Friday, December 21, 2018

Stations: Glen Arbor

Glen Arbor was never a booming metropolis and its station was never any more than a rustic, although undeniably large, shelter in the eyes of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Established in 1911, Glen Arbor was the third in a quartet of small stations set up after standard-gauging was completed in 1908, the others being Siesta in 1909, Bonny Brae in 1912, and Phillipshurst in 1913. There was great anticipation surrounding the establishment of Glen Arbor. Located on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River midway between Felton and Ben Lomond, the subdivision was built upon a large and recently deforested tract that had seen little use other than some grazing and farming activity. Part of the problem was isolation: the river cut a deep moat on two sides, while a steep, sandy hillside flanked the subdivision to the east, leaving the north as the only escape route. The only roads that could reach the tract were a 1.5-mile-long road from Ben Lomond or a longer road to Olympia, north of Felton. Both went through rugged, industrial country. Fortunately, the Felton & Pescadero Railroad had forged a path directly through this area back in 1885, and Southern Pacific still maintained the route in 1909, when the Glen Arbor subdivision was first proposed.

Glen Arbor, looking north-east, c. 1910s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
J. W. Wright purchased the property that would become Glen Arbor from the Rountree and Brackney families. He saw the area as his chance to make a pleasure city—i.e., a resort community—in the San Lorenzo Valley. Jumping on the Scots Gaelic-themed names of the area, he called the subdivision Glen Arbor, which means "a shady place among the trees." And while there certainly were trees along the riverbank, the plateau upon which the subdivision was established appears from photographs to be relatively barren. Nonetheless, Wright, via his property manager L. W. Coffee, set off immediately to market the subdivision to wealthy Bay Area elite.

A summer home built in the Glen Arbor subdivision, c. 1920s. [George Pepper]
Coffee parcelled off a stunning 600 lots as the core of the development, and government records of the subdivision show an impressive breakdown with dozens of homes lining Riverton Avenue (later Glen Arbor Road), Hermosa Ave., Fernwood Ave., Oak Ave., Fremont Ave., Caledonium Ave., and Arden Ave., many of which would prove near-impossible to build upon due to geographical constraints. An advertisement from June 1909 notes that riverside lots cost $50 while lots within the subdivision cost $30. Lots sold surprisingly fast, with nearly 200 allegedly sold by the date of the June advertisement. Coffee brought in hundreds of visitors each week throughout the spring and summer of 1909 to sell lots. He ran barbecues and picnics, offered free railroad tickets to prospective buyers and their families, and generally feted them as best he could. 

Glen Arbor hosting a passenger train, as viewed from the Coffee residence that looked directly west down Riverton Avenue, late 1910s. [Bruce MacGregor]
The newspaper advertisement shows Glen Arbor's signature station already in place, suggesting the building was established two years before the railroad officially registered the stop in 1911. The structure served many purposes and was built by Wright, not by the railroad. Eaves outside beside the railroad tracks acted as a passenger shelter, while the inside of the building acted as a community center and post office, the latter only operating from 1914 to 1915. Despite its impressive size, the station at Glen Arbor only ever served as a flag-stop—it had no railroad staff and did not sell tickets. However, the station did support a 297-foot-long spur, which ran beside the tracks to the south (between modern Glen Arbor Road and Oak Avenue). The spur had a short platform for loading goods and a shed was erected atop the platform, probably to hold supplies used in loading cargo. What purpose this spur served is unclear since this subdivision was seasonally residential, but it may have supported a small fruit industry or a cattle ranch in the hills above the subdivision.

Site of Glen Arbor's station, 2013. [Google Street View]

By the end of 1909, most of the subdivision was sold and the task of actually developing the properties began. People were slow to build, however, and, over time, parcels were merged into larger lots and permanent, year-round dwellings were erected, notably immediately before World War II. The railroad stop remained on timetables until the decommissioning of the branch in January 1934, although passenger service was terminated at the end of 1930. The station was repurposed as a private residence for a while, but was replaced in 1947 with a more modern dwelling. Soon after the abandonment of the railroad line, a bridge was installed over the San Lorenzo River, finally connecting the residents of Glen Arbor directly to the main highway artery of the valley. 

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.0744N, 122.0814W (8121 Fremont Avenue)

A home still occupies the site of Glen Arbor Station while the right-of-way itself is partially overgrown and partially Lorenzo Way, located between Hermosa Avenue and Fremont Avenue along Glen Arbor Road near the bridge over the San Lorenzo River. Nothing remains of the station itself and the even the fate of the station sign is unknown. The right-of-way to the south continues down the poorly-defined Schaaf Road, which is today interrupted by fences and two homes built atop the right-of-way. There is currently no way other than trespassing across private residences to connect to the undeveloped right-of-way north of Brackney. North from Glen Arbor, the right-of-way continues paralleling Lorenzo Way until crossing Arden Avenue. From this point, the railroad passed through the properties on the east side of Lorenzo Way as the road curves around the San Lorenzo River across from Highlands Park. Where Lorenzo Way ends, the route eventually takes a sharp turn east, passing through ill-defined properties, before meeting Glen Arbor Road just north of the Quail Hollow Road junction. It continues running on the west side of Glen Arbor Road until finally crossing the road just before Love Creek.

Citations & Credits:


  1. I heard that a railroad went through this area, but never saw any visible evidence. I live on the north end of Fremont.

    1. Yup, you are almost directly across from the old spur that was at Glen Arbor, and between Lorenzo Way and Fremont Ave is where the old station building used to stand. Lorenzo Way is the right-of-way, and then it continues south of there on Schaaf Road (which doesn't actually seem to exist but is on Google Maps) and then continuing south behind the end of Caledonium Ave. Unfortunately, much of the right-of-way south of your house has homes built on it and the access to Brackney is blocked by at least one house. If you got to Brackney, though, there is an old overgrown fire road that is gated on the left near the end of it. This is the right-of-way and it leads to the Glen Arbor area, though it's not a through path anymore. Still, it has a great view of the river.

  2. Many spurs were simply team tracks used for unloading or loading. In Glen Arbors case, I expect land sales or land developers wanted to receive building materials, furniture, pianos, chicken feed. This is similar to the platform at Big Trees (connected by a road from the hotel that I maintain exists), or the Empire Gun Club (at Elkhorn) which claimed to have received one and a half railcars worth of duck feed per year for the ponds around back. Team track, yes.


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