona and Limekiln Canyon, c. 1900-1920.
The end of Cats Canyon near Limekiln Canyon,
August 1, 1904. [Ken Lorenzen]

Santa Cruz commuter train passing by Vasona Reservoir, March 11, 1939. [Wilbur C. Whittaker]
Hunt Bros. Cannery siding, February 12, 1930. [NUMU]
Abandoned Los Gatos Manufacturing Company mill, c. 1910.
[San Jose Public Library]
Southern Pacific visibility photo, showing the curve at Gray's Lane near Elm Street, July 10, 1928. [NUMU]
Another visibility photo, showing the Royce Street crossing,
looking south, 1928. [John & Barbara Baggerly]
Another visibility photo, showing the Elm Street crossing, looking south, 1928. [NUMU]
The Spanish-Revival-style Los Gatos Station and freight depot, July 8, 1939. [Wilbur C. Whittaker]
Gateway Garage Shell Station, February 12, 1930. [NUMU]
Union Ice Company ice house beneath the railroad's water tower, c. 1910. [Elayne Shore Shuman]
Dual-gauge Southern Pacific tracks beneath the
San Jose-Santa Cruz Road, c. 1906. [Ken Lorenzen]

Friday, September 22, 2017

Curiosities: Monterey Bay Area Static Locomotives

Throughout its history, the Southern Pacific Railroad maintained thousands of steam locomotives. But when steam was phased out in the mid-1950s, most of the locomotives went to scrap, the cost of maintaining them too expensive and their worth to the railroad negated by the more efficient diesel locomotives. However, Southern Pacific remembered the communities through which its trains went and donated many of their old trains to municipal parks across the country. Three of those locomotives settled around the Monterey Bay, two of which still remain at those parks.

Southern Pacific 1285 (Dennis the Menace Park, Monterey)

The first static locomotive installed at a park in the Monterey Bay area was a Lima Locomotive Works S-14 class 0-6-0 switcher locomotive build in 1924 for the Southern Pacific Railroad. It was classified by Southern Pacific as an oil-fired yard switcher, which means it remained at a freight yard to move rolling stock around to make it easier for the larger, long-distance trains to pick up stock on its way through a station. During its years as an active locomotive, SP1285 operated at the San Francisco freight yard.

SP1285 at the San Francisco freight yard moving box cars, April 1953. [Save the Train at Dennis the Menace Park]
The locomotive and its tender were donated to the City of Monterey in January 1956. The engine was installed by Company C of the 84th Army Engineers from Fort Ord since the locomotive weighed 155,000 lbs and its tender 50,000 lbs. The task was not easy and the engineers used a 300-horsepower tank retriever to move the train after carefully surveying the streets between the track and the installation site. After installation, the new play structure was dedicated February 15, 1956, with Hank Ketcham, creator of Dennis the Menace, in attendance beside the city's mayor and representatives of Southern Pacific. Ketcham, a resident of Carmel who died in 2001, had helped plan the park and donated money to get it built as a children's playground in honor of his comic's theme. The park officially opened on November 17, 1956, and SP1285 served as the centerpiece of this new facility.

Children climbing on SP1285 at Dennis the Menace Park, c. 2010. [Save the Train at Dennis the Menace Park]
For fifty years, children were able to climb on, over, and under the locomotive with virtually no restrictions in place, but new mandatory safety standards for playground safety force the city to fence the locomotive and tender and deny the public access in 2012. It was the last playground locomotive in the state to close access. Since then, the city council of Monterey has created a subcommittee to find a way to reopen the train to public access, although a solution has yet to be reached. The locomotive and tender are maintained by the City of Monterey. A community action group is currently rallying to restore the engine to playground use, which can be found at

Southern Pacific 1298 (Harvey West Park, Santa Cruz)

Much like the locomotive at Dennis the Menace Park, the Harvey West Park engine was built relatively late in its run as a oil-fueled yard switcher. The locomotive was constructed in September 1917 as one of the last S-10 class 0-6-0 Baldwin Locomotive Work engines.

SP1298 before it was repainted and fenced off from the public. Note the kids climbing on the back. [Childhood Memories]
When this locomotive rolled off the production line, it went to the Arizona Eastern Railroad Company as engine #39, but that company was merged into Southern Pacific in 1924, at which point it was renumbered (SP had purchased the Arizona Eastern in 1905, but did not dissolve the company until 1924). Where specifically this switcher operated is unknown, but it was probably in the San Diego area where a number of former Arizona Eastern locomotives went.

SP1298 sitting within its fenced area at Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz. []
SP1298 went out of service in September 1956 but did not arrive in Santa Cruz until 1961. In the meantime, Harvey West Park was founded on May 30, 1959, named after Harvey E. West, Sr., a local lumber magnate and philanthropist who donated 27 acres of his land to create the park. The locomotive quickly became a popular fixture at the park. Originally, it included a C-9 tender and children were allowed to climb over and under both. The tender was sold to the Eccles & Eastern Railroad in 1989 to act as a backup to their tender, discussed below. Around this time, the locomotive was repainted with a colorful and somewhat anachronistic paint scheme (although local railroad yards often painted their switchers) to make the engine appear more fun. The locomotive now has a gate around it to stop children from climbing on it, undoubtedly due to safety concerns. It is maintained by the City of Santa Cruz.

Southern Pacific 2706 (Ramsey Park, Watsonville)

The oldest locomotive in the region was Southern Pacific #2706, a Consolidation-type 2-8-0 Baldwin Locomotive Works engine built in 1904. Unlike the smaller engines above, this locomotive was designed for long-haul trips, not simply yard work. Throughout its years in service, it likely was paired with multiple tenders, but a 70-C-10 was what accompanied it to Watsonville. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the locomotive operated throughout the Southwest, from Utah to Texas to Arizona and elsewhere, but by the 1940s and 1950s, it primarily operated in Central California, between San Francisco and the upper Central Valley. The locomotive was decommissioned on November 29, 1956 and sat abandoned for five years while Southern Pacific decided what to do with it.

SP2706 at the Bayshore roundhouse in San Francisco, October 11, 1953. Photo by D.S. Richter. [Colusa Steam]
In August 1963, the engine and tender were donated to the City of Watsonville for use as a play structure at the new Ramsey Park. It operated in that capacity for 28 years and many children in the area grew up climbing on the oddly-shaped tender and large locomotive.

SP2706 as a play structure at Ramsey Park in Watsonville, c. 1970s. [Colusa Steam]
Unlike the two locomotives above, this engine had many afterlives. It was purchased from the City of Watsonville in June 1989 by the Eccles & Eastern Railroad, founded by Karl Koenig, Rick Hamman, Burneda Koenig, and Carol Hamman. After four months of preservation work, the locomotive and its tender were loaded onto a heavy-duty truck and taken to Santa Cruz to be placed on the Swift Street siding on the West Side, which was reserved for Eccles & Eastern rolling stock. Unexpectedly, the ground shook under the relocation crews and the locomotive—the date was October 17 and the great Loma Prieta Earthquake struck Santa Cruz with a vengeance.

SP2706 on a flatbed truck awaiting transport to Santa Cruz, October 17, 1989. Photo by Tony Johnson. [Colusa Steam]
Ramsey Park was decimated by the temblor but the yard at Santa Cruz survived with only minor damage. The locomotive and tender were unloaded onto the siding and, for the next seven years, were repaired and restored to operating condition. Unfortunately, the Eccles & Eastern closed operations in 1995 and the locomotive with both its tender and SP1298's tender were taken by John Manley, one of the railroad's investors. For three years, the stock sat abandoned, enduring vandalism and neglect.

Stripped down parts of SP2706 soon after moving into the new workshop, January 2014. [Colusa Steam]
In January 2000, the locomotive and its tenders began their long journey to Colusa, California. The rolling stock stopped at Oakland, Hunter's Point, South San Francisco, and Oakdale on its way to Colusa, where it arrived in 2006. For another seven years the stock sat in the yard at Colusa, awaiting completion of a workshop that was finally built in October 2013. Work to restore SP2703 is ongoing and people interested in its progress can visit

Citations & Credits:

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sights: Cats Canyon

There were many scenic and picturesque locales along the South Pacific Coast Railroad's route to Santa Cruz, and one of the most heavily photographed was Cats Canyon. Cats Canyon is a roughly 1.5-mile gorge that runs from just south of Los Gatos—the present location of "The Cats" figurine—to the modern-day James J. Lenihan Dam, where once sat the confluence of Limekiln Creek and Trout Creek into Los Gatos Creek. It is named after the wildcats—bobcats and cougars—that once roamed the area.

Vibrantly-colorized postcard of Cats Canyon with the railroad and track walkers, c. 1900. [Los Gatos Public Library]
A path through Cats Canyon has always been available to those who seek it. The native Ohlone people maintained at least one seasonal trail through the gorge for thousands of years before a Westerner laid eyes on the canyon. During the Spanish and Mexican colonial periods, a crude trail down Los Gatos Creek, probably following the old Ohlone route, was used infrequently by bureaucrats, friars, soldiers, and other travelers. Over the years, portions of this route fell into American hands. One of the earliest such roads was Zachary "Buffalo" Jones's so-called Farnham's Toll Road, which ran through the lumberman's property through the upper Los Gatos Creek basin. This was in all likelihood the old Ohlone trail with minor improvements. In 1857, Santa Cruz Gap Turnpike Company purchased the line and widened it so it could properly hook up with Charles "Mountain Charlie" McKiernan's toll road that led from the Summit to Santa Cruz via Scotts Valley. The organisation charged passersby tolls for twenty years until their contract expired in 1877. Over the years, the road was progressively widened to support increased traffic to Lexington and the various lumber enterprises situated in the upper Los Gatos Creek basin. In 1871, the San José Water Company began constructing a wooden box flume above the terraces of Cats Canyon to bring water to San José from Jones's dam south of Forest House (Alma). The original flume was three miles long and remained in place until the 1930s, when it was replaced with an aqueduct.

Three people fishing under a footbridge near Trout Gulch, the southern end of Cats Canyon. [Museums of Los Gatos]
A narrow-gauge train passing through Cats Canyon, with the old stage road visible at top-left. [Los Gatos Public Library]
When the South Pacific Coast Railroad first began building south of Los Gatos, it attempted to follow an eastern approach into Cats Canyon, but deposits of blue clay destabilised the grade forcing the railroad to move to the west side of Los Gatos Creek. Throughout 1877, railroad crews graded through the canyon, building two tunnels (one of which collapsed shortly afterwards) in the process. Immediately, Cats Canyon became one of the scenic beauties of the rail line and photographs began appearing in South Pacific Coast marketing.

The straight, even tracks running left toward Lexington, while the road to Santa Cruz above meanders around the curves.
Even after through traffic to Santa Cruz opened up in May 1880, Cats Canyon remained a heavily photographed venue. Indeed, all tourist trains that ran along the South Pacific Coast and, later, Southern Pacific line to Santa Cruz went through the gorge and many stopped within the Los Gatos Creek basin for picnics and frivolities. Although the canyon itself never had any picnic stops or even any sidings, due to its narrow width, the simple passage through the gorge was a sight to behold.

Dual-gauge railroad tracks passing through Cats Canyon, 1906. Note the massive landslide to the right, caused by the San Francisco Earthquake. [J.B. Macelwane Collection, Saint Louis University]
Southern Pacific narrow-gauged locomotives began their ascent into Cats Canyon just south of Los Gatos, below the Santa Cruz Highway. In the early days, vineyards littered the hills above the canyon. [Los Gatos Public Library]
When the Glenwood Highway was completed in 1921, automotive travellers would often stop at two turnouts above the railroad grade and snap photographs of the gorge, complete with the Southern Pacific tracks in the foreground. Some eagle-eyed photographers even managed to include the first Los Gatos Creek trestle in their photographs.

A beautiful perspective shot of Cats Canyon around 1921. Glenwood Highway is at right while the tracks are at left with the flume running overhead. The site of the Lenihan Dam would be near the top-left of this photograph. [Farwell Family]
Looking north down Cats Canyon toward Los Gatos, August 1924. Note the flume on the right, the railroad in the middle, and Glenwood Highway at left. [Clarence Hamsher]
Interest in the canyon only declined in the 1930s when passenger service across all Southern Pacific lines was declining. As one of the many projects begun during the Great Depression, the upgrading of the Glenwood Highway to California State Route 17 in 1940 marked the end of Cats Canyon's days as a photo stop. Newer cars could travel at faster speeds and fewer stopped at the two pullouts along the top of the gorge.

Cats Canyon as viewed from near the base of the Lenihan Dam, looking north. [Ralph Leidy]
The completion of Lexington Reservoir in 1952 ended any lingering romantic thoughts of the canyon. Today, many hikers and bicyclists run along the former railroad grade beneath Highway 17, unaware of the railroad history they are interacting with. However, if the Los Gatos Creek Trail county park has done anything, it has reminded people of the captivating qualities that Cats Canyon has to offer.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Northern End: approx. 37.215˚N, 121.988˚W
Southern End: approx. 37.201˚N, 121.991˚W

There are still two pullouts accessible to those travelling north on State Route 17. However, for those truly desiring to enjoy Cats Canyon, people should walk the Los Gatos Creek trail through the area. Explorers can either begin from the trailhead on Alma Bridge Road, accessible on the east side of Lexington Reservoir, or from the Forbes Flour Mill Museum, accessible from behind The Pastaria & Market on East Main Street in Los Gatos. For those wishing to walk the right-of-way, remain on the west side of Los Gatos Creek for the duration (the other side of the creek is the old box flume trail). Everything except the final half-mile is the old Southern Pacific Railroad grade. Look for old telephone poles visible along the route, as well as a few culverts and semaphore foundations in the bushes. If you are really up for an adventure, you can also find the old piers to the trestle by going straight rather than up when the trail begins climbing to highway level.

Citations & Credits:

  • Beal, Richard A. Highway 17: The Road to Santa Cruz. Second edition. Aptos, CA: The Pacific Group, 1991.
  • Conaway, Peggy. "Los Gatos History Photo: The Old Wooden Flume." San Jose Mercury News, 25 October 2010.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA: 2015.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tunnels: Cats Canyon (Tunnel 1)

As the South Pacific Coast Railroad began its journey up Los Gatos Creek toward Santa Cruz in early February 1878, it encountered two areas in Cats Canyon that could not be overcome except through tunnels. The first obstacle was just south of Los Gatos: a sharp granite outcropping that jutted so far into the canyon that a tunnel seemed the only possible solution. Crews hired by railroad contractor Ed Mix and managed by a civil engineering contractor named Osborne immediately began boring into the rock to create what they expected to be a 185-foot tunnel, but they found quickly that the rock walls were weaker than anticipated. The tunnel was soon completed but it was never very stable, leading to the collapse of the original SPC Tunnel #1 in June, taking a large portion of the adjacent toll road (the future CA State Route 17) with it. Management was forced to reevaluate their options. Crews dynamited the tunnel, creating a deep cut, and the name "Tunnel #1" moved further south.

Stereograph of SPC #13 heading around the bend toward Tunnel #1 in Cats Canyon, 1882. [Bancroft Library]
The new Tunnel #1 had a bit longer of a life. Approximately 0.3 miles south of Los Gatos Station, Los Gatos Creek was bridged and a menacing rock outcropping was encountered. There was no road above these rocks, but there was the San Jose Water Company's box flume, which provided much-needed water to the growing city of San Jose. More annoyingly for Osborne, another tunnel was required here and no amount of dynamite would clear the right-of-way without damaging the flume. South Pacific Coast management determined that another tunnel should be built in the steepest portion of Cats Canyon here and Chinese workers were lowered from above on swing chairs to place explosives so that the right-of-way to the tunnel face could be accessed.

Exposed interior of the Cats Canyon tunnel during standard-gauging, late 1902. Note the intricate timberwork inside the tunnel. The dual-gauge shoe-fly track is at left. [Ken Lorenzen]
By late February 1878, crews were inside, slowly boring through broken granite until the other side was breached 191 feet and about a month later. It was a short, less painful operation than the earlier tunnel had been and met with comparatively more success. To support this tunnel, the railroad installed heavy redwood beams throughout to provide adequate reinforcement from falling rocks and an unstable hillside. The fact that the tunnel survived as long as it did is a testament to South Pacific Coast engineering.

South Pacific Coast Tunnel #1 during its final years. Photo by Perkins. [Ken Lorenzen]
The tunnel's inevitable end did not come through natural disaster or a freak accident, but rather through the widening of the railroad to support standard-gauge tracks in 1902. The former South Pacific Coast mainline track to Los Gatos had been broad-gauged in 1895, but the route over the mountain involved so many obstacles that Southern Pacific demurred for years before finally deciding to finish the job.

A close-up view of the shoe-fly track around SPC Tunnel #1 during its upgrading, late 1902. Note the dual-gauge tracks that could support trains of either gauge all the way to Wright. A construction train is visible at right. [Ken Lorenzen]
A shoe-fly track was installed precariously around the tunnel as it was upgraded, but the railroad encountered problems almost immediately. Cave-ins became a constant occurrence, and with the cave-ins went the flume atop the tunnel. Power, which was generated by an electric plant upstream, was also interrupted multiple times. The people of San José and Los Gatos complained and began sending bills to Southern Pacific to pay for auxiliary power and importing water from other sources.

A double-headed excursion train heading through the gap that was once Tunnel #1 two years earlier. Note the San Jose Water Company box flume hanging precariously overhead and the pile of debris to the left, c. 1910. [William Wulf]
The railroad finally gave up and allowed the tunnel to collapse in on itself in spring 1903. Crews quickly completed the daylighting of Tunnel #1 before the start of the summer season, when regular excursion trains from San Francisco would pass through Cats Canyon on the way to the Santa Cruz Beach. After the great earthquake in 1906, the remainder of the route was broad-gauged and the Summit Tunnel further to the south became the new Tunnel #1. Cats Canyon no longer had or needed a tunnel.

The right-of-way through Cats Canyon showing the site of the former tunnel, c. 1910. Photo by Perkins. [Ken Lorenzen]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.203˚N, 121.990˚W

Nothing remains of the former tunnels. The cut where the original tunnel was located outside Los Gatos was completely flattened when the Glenwood Highway was built in the 1910s. Any lingering remnants were removed when Highway 17 was built atop the older road. The cut for the second tunnel survived until the James J. Lenihan Dam was built in 1952, at which point it was buried beneath the earthen dam. The location was just to the east of the current Lexington Reservoir repair facility beside the spillway. Portions of the right-of-way to the north can still be viewed along the Los Gatos Creek trail, but the cut where the tunnel once sat is now buried.

Citations & Credits:

  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second Edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • MacGregor, Bruce A. The Birth of California Narrow Gauge: A Regional Study of the Technology of Thomas and Martin Carter. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Felton, CA: 2015.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Quarterly Bulletin – Vol. 2: No. 4 (Oct-Dec 2017)

Santa Cruz Trains Quarterly Bulletin
Vol. 2: No. 3 – July-September 2017

Feature Article:
One Last Ride on the Del Monte
By Duncan Nanney

April 30, 1971 was a day like no others for railroad buffs. May 1 marked date when Amtrak would take over most of the long-distance passenger train service in the United States. Therefore, the last runs for many trains that did not make the cut as a result of Amtrak cutbacks were scheduled for April 30.

Railfans had to make some difficult choices on April 30 in both the Bay Area and elsewhere. Which “last run” should we be a passenger on? There was Santa Fe’s “San Francisco Chief,” which would not finish its westbound run in Richmond until May 2. There was Southern Pacific’s “San Joaquin Daylight.” There was the final run of the “Coast Daylight” on the San Francisco Peninsula (it was being switched over to the East Bay the next day). Last but not least, the “Del Monte” from San Francisco to Monterey, which is the choice I made.

A cloudy sunset over the Salinas River as Southern Pacific Railroad’s “Del Monte” regular excursion train that ran between San Francisco and Monterey since 1889 takes its penultimate journey to Monterey, crossing the twin steel truss bridges on April 29, 1971. Leading the train are two GP9Rs diesel locomotives, numbered #3002 and decorated in red and black. Photograph by Drew Jacksich.
The "Del Monte" left San Francisco’s old station at Third and Townsend as usual at 4:50 pm with a considerably longer consist of the old Harriman suburban cars from the 1920s pulled by a pair of GP9 diesels.

I went into a vestibule right away on the west side of the train.  I hoped to see the northbound Coast Daylight around Redwood City but was told it had sped by like a bullet while I was on the wrong side of the train.

When we reached Watsonville Junction, a woman asked the conductor if he would be assigned to the new Coast Starlight, but he did not respond and expressed bitterness over the end of the Del Monte, saying that it will strand needy passengers who depended on this train for transportation.

I ended up standing at the back of the train after this for a short while. While passing through the Elkhorn Slough area, a block signal facing south was struggling unsuccessfully to change colors.  A man next to me went off to report this to the conductor.

Out on the Monterey branch, the train arrived in the town of Marina. A small automobile sat close to the east side of the tracks with its emergency flashers going.  As a result of this, the train stopped and let on a couple of passengers even though Marina was no longer a flag stop.

A man joined me in the vestibule and said he wished the train would stop at all of the flag stops to commemorate the last run but we passed Fort Ord and Seaside without stopping.  However, a few passengers asked to detrain at Del Monte station.  The conductor, who I was standing next to, pulled a cord to signal the engineer to stop the train and we came to a gentle stop.

A passenger asked the conductor how long Del Monte had been a flag stop and he said it always had been one. I knew this wasn’t true, that in the days there was a big hotel here, the Del Monte, that the train always stopped for. The conductor did not have access to my old timetables.

Del Monte Express outside Monterey Depot, September 1970. Photo by Drew Jacksich.
We arrived in Monterey ten minutes late at 8:10 pm. A reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle raced off the train to a phone booth to dictate his story of the last Del Monte. A few passengers begged the conductor to let us ride the "deadhead" back to San Jose, but he refused saying this required permission from Southern Pacific management.  So it was onto a long trip on Greyhound.

Today the Monterey branch lies disused or dismantled, it’s rusty tracks paved over in various spots invisible to those passing by.

Special Message:
Talks and a new book on horizon
By Derek R. Whaley

It has been two and a half years since Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains was released, but, as many followers of my blog and Facebook group know, the “mountains” are only half the story.

Since August 2014, I have been living in Christchurch, New Zealand studying for my doctorate in History at the University of Canterbury. Now I am nearly done and am ready to begin something long-awaited and more necessary now than ever before.

The history of Santa Cruz railroading may have begun in the mountains, but it achieved great and enduring success along the coast, with a railroad built between Santa Cruz and Pajaro completed in 1876, a short-line railroad into the forests of Aptos Creek completed in 1882, and a route up to Davenport finished in 1906. Indeed, Santa Cruz County has benefited from railroad access since the Southern Pacific Railroad first built its line to Pajaro in 1872, and the history of the stops along those routes have only been touched upon by historians.

All of this will be discussed in my forthcoming book: Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Coast. This new book will explore everything from the Sargent Ranch south of Gilroy to the Logan Quarry near Aromas, the agricultural producers in Pajaro and Watsonville to the lumbering operations up Aptos and Valencia Creeks, and from the beach resorts at Capitola, Seabright, and Santa Cruz to the Davenport cement plant. It will be a comprehensive guide to how the railroad promoted industry, business, and community, and how, in turn, all of those entities supported the railroad.

In addition to a new book, my original book—Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains—will receive an update that will bring it more consistent stylistically and topically with the new book and correct errors and add new information discovered since the book’s initial publication. Both are expected to be released fourth quarter 2018 or first quarter 2019.

For the next five months, I will be in Santa Cruz County researching at local repositories, surveying portions of the former and existing tracks, and talking with prominent local historians.

In addition, I will be giving multiple talks on subjects old and new relating to local railroading. Only some dates are currently decided, but more events are forthcoming. The following are currently scheduled:
  • November 19 – “From Waterways to Railways: The Road to Castle Rock” (San Lorenzo Valley Museum, Boulder Creek)
  • January 14 – “The Vital Link: Watsonville’s Early Railroad Monopoly” (Knights of Columbus Hall, Watsonville)
Subscribe to the Santa Cruz Trains Facebook Group for more information as it becomes available.

If you would like to provide information for my research, donate photographs or postcards for my book, discuss local history, or join me on a hike, please contact me at

Railroading News:
Thomas and Percy coming to Roaring Camp this October

Roaring Camp Railroads will be hosting Thomas the Tank Engine™ and his friend Percy for the first Thomas and Percy’s Halloween Party this October.

Tickets includes a train ride with Thomas the Tank Engine™ and Percy, as well as a variety of Thomas & Friends-themed entertainment, such as storytelling and video viewing, temporary tattoos from the Island of Sodor, an imagination station with arts and crafts, and a pumpkin patch. Guests will have the opportunity to meet Sir Topham Hatt, the controller of the railway on Sodor.

Advance tickets are recommended and already available online at Tickets cost $24.00 per rider.

Rail Trail IPA released to support rail
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company has released a special Rail Trail IPA to help fund nonprofit groups that support the retention of the Santa Cruz Branch Line as a rail corridor, while fast-tracking the construction of the adjacent rail trail. Twenty-five percent of all proceeds will go to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County to support this project.

The beverage is available at numerous locations throughout the county, including Surf City Grill at the Boardwalk, Hampton Inn, and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company’s restaurant.

Branch Line tree removal begun
At the June 1 meeting of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), funds were approved to remove trees that fell during the winter storms last February and March.

Tree removal along the Santa Cruz Branch Line near Capitola Depot, June 2017. Photograph by Howard Cohen.
Removal of trees began almost immediately, running throughout June as documented in photographs on Facebook by James Long and Howard Cohen. During the felling, portions of the old Capitola siding were uncovered, as well as other artifacts of the early railroad era in Santa Cruz County. A section of track was also damaged during the felling and will need to be repaired before service can return to the line.

Roaring Camp vandalism on rise
Ian Applegate from Roaring Camp Railroads has revealed two incidents of vandalism in recent months.

On June 21, Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railroad crews discovered dozens of instances of graffiti on portions of their line in San Lorenzo Gorge between Felton and Rincon. It took crews eight hours to cover the graffiti so passengers on trains would not see them. In the end, it took crew 23 cans of paint to cover all the markings

Ian Applegate’s vandalized railcar at Roaring Camp, June 2017.
Meanwhile, on the night of July 12, somebody smashed the safety windows of Applegate’s own M-9 Fairmont Speeder, which is usually parked in the Roaring Camp yard near the old Felton Depot. Applegate began a GoFundMe campaign to restore the historic Southern Pacific speeder to operating condition, which can be found here:

Anti-Rail rhetoric intensifying
The past three months have seen an increase in anti-rail rhetoric from local community activist groups such as Trail Now and Santa Cruz County Greenway. Proposals to replace the Santa Cruz Branch Line with a rail trail have been a constant feature since the line was purchased by Santa Cruz County in 2012, but the passage of Measure D in the past election has brought the topic to the forefront of local politics again.

At the June 1 meeting of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), Brian Peoples of Trail Now spoke on numerous occasions, advocated urgency in converting the route to a hike and bike trail, without responding to frequent concerns by others that the right-of-way may not remain with the county if the rails are removed or that funds used to purchase the right-of-way may not be used to build a rail trail. People advocates for an expansion of Highway 1 to relieve congestion, ignoring the potential for rail service to reduce traffic between Watsonville and Santa Cruz during rush hour.

Numerous local community members wrote to the RTC to support rail service and the development of a local and Bay Area commuter service along the line. One local, Gail McNulty, spoke at the meeting, questioning the ability of Highway 1 expansions and local buses to relieve congestion on county roads. Paula Bartholomew also questioned the increased pollution and congestion caused by widening Highway 1.

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County has produced a response to recent misinformation about their stance regarding the preservation of the rail trail.

Web Register:
Facebook Chatter (/groups/sctrains)
Continuous – Once again, Trevor Park has illuminated mountain railroading through a number of videos created for his Treefrogflag Productions company. Meanwhile, Nick Wolters and Howard Cohen have kept users updated with a number of photographs of local railroad operations in Santa Cruz and Watsonville. Jun. 2 – Ian Applegate advertised a railcar speeder run happening at Roaring Camp the following weekend. Meanwhile, William Turner shared some photographs of damage caused by the winter storms to the old right-of-way and current branch line. Karl Rowley posted a photo of anti-rail advocates gathering on the rail line, prompting a brief discussion about trespassing on active rail routes. Jun. 4 – Van Niven shared a photograph of a the Sells-Floto Circus coming to Santa Cruz around 1910. Bill Dawkins (via Julia Sauer) shared a newspaper clipping from 1884 documenting the establishment of the Loma Prieta Railroad near Aptos. Jun. 5 – Len Klempnauer shared a video of the Amtrak Suntan Special doing a test run in 1996. Jun. 9 – Nick Wolters shared a photograph of trees still down on the tracks near New Brighton. Dale Phelps, meanwhile, shared an H.D. Gremke photograph that of Camp Teller, prompting a short discussion about the camp’s relationship with Santa Cruz County. Jun. 13 – Turner shared a photograph of a massive washout on Shulties Road near Laurel. Jun. 15 – Dawkins shared a link to the Public Libraries’ article on the Portland Cement Co. railroad. Jun. 16 – Joe Thompson shared an advertisement for the Ocean Shore Railroad from 1908. Cohen shared a photo of a trolley run from 2016. Meanwhile, Thomas Rivette lamented the loss of interest in restoring rail service following the Golden Gate Railroad Museum’s decision to move to the North Bay. Jun. 21 – Dawkins shared a pre-railroad story about Waddell Beach in 1849 as well as copy of the land grant authorization for the Ocean Shore Railroad from 1906. Jun. 22 – Joshua Dyck asked for help identifying a large sluice hopper that was being shipped on Highway 1. August Mohr asked for help regarding local model railroad groups. James Long posted some photos of old metal pieces in the New Brighton area, prompting a discussion about narrow gauge material. Jun. 24 – Travis Malek informed everybody of a new local beer called Rail Trail IPA that supports the save the rail, build the trail movement. Janie Soito shared a photo of swimmers along the San Lorenzo River near the Boardwalk, c. 1876. Jun. 26 – Scott Peronto posted a souvenir ticket from the closure of the Los Gatos Branch in 1959. Meanwhile, Sangye Hawke asked a question about railroad service to Evergreen Cemetery in 1892. Jul. 1 – Peronto shared a digitalized Ferroequinologist bulletin from 2007 documenting the end of rail service to Los Gatos. Jul. 3 – Malek shared a news story about a collision between the Beach Train and a car on Chestnut Street. Jul. 10 – Rory Christy shared photographs of Southern Pacific diesel trains on the Santa Cruz Beach, c. 1967. Jul. 11 – Brian Bergtold shared a news story about Iowa Pacific’s troubles running its trains in Santa Cruz County. This prompted Cohen to write a short essay encouraging people to write to the RTC. Jul. 14 – Long shared his discovery of a mile marker near Seabright Avenue that fell off a hillside. Jul. 16 – Christopher Payne shared two videos taken in 1983 near Manresa of kids interacting with an SP freight train. Derek Whaley shared an article on plans to return passenger service to Monterey in the mid-1990s. Jul. 21 – Julia Sauer shared an article on the abandoned town of Drawbridge in the South San Francisco Bay. Jul. 24 – Paul Pritchard shared a photo of the Santa Cruz Beach in 1889, as taken from the Sea Beach Hotel. Jul. 30 – Cohen shared the new brochure for the Golden Gate Railroad Museum, lamenting the county’s loss. Aug. 1 – Bergtold shared a photograph of a Union Pacific train in front of the Boardwalk Casino. Aug. 3 – Wolters shared a video of a Roaring Camp diesel and steam locomotive operating in 1987. Aug. 26 – Soito shared a photograph of Los Gatos Depot taken around 1900. Aug. 28 – Applegate shared photographs of a Southern Pacific-themed birthday cake. Aug. 30 – Cohen announces the closure of the Capitola railroad bridge for the Begonia Festival this year.

Recent articles
JUN. 9 – Vasona
JUN. 16 – Early Coast Railroad Companies
JUN. 23 – Parr’s Spur, Bermingham, and Bulwer
JUN. 30 – Standard Oil Spur
JUL. 7 – Los Gatos Lumber Patrons
JUL. 14 – Sacred Heart Novitiate
JUL. 21 – Santa Cruz Portland Cement Co. Railroad
JUL. 28 – Los Gatos Canning Company & Hunts
AUG. 4 – Los Gatos Manufacturing Company
AUG. 11 – Los Gatos Freight Yard
AUG. 18 – Los Gatos
AUG. 25 – Grove Park

Monthly Timetable:
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Sept. 1, 3-30: Weekends 10:30-4:30 (Fri. 10:30-3:00)

Los Gatos Park Dance
Sept. 2: 10:30-7:00
Ride the trains and dance while enjoying live music!

Screen on the Green
Sept. 15: 6:00-7:00
Join for a special showing of Moana!

Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum
Open House
Sept. 2-3: 10:00am-4:00pm

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
RTC Meeting
Sept. 7: 9:00am @ County Board of Supervisors Chambers

Transportation Policy Workshop
Sept. 21: 9:00am @ TBA

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
Sept. 1-4: Daily 11:00, 12:30, 2:00 (3:30 weekends)
Sept. 5-30: Daily 11:00 (12:30, 2:00 weekends)
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Great Train Robberies
Sept. 2-4: All train rides

Starlight Train & Moonlight Dinner Party
Sept. 2: 5:30
Sept. 30: 6:00

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Train Rides
Sept. 1-30: Weekends
Departs from Roaring Camp Station & Boardwalk

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
Sept. 9-10, 23

Come volunteer and ride the trains!

Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Oct. 1-31: Weekends 10:30-4:30 (Fri. 10:30-3:00)

The Pumpkin Train
Oct. 13-31: Fridays-Sundays 5:30-8:30

Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum
Open House
Oct. 7-8: 10:00am-4:00pm

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
RTC Meeting
Oct. 5: 9:00am @ TBA

Transportation Policy Workshop
Oct. 19: 9:00am @ TBA

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
Oct. 1-31: Daily 11:00 (12:30, 2:00 weekends)
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Harvest Faire & Steam Festival
Oct. 1: All day

Thomas and Percy’s Halloween Party™ 
Oct. 14-15, 21-22, 28-29: Hourly from 10:00am
Ride Thomas the Tank Engine™ and Percy!

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Train Rides
Oct. 1-31: Not operating

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
Oct. 14-15

Come volunteer and ride the trains!

Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Nov. 1-31: Weekends 11:00-3:00

Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum
Open House
Nov. 4-5: 10:00am-4:00pm

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
Nov. 2: 9:00am @ TBA

Transportation Policy Workshop
Nov. 16: 9:00am @ TBA

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
Nov. 1-3: Daily 11:00 (12:30, 2:00 weekends)
Nov. 4-22, 24-31: Daily 12:30 (11:00 weekends)
Nov. 23: 11:00
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Holiday Tree Walk
Nov. 24-26: 11:00, 12:30
From Roaring Camp Station

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Train Rides
Nov. 1-23, 26-31: Closed

Holiday Lights Train
Nov. 24-25: Daily 6:30
Departs from the Boardwalk

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
Nov. 11-12

Come volunteer and ride the trains!

Imprint: Derek R. Whaley, editor. For submissions, email
© 2016-2017 Derek R. Whaley. All rights reserved.