Friday, June 28, 2019

Maps: Dougherty Extension Railroad

The main trunk line of the Dougherty Extension Railroad, built by the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company between 1888 and 1897, measured over 8.5 miles long—longer than the Southern Pacific Railroad-owned branch line that it extended. But unlike that branch line, this rugged lumber railway was not constructed at one time but rather extended at least twice from its original terminus at Doughertys, four miles north of Boulder Creek, to its ultimate end near the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River. Through that journey, the track crossed the river up to ten times, as well as several other substantial streams. Its narrow-gauge of 36 inches allowed it to take sharper turns and climb steeper grades than the usual railroad, but the Dougherty Extension Railway rarely needed to. The gentle curve and slow climb of the upper San Lorenzo Valley offered obstacles, but none were especially difficult to surmount. No tunnels were required as with the route through the Santa Cruz Mountains nor were high and intricate bridges needed, as with the Loma Prieta Branch.

Two men sitting on a cut and debarked log near the F. A. Hihn Company mill on Kings Creek, c. 1910s.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
The railroad line departed Boulder Creek near modern-day Junction Park, crossing Boulder Creek, the San Lorenzo River, and Bear Creek via a trio of bridges. From here, the railroad tracks kept to the east side of the river, bypassing old downtown Boulder Creek. Near where the river passes under State Route 9 today, the railroad also crossed the county road, continuing north between the road and the river for roughly 1.5 miles. This was likely where a short spur for the Harmon Mill was located, although its precise location is uncertain. The right-of-way along this stretch can sometimes be glimpsed, although homes have now been built atop the former railroad route in this section.

Dougherty Extension Railroad line north of Boulder Creek, 1897-1917. Not all streams and roads marked. Mills not located directly beside right-of-way only notated by its spur. [Derek R. Whaley]
About 1.4 miles north of town, at the bottom of Two Bar Road, a spur for the Morrell Mill was located, probably ending near the current Lee & Associates Rescue Equipment building. Another 0.5 miles north, another spur probably broke off near Spring Creek Road for the F. A. Hihn Mill on Kings Creek. The spur likely paralleled State Route 9 for a short distance before ending somewhere in the vicinity of the Boulder Creek Roadside Cafe and Garrahan Park. Loads of lumber brought down Kings Creek Road from the mill on Logan Creek would have been transferred to waiting flatcars here.

Piles of cut timber sitting in the lumber yard at Boulder Creek, c. 1910. [San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
Just 0.1 miles north of the switch was the location of the Cunningham & Company mill, one of the first patrons of the Dougherty Extension Railroad. The mill dammed the river just to the north, near Pleasant Way, and the railroad tracks passed directly through the property, crossing the San Lorenzo River to the north, after which it headed down River Drive. After the mill closed, the area north of the river developed into Wildwood around 1909.

River Road marks the former right-of-way throughout most of this section until the road ends on the boundary with Camp Campbell. The track remained on the west side of the river here, passing through Camp Campbell and Camp Harmon. Remnants of the right-of-way survive in this section but trespassing is not encouraged. The track ran for nearly two miles without interruption north of the Cunningham mill before finally encountering the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company property.

Property survey showing the original Dougherty Extension Railroad (black and white line) with its end-of-track at the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company Mill at Doughertys, 1889. [Library of Congress]
The mill at Doughertys was a substantial facility when it finally went into full operation in the 1890s. A track remained on the west bank of the river, wrapping around the property, while another track crossed the river to access the mill. Two spurs broke off here to reach the face of the mill and the lumber stacks that stood there. Another short spur on the west bank of the river provided the company's locomotive, the Dinky (formerly the Felton) access to its engine shed. To the north, the main track crossed the river again and merged with the west bank trackage. A tiny maintenance spur sat to the east of the tracks, as well. Together, the reunited track crossed the river for a third time, this time to the east bank, where it remained for 0.8 miles.

Roughly 0.3 miles north of Doughertys, a spur broke off the main line and headed up Feeder Creek to the west, crossing the river in the process. This was probably the most substantial spur off the Dougherty Extension Railroad at 1.5 miles long, and it terminated at the Chase Company mill up the creek. Around 1905, this right-of-way, abandoned in the mid-1890s, was considered as a potential route to reach the Pescadero Creek watershed, a long-time goal of Southern Pacific in the San Lorenzo Valley. The earthquake in April 1906 ended any hopes for a railroad line between Boulder Creek and Pescadero.

Back on the main line, the track crossed back to the west bank near modern-day Fern Drive, which also marks the right-of-way. Indeed, the right-of-way between State Route 9 and the river north of Doughertys is relatively undeveloped and can be found with little difficulty below the road to the west. Rotting crossties can sometimes be found in this area, often under overgrowth. The area north of Fern Drive on the west bank of the river is more difficult to access but the right-of-way in this area is better preserved. Another 0.7 miles beyond the end of Fern Road, the railroad reached McGaffigan Switch, where the company superintendent lived. The right-of-way in this area follows Scenic Way a short distance before passing through several properties.

The one-mile stretch to the north of McGaffigan Switch is also the most substantial surviving portion of right-of-way. While private properties sit atop the first 0.4 miles of this stretch, limiting access without trespassing, the final 0.6 miles are all part of Castle Rock State Park and can be accessed by heading south from the Saratoga Toll Road. There are several sections of intact crossties, and even a few bits of rail visible to those paying attention. One piece can even be seen hanging over the river from a pull-out off State Route 9. Trains ceased using this section of track around 1913, when the Waterman Creek mill shut down.

Waterman Switch, the switching yard for lumber coming down from Waterman Gap, was located just a short distance down the Saratoga Toll Road. A marquee sign marks the site, although cars are no longer allowed in the parking lot here. The Saratoga Toll Road parallels the railroad right-of-way for a while, but the right-of-way becomes increasingly difficult to discern from this point. Trains only operated in this area from 1897 to 1901 and most of the bridges in this section were very crude and not intended to withstand more than a few years of use. Nonetheless, the end-of-track was still 1.7 miles north of Waterman Switch, near where the San Lorenzo River forks east of Beekhuis Road. The best way of discerning the railroad's path through this area is through shallow cuts and surviving bridge abutments. Small sections of crossties can also be found periodically.

USGS map showing the maximum length of the Dougherty Extension Railroad, 1902. Note: the mapmaker did not always accurately map the topography of the area and often confused tracks with the road and river. [US Geologic Survey]
Just as it was constructed, so too was the Dougherty Extension Railroad demolished in steps. It is likely the northernmost 1.5 miles of track was removed around 1902 to expand the switching area around Waterman Switch, with additional track possibly removed to the Kings Creek spur. The portion between Wildwood and Waterman Switch remained in use until 1913, when the mill on the ridge shut down. The trackage to Wildwood was retained and maintained at a relatively high standard until 1915 as a passenger line for potential property investors and future residents. But the railroad was replaced with a bus in the summer of 1915, thereby marking the end of all service along the Dougherty line. The track was scrapped in late 1917 for use in World War I and the crossties were left to rot. Over time, the right-of-way was sold off in parcels, but large portions remain undeveloped.

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