Friday, January 17, 2020

Freight Stops: River Street Pumping Station

Santa Cruz has historically been blessed with a larger-than-average supply of drinkable water than other Central Coast counties. One such source that has been used for many years is the San Lorenzo River. In January 1926, the City of Santa Cruz bought a small tract of land at the southern boundary of Rancho Rincon that spanned the river between River Street and Crossing Street. This was intended to be used as a supplemental water source for Santa Cruz. To fuel the station, a 6,300-foot-long pipeline was run from the Southern Pacific Railroad grade to the station that could deliver up to 1,200 gallons of oil per minute.

Aerial photograph of the city of Santa Cruz pumping station in 1931, showing the railroad grade at the bottom, River Street in the center, and the San Lorenzo River at the top. The station is still relatively small at this time and fuel is delivered via a pipeline, vaguely visible down the center of this photograph where Vernon Street is located today.
[University of California, Santa Cruz, Digital Collections]
Five years after the station was installed, City Commissioner Alvin L. Weymouth realized that the entire system could be made more efficient. In September 1931. Weymouth requested Southern Pacific to run a short spur down from the railroad grade to the bottom to just beside River Street, at which point a short pipe would be installed under the road and into the pumping station where it could fuel two pumps. Prior to this, a 200-foot-long spur had been installed on the east side of the main tracks for tanker cars to park. The new arrangement allowed tanker cars to fill fuel tanks alongside River Street, much closer to the pumping station, meaning the city would no longer have to rent parked tanker cars in perpetuity to fuel its operations. This change saved the city thousands of dollars annually.

Aerial photograph showing the City of Santa Cruz Pumping Station between River Street and Crossing Street straddling the San Lorenzo River, with the railroad grade at the top and Vernon Street under construction, 1940.
[UCSC Digital Collections]
By 1933, Standard Oil was placed in charge of delivering the oil to the tanks. The facility required three tanker cars of oil per month to be delivered to keep the tanks filled and the pumping station operational. But this system proved to be short-lived. Beginning in February 1940, the facilities on River Street were substantially enlarged and upgraded. It seems likely that the oil-deliver method was replaced at this time with truck delivery or some other method since the spur disappears entirely from records around this time and aerial photographs taken later in the year show that Vernon Street is in the process of being graded and cemented, suggesting the area had been repurposed as a subdivision.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9902N, 122.0337W

The site of the spur for the River Street pumping station is at the top of Vernon Street on the east side of the railroad right-of-way, as well as down the street itself. There is nothing that remains of the spur except a slightly wider area where it once sat at the top of the grade. Vernon Street now closely follows the original spur grade to the pumping station, but obscures any relics of the original route. The pumping station on River Street is now undergoing renovation. Trespassing on both the right-of-way and the city lot are prohibited.

Citations & Credits:

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