Friday, July 6, 2018

Stations: Olympia

At the turn of the twentieth century, the area near where East and West Zayante Roads meet today was a busy travel destination for the Southern Pacific Railroad. At Eccles, residents and local farmers shipped out goods. On the Union Mill Spur, the milling company shipped out lumber. And in the summer of 1900, Camp Olympia was founded on the hill just above the railroad grade, for which the railroad installed a flag-stop in 1905.

The grade crossing beside Olympia's station site on Olympia Station Road, 2011. [Derek R. Whaley]
For the first decade of its existence, Olympia was an unimportant waypoint along the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains. All important traffic continued to go to Eccles or Felton and only a few local resorts along the future Olympia Station Road patronized the stop. Then, in 1913, Olympia suddenly became a formal station along the line. In April 1915, it superseded Eccles in regional importance and also stole its post office.

The mainline and siding at Olympia, 2011. A spur sits buried beneath the leaves at far left. [Derek R. Whaley]
Most local industries were on the wane at this time so Olympia was definitively a passenger stop, with a small wooden station shelter to support it. However, beginning in 1928, the sand hills above and in the vicinity of Olympia were purchased by the McMillan Company and the Kaiser Pavement Company, two firms intent on quarrying sand in the area. This coincided with the Great Depression, which ended most seasonal tourist service to the area. Thus, in a very short period of time, Olympia transitioned from an exclusive tourist stop to an exclusive industrial stop. There is some evidence that quarrying around Olympia began earlier than 1928, such as the fact that a long 57-carlength siding was already at the station as of 1921, but evidence for this is not forthcoming. A gravel loader used by Kaiser was installed on a spur immediately across from the shelter while another spur also sat nearby.

The gravel loader beside Olympia Station Road, 2011. [Derek R. Whaley]
Because of the quarrying at the site, Olympia was not abandoned with the rest of the route through the mountains in November 1940. The station itself (as well as the shelter) survived until 1942, when the need for such a station location was found to be unnecessary since World War II had caused a significant reduction in passenger service and tourism in the area. However, the extensive siding space at Olympia remained intact for use by the Kaiser Pavement Company, whose quarry operated until the 1960s. When Roaring Camp Railroads purchased the entire line in 1985, they kept the entirety of the track in serviceable condition except for portions that had already fallen derelict, namely those that crossed into the two quarries. The formal end-of-track, where Southern Pacific cut its line that once crossed over the mountains, is just beyond the end of the siding to the north of Olympia.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0736N, 122.0536W

The site of Olympia station is located at the grade crossing on Olympia Station Road. The station shelter was located on the northwest corner of the crossing, while a small resort on the northeast corner acted as a more formalized structure and probably hosted the post office. The shelter was decommissioned in 1942, but may still survive on a nearby private property. The siding and two spurs (one buried) still remain in various states of repair. The gravel loader, now in an advanced state of decay, can be seen directly across the tracks. The end-of-track is accessible just to the north of Olympia. Roaring Camp has long neglected this stretch of track but growing interest among the staff has prompted the company to allocate some funds for the maintenance and rehabilitation of this stretch of track, possibly with the intent of using it for special excursions in the future. Olympia remains a geographic location on county maps, but there are no longer any commercial buildings in the area.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.


  1. Thanks for this post, Derek. Always good to hear more info from a fellow SPC enthusiast.

    Some thoughts on the flatcars, having hiked by them a number of times in the past few years: The wooden one is actually two flatcars, the second one is upside-down on top of the first and has no trucks. The wood base for the lower car and its truss rods appear to have collapsed recently. What little remains of the frame would likely disintegrate if an attempt was made to move the car. And the archbar trucks of that era are always suspect.

    The steel one may be movable if the bearings can be made servicable (some of the covers are missing) but it would take some work. The wooden cars would need to be cut up and loaded onto something else for transport. I can see why Roaring Camp hasn't bothered with these cars.

    -Tom Padula

  2. The loading device you photographed appears to be a somewhat collapsed gravel loader for hopper cars. Trucks working the sand/gravel plant would back sloly out onto it, and the raised (counterweighted) ramp portion would be pushed level by the truck's wheels. Then the truck could dump its load into the car. This allowed the cars to be loaded with minimal extra labor and the loading 'ramp' would stay up and out of the way when not needed. There is another one of these a ways off in the woods about 1/4 mile south. The sand quarries there used to be quite large. This was all explained to me by a fellow I met named Ken, who is in his eighties and lives adjacent to the tracks near Olympia.


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