Friday, January 12, 2018

Curiosities: Feasibility Studies to Restore the Mountain Route

On February 7, 1938, regularly-scheduled passenger service between Santa Cruz and Watsonville along the Southern Pacific Railroad Company’s Santa Cruz Branch was discontinued. Twice-daily passenger service continued across the Santa Cruz Mountains via the San Jose-Santa Cruz Branch for the next two years but this too was discontinued on February 26, 1940, when catastrophic damage to the route caused by severe winter storms rendered the line impassible. After months of discussion and debate, during which time passenger service was rerouted along the Santa Cruz Branch along the coast, the portion of the San Jose-Santa Cruz Branch between Los Gatos and Olympia, two miles north of Felton, was abandoned on November 7, 1940. Passenger service out of Santa Cruz County was replaced with Pacific Greyhound buses.

Concurrent with the activity along the railroad lines, California State Route 17 (henceforth Highway 17) was nearing completion. Construction of the highway had begun in 1931 to replace the aged and overcrowded Glenwood Highway (then called State Route 5). The section from Santa Cruz to Los Gatos was completed in August 1940, adding further support to the idea that passenger service and the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains could be safely abandoned without consequences. Most commentators at the time felt that the new highway would adequately replace the absent railroad service.

Following the end of World War II, congestion along Highway 17 began to grow and Santa Cruz County began its slow transition into a commuter community for the Santa Clara Valley. A local suggested in 1946 that the resumption of passenger service was forthcoming due to the exponential population growth in the county. The next year, Southern Pacific resumed its seasonal Suntan Special excursion trains, which helped ease weekend traffic over Highway 17 in the summers between the Santa Clara Valley and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. However, these were discontinued in 1959 due to cost and declining interest. The last excursion trains along the Santa Cruz Branch occurred in 1965, after which Southern Pacific discontinued any passenger service within the county whatsoever due to the declining quality of the railbed.

Meanwhile, fatalities along Highway 17 increased rapidly, with five people killed in ten days in 1966. The state began looking for ways to widen Highway 17 and convert it into a full freeway or otherwise improve it to a make it safer. Other proposals at this time included converting Highway 17 into a toll road to reduce traffic and pay for upkeep and improvements, the construction of a second route between the Alamden Valley and Soquel, and adding a second road so that each could run one-way with more lanes. But all of these met with strong opposition from groups in Santa Cruz County and along the proposed routes. By January 1967, 20,000 vehicles crossed Pachen Pass each weekday and traffic had become a major issue. By 1983, that number had risen to 50,000 vehicles a day. And 1990 brought 74,000 vehicles over the highway. Yet there still remains no safer or more direct high-capacity route between Santa Cruz and San José.

In the decades that followed abandonment, a number of studies and proposals have been conducted and published relating to the concept of restoring railroad service over the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Historical Studies
i. Murphy and Alquist Proposal (1969)
In April 1969, California Assemblyman Frank Murphy Jr. and State Senator Alfred E. Alquist recommended resumption of the seasonal Suntan Special. They cited increased traffic on summer weekends along Highway 17 and an increase in deadly accidents along the route. They added that “the railroads could give youths summertime jobs as food concessionaires or stewards on the trains.” Nothing further came of this proposal at the time.

ii. Lockheed Pilot Study (1971)
In 1971, Alan Goetz, an engineer for the Lockheed Missiles & Space Company, Inc., of Sunnyvale initiated a pilot study to determine the feasibility of restoring service over the historic route. He conducted this study “as a public service” to the local community with the hope “that a more thorough study could be done, not necessarily using the old road, but on a mountain train route.” Although the actual report is not publicly available for review, a number of conclusions from the study have been published in other works. Goetz’s study concluded that, of the 26 total miles between Santa Cruz and Vasona Junction, 37% of the route was still intact and in use, 27% could be easily repaired, 26% required new construction, and 10% involved the tunnels and the status was, therefore, unknown. It claimed further that the interior of the three dynamited tunnels were generally intact but that “it is quite likely that gas is present in dangerous quantities in the interior” of the Summit Tunnel. Lockheed’s final statement regarding the matter was that there was “increasing public awareness of the detrimental effects the automobile and population pressures can have and are having on our quality of life.... We believe that strong words such as blight are justified, in reference to Highway 17 and Santa Cruz, in view of the acknowledged fragile nature of the environment of the Santa Cruz mountains and the narrow coastal shelf. As a local firm, Lockheed realizes the validity of the above statement, which helps place us in consonance with the goals of Santa Cruz County.” Lockheed did not participate further in the campaign to re-establish rail service over the historic line.

iii. Santa Cruz County Transportation Policies Committee Report (1971)
The findings in the Lockheed Pilot Study prompted the Santa Cruz County Transportation Policies Committee to appoint William Alschuler head of a subcommittee to see whether there was a “surface feasibility” to a trans-mountain railroad. However, his attention quickly turned to revitalising Suntan Special seasonal excursion service via the trackage between Pajaro and Santa Cruz rather than restoring service on the former route through the mountains. A lack of interest by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) ended the prospect for passenger service along the coastal route. Company vice president of governmental affairs Gerald D. Morgan stated that “the proposed service could not in fact run at a profit, in part because the equipment that would be involved could not be efficiently utilized on a full-time basis.” The Urban Mass Transportation Administration was also contacted regarding the proposal but was told that no funds were available to subsidize the route. Alschuler presented his final report on December 15, 1971. He cautioned that “there is no way possible to [rebuild the route] in a short period of time. It would take years to get the land right-of-way, add new right-of-way, clean up the tunnels and build it.” He noted further regarding the use of the coastal line that “Southern Pacific was totally disinterested in any kind of passenger service.” Southern Pacific stated at the time that the track was “no longer smooth enough for passenger service. You wouldn’t want to ride on it at more than 10 miles per hour,” but Alschuler did not agree with this assessment and desired a second opinion by an unaffiliated expert. The conclusions made by this outsider, if consulted, are unknown.

iv. California Department of Transportation Feasibility Study (1977)
In 1975, the California State Senate passed SB283 which included a clause (Section 13, Chapter 1130) that granted funding for the Division of Mass Transportation of the Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of restoring railroad service between San Jose and Santa Cruz via any available route. The results of this study were published September 26, 1977.

Three different proposals were considered:

  1. Upgrading 14 miles of existing track to 70 MPH top speeds and construction of 19 miles of new track, including all tunnels and structures, signals, right-of-way, a park-and-ride station at Los Gatos, and a new Santa Cruz station. The cost was estimated as $36.9 million ($174.7 million, adjusted for inflation).
  2. Realigning Highway 17 to support an electric railway along its median. The cost was estimated at $84.6 million ($400.53 million), including $48.8 million ($231.0 million) for widening the highway median.
  3. Providing railway service around the Santa Cruz Mountains via the Santa Cruz Branch. The cost was estimated at $22.8 million ($107.94 million) to construct a second mainline to avoid freight congestion and for branchline rehabilitation.

It was found, as well, that passenger revenue would be adequate to cover operational costs; only the cost of construction was an issue and the study only speculated regarding sources that would cover these expenses, leaving the specific details for after the completion of a full engineering survey.

In its executive summary, the report concluded that the “construction of a railway was found to be feasible because of the following advantages over highway expansion:

  • Greater energy efficiency
  • Lower air pollution emissions
  • Lower fatality rate
  • Lower costs”

Regarding energy efficiency and air pollution emissions, the study found that there was an average of 15,00-20,000 commuter vehicles crossing the Summit per day in 1976. The study suggested six to eight self-propelled railcars could be used for commuter service along one of the proposed lines to reduce around ten percent (around 118 passengers per train) of the congestion. The rider fees paid by these passenger would also be sufficient to fund the daily operation of the railcars.

Regarding the fatality rate, it was found via a report by the National Safety Council that driving in general was riding a railroad in 1975 was safer than driving an automobile by a factor of 21.4. Furthermore, the study reported that Highway 17 “has a fatal-accident rate above the statewide average.” Thus, rail service would provide a safer option for commuters and travellers between San Jose and Santa Cruz.

Lastly, regarding cost, the study found that the total cost of upgrading Highway 17 to full freeway standards, which was proposed in 1971, would cost $183 million ($1.134 billion). In contrast, rebuilding the historic corridor would be significantly cheaper due to the existing infrastructure that could be reused. Furthermore, the median of Highway 17 could be expanded between Aldercroft and Vasona Junction to support the railroad in the center of the highway, thereby avoiding complications introduced by the construction of Lexington Reservoir and the conversion of the downtown Los Gatos right-of-way into a parking lot.

Ultimately, a unanimous position was issued by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on June 14, 1976, that “Construction of an ‘over the hill’ rail connection between Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties...would not be consistent with the planning objectives of Santa Cruz County, and would be resisted by this County,” and that “Construction and/or restoration of an ‘around the hill’ route through Watsonville Junction to Santa Cruz County and the City of Santa Cruz, particularly as it might help meet the need for access for recreational visitors to Santa Cruz County, is of great interest to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, and we urge that the current study focus on the financial, engineering, and marketing possibilities of such a route.” Furthermore, it was feared that railroad service through the San Lorenzo Valley would cause increased settlement in the upper Zayante Creek region, along the proposed route, which went against the San Lorenzo Valley General Plan, especially if property developers petitioned for railroad stations within the valley. The election of George Deukmejian as governor of California ended any discussion of this specific project.

v. Senate Bill 650 Study (1979)
On March 20, 1979, California State Senator Alfred Alquist of San José wrote SB650, calling for an engineering study of the historic corridor through the Santa Cruz Mountains as a mandatory follow-up to the previous study, which still required more specific estimates of restoration and upgrade costs. The State Senate estimated the cost of the study to be $200,000 ($722,292, adjusted for inflation). According to a letter to the editor in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors voted on the proposal on May 1, 1979, without a public hearing, and voted 4-1 against the proposed study.

vi. Capitola Chamber of Commerce Proposal (1980)
A proposal to conduct a feasibility study for restoring the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains was again made in 1980, this time by Vic Tognazzini, president of the Capitola Chamber of Commerce. He was advised to confer with other county chambers of commerce to determine whether such a study should be conducted. The Modern Transit Society discussed the idea at a public meeting held June 19, 1981. A major stumbling block to restoring this route was removed on September 28, 1981, when California Governor Edmund Brown signed Senate Bill 523, which allowed private railroad companies to operate short-line railroads in areas not currently serviced by Caltrans or Amtrak. However, remaining restrictions meant fares would still have to cover at least 40% of operating costs along a line before Caltrans would consider allowing a passenger service to operate along said line. Nothing more regarding this proposed study or the possibility of restoring railroad service to the line appears in the Sentinel afterwards. A general transportation feasibility study begun by the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District in 1984 decided against researching a restoration of the historic rail corridor because they estimated that it would cost at least $95 million ($229.9 million, adjusted for inflation) to rebuild the line to light-rail standards.

vii. Eccles & Eastern Railroad Proposal (1988-1994)
On June 22, 1988, the Eccles & Eastern Railroad was founded by Karl and Burneda Koenig, and Rick and Carol Hamman in Ben Lomond, California, with the aim to preserve and restore antique railroad equipment and to operate it for the public benefit, and to...provide common carrier freight and tourist oriented passenger service...through the Santa Cruz Mountains.” To accomplish these goals, the company sought the purchase of the historic Southern Pacific right-of-way between Olympia and Vasona Junction. The first step in this process was to purchase or lease the 3.5 miles of right-of-way between Olympia and Zayante Station. Stage two would have involved purchasing the right-of-way between Zayante and Tunnel #4 (under Mountain Charlie Road near Glenwood). The third stage, which proved the most problematic, would have required restoration of the two mile-long tunnels and restoration of trackage in the Los Gatos Creek basin, inundated since January 1953 by Lexington Reservoir. Rick Hamman stated in 1988 that, “though it would be possible to run commuter trains over the Eccles and Eastern lines, company research indicates such a service would be a financial loser. But the railroad is willing to lease its lines to either Santa Clara or Santa Cruz County if they wish to underwrite commuter trains.” Due to the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and other issues, the Eccles & Eastern slowly pushed back their plans for restoration of the line.

In 1992, Hamman stated that the rebuilding of the historic route would not be completed for at least seven years. At this time, he reported that Eccles & Eastern anticipated a 40 percent growth in truck traffic over Highway 17 over the next decade. His railroad company sought to remove 30-40% of that traffic from the road via two freight trains a day, six days a week in each direction. One of these trains would haul freight while the other would convey passengers. He estimated the total cost would be around $60 million $107.1 million, adjusted for inflation) to rehabilitate the line and purchase rolling stock. Although Eccles & Eastern conducted an environmental impact study of its proposed route, this study was rejected by the California State Office of Planning and Research, which stated applicants cannot prepare their own impact reports. The railroad also lost a bid for a key parcel along the right-of-way around this time. Residents in the Glenwood area specifically were against the restoration of the rail line, citing a decline in quality of life if a train ran 200 feet from their homes daily. These complaints intensified in 1994 and 1995 as other locals in the Zayante Creek area began protesting the proposed route, citing noise, cost, and potential property devaluation.

Meanwhile, after four years of study, Eccles & Eastern determined that all but four miles of the existing right-of-way could be reused without displacing anybody. Their unpublished environmental impact report and engineering survey determined that most of the culverts were still in working operation along the line and that many of the bridge supports in Los Gatos Creek could also be reused. They also determined that the two long tunnels could be reopened with only minor repairs and shotcreting. Only about 10% of this portion of the right-of-way would require substantial work. Their engineer estimated that the route between the Eccles end-of-track near Felton and the southern end of Lexington Reservoir could be rebuilt to operational standards for $12-20 million ($21.4-35.7 million). The major costs not included in this figure related to a four-mile diversion around Lexington Reservoir. The company calculated that a 0.5-mile-long tunnel could bypass the reservoir and return the right-of-way to its former alignment along Los Gatos Creek in Cats Canyon—the current site of the Los Gatos Creek Trail. It would then parallel California State Route 17 until such a point that it could reconnect to the existing track near State Route 85 and Winchester Boulevard in Campbell. Their final assessment was that the entire route could be rebuilt by a private corporation with private money at possibly no cost to the taxpayer.

Eccles & Eastern company officials announced plans to begin freight operations along the existing line between Olympia, Santa Cruz, and Watsonville in late September 1994. This prompted backlash from a community action group opposed to increased use of the corridor called RAILS (Right-of-way Alternatives In Local Suburbs). Organisation co-chairperson Barbara Rodak stated that “we would still love to see the whole Southern Pacific rail line converted from rails to trails for bicyclists and walkers. If that isn’t going to happen, then we will have to live with whatever comes down the tracks.” Hamman responded that “if we reach our goal in four years, we will take 60,000 one-way trips a year off of Highway 17. Further, we would save 275,000 gallons of fuel.” Of this meeting, Hamman later wrote that the “study and E&ERR’s plans completely collapsed at a public hearing when a few vociferous opponents were able to stymie the study group.” By July 1994, the Eccles & Eastern no longer planned to restore railroad service over the mountains, deferring to the plans of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and other regional organisations who were conducting a feasibility study of the railroad route over the former Southern Pacific grade through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Eccles & Eastern abandoned operations in Santa Cruz County and reincorporated as the Sierra Pacific Coast Railway, which was later merged into the Sierra Railroad Company.

viii. Santa Clara County Transportation Commission Feasibility Study (1995)
The final and most recent attempt to restore railroad service over the Santa Cruz Mountains began on April 29, 1991 at a meeting between Santa Clara County Supervisor Rod Diridon and Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors chairman Fred Keeley. Diridon expressed his desire to restore railroad service between San José and Santa Cruz, concerned that adding lanes to Highway 17 would cost over $200 million ($366.5 million, adjusted for inflation) and be detrimental to the environment. He stated that “a rail line over the top is much more environmentally just a fraction of the cost.” But his statements immediately sparked concern by another supervisor, Gary Patton. Patton asked the perennial question: “Do we really want to invest $100 million in order to increase our ties to Santa Clara County?” He stated further that “unless we have really given up on the idea of Santa Cruz County being something special, until we want to be a part of Silicon Valley, then, no. I’m not interested.” Keeley responded to this by saying that “I don’t think we should encourage Santa Cruz County to be the bedroom of Santa Clara County. But I also don’t think we can close our eyes to the fact that to a considerable degree we already are. It is not only right and proper but it’s also intelligent to try to provide better and safer transportation linkage for the people who are already here.” At the time, Southern Pacific expressed disinterest in being involved with the project.

This discussion led to the second government-funded feasibility study on restoring the historic route over the Santa Cruz Mountains. In March 1992, the abeyant Suntan Special Committee of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors began the process of surveying and assessing the route. The committee received approval for a $100,000 study to be split between the federal government (40%), the Metropolitan Transportation Commission of the San Francisco Bay Region (40%), Santa Clara County (10%), and Santa Cruz County (10%). Keeley stated at the time that a “new study is needed because things have changed since the mid-1970s. A whole range of assumptions valid then are no longer valid. Back then, there was no growth management and only 5,000 commuters a day. Now we have growth management, 27,000 commuters and state clean-air requirements to reduce the number of automobiles.” Although his commuter estimates were off by an order of magnitude, Keeley supported the concept of a feasibility study and promoted the idea of a railroad right-of-way directly down the center of State Route 17 as had been proposed in the 1977 study.

By 1994, three independent studies were being pursued by the county. Besides the study regarding the mountain route, one study investigated the resumption of passenger service along the Santa Cruz Branch between Santa Cruz and Pajaro, with a proposed extension to University of California, Santa Cruz. While another study focused on restoring the seasonal weekend Suntan Specials via the Santa Cruz Branch. Residents in the Glenwood area were opposed to the restoration of the former railroad route to Los Gatos, while RAILS, based out of Aptos, was against all three projects. RAILS co-chairperson Barbara Rodak informed the Sentinel in 1994 that “we would not like to see the commuter train proposal go in because we feel it will be cost prohibitive and have insufficient ridership.” The Sentinel also noted, however, that Rodak lived on Pine Street in Aptos, only feet from the Southern Pacific track.

The feasibility study was released on February 12, 1995. It was by far the most extensive study conducted of the line and included a ridership study, engineering survey, and environmental impact study, among other items necessary to restore rail service over the mountains.

Regarding ridership, the study concluded that approximately 4,400 total riders could be expected to take the train each weekday, of which 3,400 would be commuters travelling each direction. However, they also added that daily ridership would inevitably increase as more people became aware of the line and as it became more efficient with the addition of shuttles and park-and-ride locations. In the end, the study suggested that approximately fifteen percent of vehicular commuters would eventually transition to commuting via the railroad.

Regarding the engineering of the line, three separate potential corridors were studied:

  1. The historic corridor that followed the old Southern Pacific route between Olympia and Los Gatos, except for a diversion around Lexington Reservoir. The cost to restore the route was estimated to range from $370.9 to $558.9 million ($612.4-$922.8 million, adjusted for inflation).
  2. A route that followed the proposed route above closely but began in Santa Cruz and paralleled Highway 17 until Scotts Valley, at which point it crossed the city and then met with the historic corridor via a tunnel between Lockhart Gulch and the grade above Zayante Creek. The estimated cost for this line was $437.1 to $646.2 million ($721.7 million-$1.07 billion).
  3. An entirely new light rail route that would follow the center median of Highway 17 for its entirety, much as that suggested in the 1977 survey. The estimated cost of this line was $429.2 to $587.3 million ($708.6-$969.6 million)

The study also looked at, but dismissed, seven other alternative alignments.

The study considered four different forms of motive power along the proposed routes including light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail, and self-propelled rail cars, but it settled on light rail and commuter rail technology to calculate its cost and usage estimates. Only passenger service was studied for this report, although the study did note that freight usage could be considerable.

Regarding the environmental impact of the line, the study concluded that noise levels along the historic route would increase and there would be some negative impact on the riparian areas and to the water quality, although how significant these would be required additional research. The key item of importance here is that local communities could be negatively impacted by changes to the environment along the historic corridor, especially in the Glenwood and Laurel areas.

The study concluded that the operating costs of maintaining the line would range from $6.4 to $9.6 million ($10.6-$15.8 million) per year depending on the route chosen. It advised policy-makers to conduct two studies, one looking at the feasibility of expanding Highway 17 and another surveying the potential sources of funding that could be used to fund a proposed rail route between Santa Cruz and San José.

After numerous public discussions throughout February 1995, the study was finally dismissed by both Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties on March 3, opting instead to improve bus service along State Route 17 and to construct truck-climbing lanes along the road. However, Assemblyman Bruce McPherson noted that the funds for a truck-climbing lane would not be forthcoming until at least the year 2000 and probably later and would cost upwards of $4.8 million per mile. Mike Hart, president of the Sierra Pacific Railroad Company, warned that a railroad company is “going to do this.... If you bow out, you will be abdicating control of a major transportation corridor to a private enterprise.” However, no such company has come forward in the two decades since this study was published to restore railroad service over the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Public opinion is still the overwhelming obstacle to restoring this route. Property owners and lessees along the right-of-way near Zayante Creek, Bean Creek, Laurel, and Los Gatos will undoubtedly protest any attempt to restore service, especially if the route will pass through or adjacent to their properties. There are approximately fifteen homes and businesses in these areas that have property that overlaps the right-of-way, although only around five structures are situated atop the route. Roaring Camp Railroads has expressed support for the restoration of railroad service over the mountains before and may be convinced to do so again, although such a service would undercut their profits on the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Felton Railroad since any passenger service between Felton and Santa Cruz would share the same track.

Structurally, the route would require significant improvements from its 1940 alignment. At the time Southern Pacific abandoned the route, they had been planning to conduct extensive upgrades of the line to protect it from future storm damage like that caused in February 1940 and to make the line more efficient. They proposed straightening a number of curves and replacing numerous bridges. However, San Lorenzo Gorge has always proved to be an insurmountable obstacle. Even today, the route between Felton and Santa Cruz is unusually steep for a mainline track and also involves a sharp, 21-degree turn where once Tunnel #5 was situated (this tunnel burned down on January 21, 1993). The former tunnel would need to be rebuilt but due to the grade through this area, the line could never reach peak speeds, except perhaps with light rail cars. Overall, the findings of the 1995 study remain valid.

Despite thousands of dollars of survey work, though, no such route has been constructed. Similarly, no significant improvements have been made to allow Highway 17 to handle higher capacities of traffic or make the road safer. For decades, the reason was public disinterest and a general desire by those in Santa Cruz County to remain voluntarily isolated from the Santa Clara Valley. But this is no longer the case and has not been for some time. Hamman stated in 2002 that “polls have indicated that a 65% or better support for some kind of service to exist.” Santa Clara County has continuously pushed for improved passenger rail services and has expanded its light rail system as far south as Campbell, with longstanding plans to extend these to Vasona and, eventually Los Gatos.

Citations & Credits:

  • “Alquist Wants More Study On SC-San Jose Rail Link.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 21, 1979): 2.
  • “Amtrack Discourages Revival Of Suntan Special Route.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (December 2, 1971): 30.
  • Beal, Richard A. Highway 17: The Road to Santa Cruz. Second edition. Aptos, CA: The Pacific Group, 1991.
  • Beebe, Greg. “New talk about rail link to SJ.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (April 29, 1991): 1, 12.
  • “Bring Back Suntan Special.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (April 20, 1969): 29.
  • De Leuw, Cather & Company. “Santa Cruz-Los Gatos Rail Corridor Feasibility Study—Draft Final Report.” Prepared for the Joint Policy Board (Santa Clara County Transit District, Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, and Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District). December 1994.
  • Franklin, Denise. “Railroads would link Santa Cruz, San Jose.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 16, 1992): A2.
  • Franklin, Denise. “Areawide rail service studied.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (May 19, 1994): A3.
  • Franklin, Denise. “SLV residents oppose rail line’s expansion.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (July 21, 1994): A2.
  • Franklin, Denise. “Trains get set to roll.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (July 31, 1994): A1, A18.
  • Franklin, Denise. “Trying to avoid gridlocked future.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (February 13, 1995): A1, A6.
  • Franklin, Denise. “Commuter rail plan thrown off track.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 4, 1995): A1, A12.
  • Gaura, Maria. “Railroad company hopes to revive an old dream.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (September 25, 1988): 1, 4.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Jones, Frank N. “Railroad Important to Santa Cruz Area.” Santa Cruz Sentinel-News (August 16, 1946): 9.
  • Marks, Jamie. “Politicians give support to ‘fixed guide way’ transit system.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (September 16, 1984): A5.
  • McFadden, Ruth. “Private Hearing?” Letter to the Editor, Santa Cruz Sentinel (May 6, 1979): 36.
  • Plomp, Gary. “As you see it: Support for rail system.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (January 31, 1995): 11.
  • “Railway Interests Capitola.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (January 18, 1980): 38.
  • “Suntan Special.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (June 18, 1981): 2.
  • “Suntan Special Legislation.” Santa Cruz Sentinel (September 29, 1981): 16.
  • Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. “Fact Sheet: Transit—Vasona Light Rail Extension Project.” 2012.
  • Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. “Santa Cruz Branch Line Acquisition Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).” May 4, 2010.
  • Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. “Rail Transit Feasibility Study.” December 2015.
  • Whaley, Derek R. “The End of the Line: The Abandonment of Passenger Services in Santa Cruz County, California,” Railroad History 215 (2006): 12-33.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.
  • Wood, Wallace. “The Sun Tan Special: Will It Run Again?” Santa Cruz Sentinel (October 29, 1971): 1-2.
  • Wood, Wallace. “Why Bring Back the Suntan Special?” Santa Cruz Sentinel (December 19, 1971): 6. 


  1. Great article Derek! They didn't break any speed records going over the mountains in 1940 and before! The speed limit between Los Gatos and Eva
    in Los Gatos Canyon was 20 MPH and between Eva and Santa Cruz it was 25 MPH. It took Train 32 an hour and 10 minutes to go from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz in 1937, not very competitive with Highway 17 even then! The distance was 24.9 miles.

  2. Thanks so much for pulling together the past efforts. Many would still love to see service come back.


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