Friday, April 20, 2018

Maps: Summit Tunnel to Mountain Charlie Tunnel

The scenery along the Santa Cruz Mountain portion of the Southern Pacific Railroad's route between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz was rather rudely interrupted for over four miles between Wright's Station and the small stop known as Virginia, when two tunnels stretching over a mile each plunged passing trains into seemingly eternal darkness. But between these tunnels, and a shorter one further down the line, small towns welcomed visitors and did their utmost to attract the Bay Area elite to stay, if only for a weekend. The hamlet of Laurel, high upon a narrow cleft over Soquel Creek, served as the transfer point for hotels and resorts and also the main staging area for the F.A. Hihn Company lumber mill, located in the valley below. A mile further down the line, travellers found the larger village of Glenwood, featuring attractive picnic grounds and water holes, resorts dotting the hills, and vineyards flanked by a wide meadow. Both of these places still exist today as remnants, bereft of their commercial buildings and community centers but nonetheless vibrant and alive with activity. The trains established them and now they live on, eight decades after the last locomotive passed through their hearts.

Bridge over Soquel Creek at Laurel, c. 1902. [MAH]
Storm damage along the tracks at Laurel, April 9, 1940.
[Bruce MacGregor]
Map of Southern Pacific trackage between the Summit
Tunnel and Mountain Charlie Tunnel, c. 1905-1940.
 [US Geologic Survey, 1919 map]

Boxcars outside the station at Laurel, c. 1910.
[George Pepper]
Glenwood Tunnel's west portal looking out at Laurel,
c. 1910. [MAH]
A view of Glenwood from the hillside, c. 1920.
[Edward Fenn]

Glenwood Magnetic Springs, c. 1895. Photo by
 Carleton E. Watkins. [Bancroft Library]
The double-track heading west, away from Glenwood
station, c. 1920. [MAH]
General Store at Glenwood, as viewed from across the tracks,
c. 1920. [MAH]
Tracks near Glenwood, c. 1930. [Margaret Koch]
Southern Pacific survey photo of the Mountain Charlie Tunnel's
west portal, February 28, 1940. [Bruce MacGregor]


  1. I wonder if the length of the two tunnels caused any problems with too much locomotive smoke. Maybe restrictions were placed on the frequency trains could use the tunnels? Maybe electric trains were considered as part of the standard-gauging? Maybe diesels were used during the last three years of operation? I wonder if vertical vents were considered.

    1. Grant, as far as I know the smoke never caused any problems. There are rumours that the two longest tunnels did have a single vertical vent somewhere near the middle, but whether those still exist or were destroyed in 1942 is unknown. Southern Pacific expressed no public plans to use electric trains along that line and diesel never operated along it since the route was abandoned before diesel had completely rolled out.


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