Thursday, August 11, 2022

Stations: Eva

One of the primary appeals of a railroad through the Santa Cruz Mountains was its picturesque nature. However, much of the route through which the South Pacific Coast Railroad passed in 1880 was less verdant than it is today. Logging along Los Gatos, Bean, and Zayante Creeks had largely deforested the areas. Nowhere was untouched and only the Welch’s Big Trees Grove near Felton and parts of San Lorenzo Gorge to the south retained a semblance of wilderness. Because of this and because the South Pacific Coast Railroad was focused primarily on expanding its lines, the company never established its own picnic stop in the mountains. But when the Southern Pacific Railroad took over in 1887, it found a ready picnic ground on the east bank of Los Gatos Creek at a place it christened Forest Grove.

Members of the Toro Club gathering at Forest Grove, November 4, 1894. [Colorized using MyHeritage]

What would become Forest Grove had probably existed as an informal stop since the arrival of the South Pacific Coast Railroad to the area in 1879. In the first Officers, Stations & Agencies book published by Southern Pacific following the acquisition of the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1887, the location was named Casey’s. This likely derived from the South Pacific Coast Railroad’s former roadmaster and superintendent of bridges, Thomas Casey, who was responsible for maintaining the right-of-way between San José and Santa Cruz between December 1880 and June 1884. He had previously worked in the same role for the Central Pacific Railroad during the construction of the first transcontinental railroad in the late 1860s. In summer 1884, he was given the task of laying the track for the Felton & Pescadero Railroad to Boulder Creek. Casey was well-respected by his peers and known in settlements across the South Pacific Coast Railroad’s network. He fell ill in January 1886 and died November 4, 1888 in San Francisco.

San Francisco Examiner advertisement for Forest Grove, printed June 2, 1899.

The seventeen-acre rectangular property was mostly on the east bank of Los Gatos Creek just south of Hooker Creek and 5.8 miles south of Los Gatos. The railroad purchased the land from John Young McMillan and Dr. William S. McMurtry of the Los Gatos Manufacturing Company on June 15, 1878 under the condition that the right-of-way remains in continuous use and maintenance. Considering the location—1.6 miles north of Wrights and the Summit Tunnel—it seems likely that the station began life as a staging ground for construction and maintenance crews. After the line was completed in May 1880, Casey’s probably became a maintenance yard, which would explain why the property was so large and why it was named after the roadmaster, who would have operated out of the station to perform many of his duties in the mountains.

Woman on the Hooker Creek bridge north of Eva, 1912. [Ginger Constantine Navarrete – colorized using DeOldify]

Southern Pacific clearly had less interest in maintaining a remote maintenance yard, but it was looking for potential picnic stops in the mountains. Although the area around Hooker Creek had been logged over in the 1860s and early 1870s, second growth redwood trees were already appearing and the large meadow where the maintenance equipment had likely sat was ideal for a picnic ground. The railroad sent out W. T. Fitzgerald, general passenger and freight agent for the narrow-gauge division, to inspect the property and make sketches of it that could be used in marketing.

Members of the local Elks Lodge vacationing at Eva Vista, ca 1910. Printed in the Los Gatos Times–Saratoga Observer, July 23, 1974.

The picturesque station opened under the name Forest Grove on April 20, 1888, with a group of Presbyterians traveling from Brooklyn, New York, as its first visitors. The railroad provided picnic tables and accessories, and the people were responsible for bringing food. Though few amenities were provided to the revelers, they loved the place, noting that the “mountains covered with redwood forests, valleys and ravines in which marvelous ferns grow and wild flowers abound, and through which gurgling brooks flow in crystal streams, give abundant scope for romping and climbing by young America.” Over subsequent years, many different groups held annual picnics at Forest Grove, including the Knights of Pythias, the Native Sons of the Golden West, and Southern Pacific itself. The popularity of the picnic stop was such that in 1889, the Oakland Tribune declared it superior to Big Trees.

View of the resort looking south, with the Southern Pacific tracks to the left of the photographer and Los Gatos Creek to the right, ca 1909. Printed in the Los Gatos Times–Saratoga Observer, July 23, 1974.

Forest Grove continued to serve Southern Pacific as its chief picnic resort in the Santa Cruz Mountains until the end of the 1895 summer season. The next spring, the company opened Sunset Park south of Wrights and all picnic traffic was redirected there. For two years, Forest Grove seems to have languished, but in 1899 it was leased to Thomas M. Silvey of Wrights, who promoted fishing, hunting, and bathing in the San Francisco Examiner. In late 1889, W. R. Sterne of Los Angeles took over the lease and purchased the adjacent estate of the late Frederick A. Marriott, editor of the San Francisco News Letter tabloid.

Eva Vista Hotel beside the artificial lake and outbuildings, ca 1910. Printed in the Los Gatos Times–Saratoga Observer, July 23, 1974.

Sterne dammed Los Gatos Creek in order to create a small lake in which people could swim. He also began improving his newly-acquired property, erecting the Eva Vista Hotel up on the hill overlooking the lake and railroad tracks. The station, meanwhile, was renamed Eva to better promote the resort. Sterne never enjoyed the property, though. In May 1903, he sold the estate and the lease to H. R. Judah, assistant general passenger agent for the Southern Pacific. Judah soon erected a tent city and club house on the picnic grounds and expanded the hotel’s restaurant to support a larger crowd.

Postcard of Lake Evavista with an inset image of the cookhouse, 1910. [WorthPoint – colorized using DeOldify]

Unfortunately for Judah, his resort was not to last. When the San Francisco earthquake struck before the start of the 1906 season, it caused a landslide that blocked Los Gatos Creek causing it to overflow and flood the railroad tracks and much of the resort grounds at Eva Vista. Railroad traffic was canceled beyond Alba until August 1907, with only repair trains passing through to fix the right-of-way and widen the Summit Tunnel at Wrights. However, the flooded resort was only cleared in December, long after the picnic season had ended. The Panic of 1907 and the widening of the tunnel between Laurel and Glenwood in 1908 made the prospect of reopening Eva Vista infeasible.

San Francisco Chronicle advertisement for Evavista Resort, printed June 2, 1909.

When it finally welcomed visitors again in 1909, the resort was under the management of Peter Charles Trobock and his brother, Barton N. Trobock, who rebranded it Evavista. The resort’s ultimate fate three years later was outside anyone’s control. On August 27, 1912, mice nibbling on matches in the hotel started a fire. The structure burned to the ground, taking several nearby buildings with it. The last recorded picnic excursion to Evavista was on October 16, 1915 by juniors and seniors from Los Gatos High School.

Storm damage to the Southern Pacific right-of-way near Eva, 1909. [Neil Vodden – colorized using DeOldify]

The resort site quickly fell into disrepair but the railroad station remained on timetables for 25 more years. When the line was standard-gauged in 1905, a long siding measuring 2,340 feet—capable of holding 28 cars—was installed along the east side of the right-of-way. It broke off from the mainline just south of the Hooker Creek bridge and paralleled the main track for most of its length, reconnecting with the mainline just beyond the border of the rectangular parcel. A short spur continued from the end of the siding to allow up to three cars to park at the station without blocking the siding. The siding was cut back in late 1909 to 1,821 feet, enough space for about 22 cars.

Flatcars parked on the siding at Eva, 1909. [Neil Vodden – colorized using DeOldify]

The long siding may not have been intended just for passenger trains. During standard-gauging, Eva was likely used as a staging ground in the off-season for work crews. This was even more likely in the three years after the earthquake, where Eva probably served as a storage site for repair equipment and building supplies, considering the land to the east of the tracks remained Southern Pacific property. Meanwhile, in 1900, a vein of copper was discovered on the eastern hillside a mile south of Eva near the railroad right-of-way.

Southern Pacific locomotive and caboose parked on the siding at Eva, 1914. [Ginger Constantine Navarrete – colorized using DeOldify]

Perhaps because of the resort, no mining was performed until 1917, when an experimental adit was dug by H. E. Casey, J. E. Casey, and G. W. Stollery of San Mateo. The partners employed fifteen men for several months, who dug two tunnels, one 300 feet long and the other 185 feet. They found high concentrations of copper, and smaller veins of chalcopyrite, azurite, malachite, gold, and silver. However, due to poor market conditions and a lack of interest by potential buyers, they decided not to pursue further mining. The mines were sold to Dr. H. C. Adair in 1929, who promptly resumed prospecting. Four adits were dug into the hillside, with the largest supported by a timber frame. Large quantities of pyrite and other sulfides were discovered. A second attempt by Adair in 1936 found a quantity of gold and silver, resulting in the only profit gained from mining operations near Eva. The two longest tunnels, 235 and 500 feet in length, were abandoned in 1938. It is unclear if these operations used Eva station, but they are likely the reason why the railroad retained the station for so many years after the closure of the resort.

A Southern Pacific commuter train stopped at Eva, July 9, 1939. Photo by Wilbur C. Whittaker. [Jim Vail]

Eva Station was approved for abandonment on August 9, 1937 due to disuse, with Southern Pacific records showing it closed on October 15 of that year. It was removed from employee timetables in May 1939. The closure of the mountain route the following February put an end to any hope of rejuvenating the area around Eva. Following the legal abandonment of the line on March 25, 1941, the property reverted to its original owners, who had several years earlier sold the property to the San Jose Water Company. At the time, nobody lived in the vicinity of Eva to contest abandonment.

Southern Pacific survey photo of the Hooker Creek bridge just to the north of Eva, March 1940. [Bruce MacGregor]

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:

37.153˚N, 121.960˚W

The San Jose Water Company continues to own the land, though the right-of-way through the former site of Eva is so overgrown with poison oak and Scotch broom that it is virtually impassable. As a result, the company has not blocked access to this section of the grade, though trespassing is not advised for health and safety reasons.

Citations & Credits:

  • Bender, Henry, "SP22."
  • California Division of Mines, California Journal of Mines and Geology, 50 (January 1954).
  • California Journal of Mines and Geology 50 (January 1954).
  • California Public Utilities Commission, Decision No. 30018.
  • Hamilton, Fletcher. Report XVII of the State Mineralogist (San Francisco, CA: California State Mining Bureau, 1921).
  • Interstate Commerce Commission, Vol. 242.
  • Los Gatos Mail, 1915.
  • Oakland Tribune and Evening Tribune, 1884–1890.
  • Record-Union, 1888.
  • Sacramento Bee, 1882.
  • San Francisco Call, 1905.
  • San Francisco Examiner, 1899.
  • San Jose Daily Mercury, 1903.
  • San Jose Evening News, 1912.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1885–1903.
  • Southern Pacific Railroad Company, various records.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains (Santa Cruz, CA: 2015).
  • Wiley, Marlene. “Riding the Picnic Trains,” Mountain Network News (date unknown).
  • Young, John V. Ghost Towns of the Santa Cruz Mountains, expanded edition (Santa Cruz, CA: Western Tanager Press, 1984).


  1. Wonder if we could ever find the Hooker Creek Mine: it's probably buried under 20 feet of dirt and mud by now....

  2. Poison oak can be avoided easily if you know what it looks like! Lol

  3. MROSD is in early talks with SJWC to buy the land in this area. We can only hope.

  4. Eva is still shown as a flag stop for all passenger trains in the March 21, 1937 Employees Timetable with a siding of a 20 car capacity. Since the Employee and Public Timetables did not always match, it would be interesting to see what was the status of this station through 1940. The Milepost (#60) shown to the right in Wilbur Whittaker's photo can be seen currently on the left wall of the model train layout at the Santa Clara Caltrain station. I found it face down in 1970 on the embankment on the right and donated it to the Los Gatos Historical Museum who eventually sent it on to Santa Clara. They incorrectly describe it there as a "companion board" in other words, there were two boards with the # 60 on it facing in both directions. But in fact, the # 60 was on both sides of the same board and the paint had worn out on one side after years of being exposed to the elements. "60" refers to the distance in miles from San Francisco.

  5. My grandmothers name was Eva bulmore, father was super in charge of new almaden quick silver mines. I can always think they named it after her.

  6. Hey Derek. There is a pic of the Eva Vista hotel on ebay right now that you may want to capture.


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