Friday, February 21, 2020

Stations: Eblis

Deep beneath the bowels of Holy Cross Catholic Church atop Mission Hill, under the old Spanish cemetery, mostly forgotten, lies a dark, dank tunnel through which the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway passes daily through Hell! Okay, not exactly Hell, but rather through Satan! Or at least a devil. Oh my, this has gone off track entirely. Let us begin again...

Advertising poster for the book release of Zoraida, 1895. [Public Domain]
In 1894, William Le Queux published the serialized novel Zoraida in local newspapers to great acclaim. The story told of an enchanting Algerian Moor who fell in love with a Spanish soldier and converted to Christianity in order to elope with him. The tale was racy, exciting, and quite popular with working class men who had Oriental dreams. And in the story, the name Eblis—Arabic for Satan or a devil—was invoked several times, often to describe the courtesan Zoraida.

Meanwhile back in Santa Cruz, the Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way just to the north of Mission Hill was finally transitioning into an industrial district in the early 1890s. The mission orchards—the Potrero—had long been off limits to developers but the end of the cattle industry within the Santa Cruz city limits meant that the area could transition to other purposes. From the very beginning of the railroad in 1875, the area had hosted the old Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad's maintenance shops as well as served as the northern terminus of the Pacific Avenue Street Railroad. After the South Pacific Coast Railroad took over in 1879, the maintenance shop was moved down the track and the spur became host to the Cunningham & Company planing mill. But the railroad did not note most of these developments on timetables.

The year 1899 brought many changes to the local timetables, one of which was the addition of the Tunnel 8 Siding just north of the Mission Hill Tunnel. But this name did not stick. Registered officially in the station books, released January 1, 1899, the name was changed by April to Eblis in what can only be a reference to the siding's location in the shadow of the Holy Cross Church on Mission Hill. The church sat on the location of the original destroyed Mission Santa Cruz and was built between 1885 and 1889, so was a relatively new feature on the landscape. The word Eblis is extraordinarily rare in the United States and undoubtedly derives from the Le Queux's story that had circulated just four years earlier in local newspapers. It also is the only Arabic loan word used to describe a location in Santa Cruz County.

The specific station point for Eblis is just north of Mora Street, which is itself off River Street. It is at this point that a long siding breaks off the right-of-way. The siding originally continued north to Coral Street before rejoining the mainline, but this was truncated back to just south of Highway 1 when the freeway was built in 1956. Technically, Eblis station encompasses the entirety of the siding's length, from Mora Street to Coral Street, and all the spurs that once broke off from the parallel lines in this section. These businesses included Cascade Steam Laundry, the Santa Cruz Cement Block & Brick Company, the Santa Cruz City corporate yard, Sinkerson & Sons, the F. A. Hihn Company, Santa Cruz Lumber Company, Associated Oil, Standard Oil, Richfield Oil, Union Oil, Texas Oil, Poultry Producers of Central California, Graniterock, and perhaps even the Salz Tannery, which sits just beyond the northern end of the siding.

One of the first Beach Trains temporarily parked at Eblis, 1986. [Jack Hanson]
In what was probably intended as a rebranding effort, in September 1927, Eblis was removed from timetables and replaced with simply Mora Street, which was listed as a flag-stop rather than a more formal station. This likely reflected the fact that Eblis was and almost always had been exclusively a freight stop, and one in which the actual station point did not overly matter since all of the local customers had their goods delivered directly to private spurs. Like Eblis, Mora Street was a reference to Mission Santa Cruz and was named after Bishop Mora, the last head of the California diocese before the Mexican revolution forced the Spanish out of California. Mora was known to visit Santa Cruz frequently and the street was subsequently named after him by early town planners. Notably, station books from the time do not note Mora Street and continue to call the location Eblis, and confusingly both names appeared together on timetables from 1928 until May 31, 1931 despite the two names marking nearly identical locations.

A Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway locomotive parked on the Eblis siding during a track repair project, 2012.
[Howard Cohen]
Throughout most of its history, Eblis (and Mora Street) were considered flag-stops on the line, but no station structure other than a sign were ever erected for the location. When Roaring Camp Railroads purchased the route in 1985, the deal included the siding at Eblis and the right to handle any freight from nearby customers, which the railroad has periodically done. More often, the railroad uses the siding to temporarily park its tunnel repair car and other rolling stock.

The Eblis station point on Mora Street with the tunnel repair car parked on the siding, 2011. [Google Maps]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9804N, 122.0298W

Eblis remains an active station point for the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway. Although freight only rarely passes through the station and no freight patron has used the station for several decades now, it is still an officially registered station. As such, trespassing is not permitted on the right-of-way, although the station site is essentially the intersection of Mora Street and Amat Street, where the siding breaks off from the mainline.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, February 14, 2020

Freight Stops: Poultry Producers of Central California

Santa Cruz County had drifted far from its roots as a ranchero community by the early 1920s, but the county still had plenty of ranches that raised stock cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, and poultry. The same was true for much of the state. As a result, a new cooperative organization was founded in October 1916 at Petaluma under the name Poultry Producers, with one branch representing Central California, based in San Francisco, and another in Southern California, based in Los Angeles. The primary function of the organization was to collectivize the gathering, packaging, and shipping of chicken eggs to market, at which point the collective could also set a more standard price across the state.

Local poultry farmer C. H. Forman in his chicken coop on Mission Street, 1913. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
An earlier organization, the Santa Cruz Poultry Association, had been founded around 1895 to manage local poultry issues, but this group was absorbed into the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau in 1918, leaving a gap in the industry. A Santa Cruz representative had been involved with Poultry Producers from the beginning, but the pressing need for a local poultry gathering point finally motivated the cooperative to find a location for a warehouse in 1921.

The location eventually chosen for a warehouse was directly on the Southern Pacific Railroad's line to San José, across the street from the Associated Oil supply depot. A warehouse was erected by the mid-1920s alongside a corporate office for local cooperative officers. The railroad installed a short spur behind the warehouse to allow egg trays to be quickly loaded onto waiting boxcars for shipment to the Bay Area and elsewhere. From 1926, the organization also brought in and sent out animal feed and farm supplies, most of which would also have passed through the Madrone Street facility. During World War II, the Poultry Producers warehouse in Santa Cruz shipped 1,000 cases of eggs per week to supply the military with eggs for the war effort. Excess or unused eggs were sent down the tracks to the Union Ice Company plant where they were frozen for use later.

Sign hung up on members' fences and poultry houses warning thieves away. [Worthpoint]
By the 1960s, Poultry Producers had become the largest egg cooperative in the world. Since 1935, eggs sold by the collective were packaged under the Nulaid Farmers Association label, which became a household name for people across the West Coast. Nonetheless, Nulaid ceased to operate out of the Madrone Street warehouse in 1961. The railroad spur likely went out of use at this time. The next year, the warehouse was sold to Slakey Brothers Inc, an Oakland-based air conditioning and water heater firm. Slakey completely renovated the 15,000-square-foot poultry building and were probably the ones responsible for having the spur removed since it did not appear in Southern Pacific records for 1973. Nulaid consolidated on September 28, 1963 with the smaller Hayward Poultry Producers Association to form a new organization, Pacific Growers, Inc. Pacific Growers' presence in Santa Cruz County seems to have ended abruptly but without comment at the end of 1969.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9829N, 122.0308W

The former Poultry Producers facility still sits at 111 Madrone Street of River Street and served for some years as a Sports Authority. It is now the Dominican Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. Although the spur is no longer present, the building is still oriented and designed in such a way that rolling stock could be parked directly behind the building.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, February 7, 2020

Freight Stops: Eblis Oil Spurs

If you have information about or photographs of the former oil storage facilities
north of Santa Cruzleave a comment below or email

The golden age of railroad-delivered oil reached Santa Cruz County in the 1920s and the practice continued well into the 1960s. While the various oil companies chose several different places initially to locate their regional petroleum and oil storage tanks and distribution facilities, all of them eventually settled upon a half-mile stretch of track between the Mora Street and Encinal Street, within the Eblis industrial zone. Five different companies ultimately set up shop along this stretch, each with its own freight spur, and they included some of the largest oil companies in the United States, such as Associated Oil (Flying A), Richfield Oil (ARCO), Texas Oil (Texaco), Union Oil (Unocol-Union 76), and Standard Oil (Chevron).

The Ocean Street and Soquel Avenue Associated Oil service station, 1930s. [Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Quite unsurprisingly for the time, Standard Oil was the first to arrive in the Eblis area when it installed storage tanks beside the tracks on Potrero Street in 1912. Many books have documented the history of Standard Oil, but in brief, it was founded in 1870 by John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler and quickly became the largest oil refining business in the world. Simultaneously to this, Star Oil had been founded in California in 1876 and eventually evolved into the Pacific Coast Oil Company in 1879, under the leadership of Charles Felton, Lloyd Tevis, and George Loomis. This was subsequently bought by Standard Oil in 1906, but Standard Oil itself was dissolved in 1911 due to an antitrust suit. As a result, Standard Oil of California was formed and evolved into Chevron through the 1930s and 1940s. The location on Potrero Street was taken over by a subsidiary, Standard Heating Oils, in 1958, but this was eventually sold to Avex, Inc., owned by George E. Albers. Avex officially still had the spur registered as active in 1973, but it was out of use by the end of the decade.

Another Associated Oil Flying "A" station, circa 1939, at the corner of Mission Street and Younglove Avenue.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Just next door to Standard Oil, along Madrone Street, the Associated Oil Company set up shop in 1913. They, like Standard Oil, had already maintained a presence at the Santa Cruz Union Depot but decided to move from that site, possibly to satisfy urban development needs. Associated Oil was founded in 1901 through the merger of several smaller California-based firms. In reality, the company was partially owned by both Standard Oil and Southern Pacific and provided the fuel for regional steam locomotives into the 1950s. It was merged with the larger Tidewater Oil Company in 1938, becoming the Tidewater Associated Oil Company, which used the Tydol Flying A brand to sell gasoline and oil products to the public. The company was purchased by Phillips Petroleum Company (ConocoPhillips) in 1966 and all of the petrol stations were rebranded to Phillips 66.

Across from Standard Oil and Associated Oil, the Union Oil Company set up shop as the only rail patron on the north side of the Eblis industrial zone. The location may actually have been a legacy of an earlier business, the Sinkinson & Sons Lumber Company, which had maintained a yard in that vicinity in the 1880s and 1890s and eventually developed into the sash mill that the area is known for today. Union Oil probably was a latecomer to the area, moving to the site in the mid-1920s around the same time that the Santa Cruz Lumber Company took over the sash mill site. Union Oil, incorporated in 1890, was another California company created through the merger of smaller regional firms. Little is known of its operations and presence in Santa Cruz, but its spur appears to have disappeared by the early 1950s, suggesting the company may have vacated the location at this time. The company sold the popular 76 Brand of gasoline from 1932.

Further to the north, across State Route 1, the Texas Oil Company paved the way for oil companies to operate on the far end of the Eblis industrial zone. Established in the early 1930s, the Texas Oil Company set up a storage facility and gasoline station on Fern Street. As its name suggests, the company was founded in Texas in 1902 but quickly spread into other areas, becoming the first company to use a single brand name, Texaco, across the continental United States. Its expansion into Santa Cruz in the 1930s was a natural development of its expansion strategy.

Likewise, the Richfield Oil Company established itself on Encinal Street at the northern limit of the Eblis zone in 1938. It already had a presence in the county but this distribution facility allowed it to expand and more rapidly resupply its service stations throughout the county. Unlike the other oil companies in the area, Richfield became a family business under the control of the Devins family, whose patriarch, Fred J., and son, Richard B., ran the business for several decades. A merger with the Atlantic Refining Company in 1966 caused the creation of the Atlantic-Richfield Oil Company, better known as ARCO. In 1976, Fred and Richard Devins incorporated the Devco Oil Company as a privately-run distributor of ARCO products. By this point, the family had abandoned the use of the railroad and switched to shipping via tanker truck. Devco finally sold to Flyers Energy in the mid-2000s after ARCO merged with The British Petroleum Company (BP) in 2000.

Three of the oil spurs were removed from service during a massive Santa Cruz yard cleanup project conducted by Southern Pacific in the mid-1960s. The spurs for Richfield Oil and Texas Oil were removed completely at this time, while the Associated Oil spur was spiked and eventually removed in the late 1970s. This might have reflected optimism in 1966 with the Phillips 66 takeover that the spur would be used again, but this clearly never happened. By 1973, the spur was listed as inactive and spiked. Only the former Standard Oil spur survived the purge completely, but it too was spiked by 1981 and it was probably put out of service completely around 1985, when Roaring Camp Railroads took over the line. Remnants of all five spurs survive, mostly through overly long crossties and adjacent structures once associated with the businesses, but only one location is still used for its original purpose, the former Richfield Oil property on Encinal Street, but it no longer has any rail service.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
The locations of all five petroleum spurs are off the current Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway right-of-way through the Eblis industrial zone and trespassing on the tracks is not advised, since these are active tracks. The locations of the businesses themselves are:
  • Richfield Oil: 139 Encinal Street (36.9863N, 122.0315W), now occupied by Flyers Energy.
  • Texas Oil: 133 Fern Street (36.9857N, 122.0317W), now an abandoned warehouse and dilapidated lot, probably still owned by Texaco.
  • Associated Oil: 199 Madrone Street (36.9825N, 122.0304W), now a warehouse of unknown ownership fenced off from the public with piles of old cars parked out back.
  • Standard Oil: 317 Potrero Street (36.9819N, 122.0303W), now part of a business block that includes Lighthouse Windows, Samaya's Eco-Flooring, and Great Infusions, all buildings of which postdate the original Standard Oil structures.
  • Union Oil: 303 Potrero Street (36.9822N, 122.0308W), now occupied by the Pacific Cookie Company and Covello & Covello Photography parking lot. The locations original facility is entirely gone, although several remnants of the storage facility have left impressions on the asphalt to the south of the main warehouse.
Citations & Credits:

Friday, January 31, 2020

Stations: Cement Works

In the decades immediately after statehood, California focused primarily on lumber, lime, and leather production, but other industries were also afoot. One in particular was garnering a lot of hype in March 1877. Deposits of lime were well-known in the county, and Davis & Cowell were already well on their way to cornering the market in 1877, but a firm felt that there was still space for some healthy competition, especially since it planned to produce an entirely different type of product: hydraulic cement, better known as Portland cement. The Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company established its base of operations in Hiram Abiff Imus’s orchard, immediately to the south of Gharkey’s orchard and to the west of the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad right-of-way near where Costco sits today. Popularly known as the Cement Works, the company had a shaky and ultimately failed existence in the county from the beginning.

The site of the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company Cement Works, now occupied by a Graniterock aggregate yard on Coral Street, 2019. [Google StreetView]
The first year of operations began in October 1878 when a large fête was held to celebrate the opening of the facility. Only one of the shareholders, F. Adams, was from Santa Cruz and it was he who brought the company to the city. The company president, Captain Anthony Y. Easterby, was a prominent San Joaquin Valley farmer who was one of the first to plant wheat in California. The Cement Works included three patented pieces of machinery, the Davis Pulverizer being the showpiece of the operation. Outside to the east, a railroad siding was established around 1879. While it was never called anything officially by the South Pacific Coast Railroad, it was named Cement Works when Southern Pacific took over in 1887.

From the very beginning, the facility had troubles. It lacked a mixer or any furnaces, bringing its maximum capacity to only 25 percent of its potential. The company was also attempting to reverse engineer Portland cement rather than buy a recipe. While they had some successes in 1878 and and showed significant progress the following year, shareholders were not happy with the slow rate of return and rebelled. Around 1880, the company president obtained a mortgage for the property from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in order to finally build the necessary furnaces, but the cost of the machinery broke the company.

In January 1881, barely more than two years into its operation, the cement plant shut down. Nothing more was heard until 1888, when a laudatory editorial in the Santa Cruz Daily Sentinel made it clear that the company was still in business, but that the factory was not operating. Indeed, the article, quoting the San Francisco Chronicle, praised the quality of Portland cement made in Santa Cruz County, noting how well it compared to other domestic and foreign cements. However, it noted importantly, no Portland cement had been produced in the county for at least a few years, and speculation was rife over when a proposed expansion of the Cement Works would finally reopen the facility.

In 1890, the name Cement Works was stricken from Southern Pacific agency books. The next year, it was revealed that the Cement Works was not likely to reopen anytime soon. Although the company was a pioneer in Portland cement production in the state, the lack of activity in the 1880s meant that the San Diego cement plant at Jamul gained the notoriety for first commercializing this type of cement in the state. The dilapidated facility, with its tall smokestack sitting unused north of the city, regularly prompted questions from railroad passengers passing the unused siding. The writer of the article lamented the loss of the cement business greatly, asking, “Will it shock the cement silurians of the Santa Cruz works, if we gently suggest that they make a slight effort to avail themselves of the experience and experiments of the enterprising Jamul gentlemen, and see if they can not now find it profitable to resume the operations and revive the slumbering hopes of this cementless community? Shall we not be again gratified by the smoke rolling triumphantly upward from that lonely iron pipe?”

In 1895, the Cement Works property was sold at auction to the mortgagee, the San Francisco Theological Seminary, with a portion sold to S. Eppstein. A remaining section of the property was put up for sale five years later and sold to A. H. Fitch, who demolished the remaining machinery and buildings before putting the property back up for sale. With this, the last trace of the Cement Works was gone from the city. An editorial eulogy for the Cement Works was published by the Sentinel on August 10, 1900, describing the sorry history of the facility and concluding the 23-year legacy of the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company. One of its last vestiges, the railroad siding, probably lingered beside the mainline until 1907, when the Southern Pacific standard-gauged the tracks.

Little developed around the site until the 1930s, when the property was purchased by the Pacific Oil Burner Company. This later passed to Santa Cruz Aggregates, which installed a tall concrete batch mixer at the site and operated a supply yard on the property for many years. In 1964, Graniterock's subsidiary, Central Supply, sought to purchase the entire complex from Santa Cruz Aggregates, but one problem with the site was that it lacked railroad access. Fortunately, a solution was found directly across the tracks to the east.

Looking north at the Graniterock spur as it enters its fenced yard, where a container sits on the tracks, 2012.
[Derek R. Whaley]
The tract of land between the tracks and River Street had originally been owned by Frederick A. Hihn, who had sold the land in 1888 to Maria Edubina, the widow of Desiderio Ferrari. The property later came into the possession of Davenhill & Son, a fuel oil business eventually run by William Davenhill. After he died in 1957, his wife, Selma Anderson, decided to sell the business and the land. Santa Cruz Aggregates jumped at the opportunity, buying it in 1964 and then promptly selling both the aggregate yard and the Davenhill house to Central Supply. A new railroad spur was installed shortly afterwards by Southern Pacific to allow Central Supply to receive goods for the yard.

A single rail is visible in the dirt at the Graniterock spur as viewed from Coral Street looking south, 2012.
[Derek R. Whaley]
Just next door, Sea Berg Metal Fabricators also required rail access and negotiated an easement through the Central Supply Company’s newly-acquired property. However, it seems that Sea Berg rarely used the spur and soon abandoned the practice entirely. Graniterock eventually installed a gate across the spur in February 1973 via an agreement with Southern Pacific, probably marking the point that the spur went into disuse.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9844N, 122.0314W

The site of the Cement Works is still occupied by Graniterock (which absorbed Central Supply). A Home Center and aggregate yard still sits in a large tract along Coral Street across from Costco and beside State Route 1 and the railroad tracks. Likewise, the railroad spur still passes through the small property to the east, although most of the tracks are now covered by buildings, a container, and years of gravel. Roaring Camp still temporarily parks cars on the spur, but the track within the property has been long out of use. Trespassing on the railroad tracks and either of the Graniterock properties is not encouraged, although the Home Center and aggregate yard can be visited during open hours.

Citations & Credits:
  • Luther, Michael, personal correspondence.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, various articles, 1877–1900.
  • Southern Pacific Railroad Company, various documents, 1888–1973.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Zayante Publishing, coming soon.
  • Woolpert, Rose Ann, personal correspondence

Friday, January 24, 2020

Freight Stops: A. K. Salz & Company

During the Spanish and Mexican periods, California was known predominately for its leather industry. Cattle ranches spanned the state, especially along the coast, and with most of these ranches were leather tanneries, which used tanbark oils to turn cattle hides into various leather products including shoes, saddles, furniture, and clothing, among other uses. Santa Cruz County was no exception and several such tanneries were built on the roughly two dozen ranchos that populated the coast from the Pajaro River to Point Año Nuevo.

The San Lorenzo Tannery main office on River Street, c. 1880s. [Tannery Arts Center]
Following the United States annexation of California in 1848 and its ensuing statehood two years later, American businessmen moved into the county and took over many of the established industries. In 1856, James Duncan and William Warren erected a tannery on an eight-acre tract of land on the west bank of the San Lorenzo River on the edge of the former Potrero pastureland of Mission Santa Cruz. It struggled to find its footing and was severely damaged in 1862, when a winter storm characteristically destroyed many of the facility's structures. The entire complex was rebuilt and expanded over the next three years, and then promptly sold to Anton Fischer and Wygand A. Matthew. They, in turn, sold it to a Prussian immigrant, Jacob F. Kron, the next year.

Salz Leather Tannery along the San Lorenzo River. The Southern Pacific right-of-way is barely visible at the top-left, with River Street running down the center-left of the photograph. [Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
It was under Kron's leadership that the San Lorenzo Tannery Company hit its stride. By 1870, the leather industry in Santa Cruz County produced half of all saddle leather produced in California, with San Lorenzo Leather producing a significant portion of that output. Kron's death on April 22, 1879 did little to slow progress as his sons Henry and Frank took over the business and continued in the industry for another thirty years. During this time, the firm of Kullman, Salz & Company from Benicia joined the company as investors and helped keep the business afloat during difficult times.

Salz Tannery work crews posing for a photograph, 1890s. [Tannery Arts Center]
Moses Kullman was a German immigrant who had run a tannery in Stockton alongside another German, Charles Wagner, coming together in 1869. A brother, Herman Kullman, came on the next year, followed by a nephew-by-marriage, Jacob Salz, in 1874. Moses committed suicide in 1878, leaving the company to his immediate family—Herman, Jacob, and a nephew, Charles Hart. They purchased a tannery in Benicia in 1881 and abandoned their Stockton operation to Wagner. It was during these years that Kullman, Salz & Company became invested in the San Lorenzo Tannery, as well as another operation in San Francisco.

Workers taking a hard-earned break at the Salz Tannery, 1955. Photograph by Vester Dick. [Tannery Arts Center]
The Krons finally suffered sufficient hardship by 1915 that they were unable to pay their debts and the San Lorenzo Tannery went into receivership. Kullman, Salz & Company were there to pick up the pieces, merging their independent tannery business in Benicia with that in Santa Cruz in 1918. This partnership continued for over ten years until the crash of 1929 forced the company into liquidation. By this time, Ansley Kullman Salz, Jacob Salz's son, represented the family interests in the firm and, not wanting to lose the precious company that they had been involved with for decades, decided to invest his own money in keeping the business alive, reincorporating as A. K. Salz & Company. His partners in the new enterprise were two longtime plant managers, Stuart Miller and Joseph Bellas.

Various products sold by the A. K. Salz Company, c. 1950s. [Tannery Arts Center]
Despite a terrible fire in 1934, the company continued for another seven decades. They developed the "California Saddle Leather" brand and began exporting leather throughout the United States and abroad. In 1954, Norman Lezin, Salz's son-in-law, became president of the company. That same year, Ansel Adams visited the tannery and took dozens of photographs of the facility and workers. Lezin made several controversial decisions over the ensuing years. In 1956, the company was sold to Pacific Industries, but it returned to Beck in the mid-1960s. Then, around 1970, the firm was sold to Beck Industries, a New York conglomerate, but the company went bankrupt in 1977 and Lezin once again acquired the tannery.

Crews moving around tan bark at the Salz Tannery, 1954. Photography by Ansel Adams.
It was while the company was under Lezin's leadership that the Southern Pacific Railroad finally became involved in the facility. For many years, truckloads of tanbark and tan oil had been shipped to the tannery from outside the county, since most of the local tan oak trees had been harvested out by the end of the nineteenth century. Trains were also necessary for some exports. But the facility was a block away from the railroad right-of-way and, despite some mostly-abandoned storage warehouses, built across River Street from the Salz Tannery, the company did not in fact own the section of land between the road and the tracks.

The Salz Tannery spur within the Las Animas Concrete property, 1970s. Note the tanker car and box car. [Las Animas]
In June 1963, Provenzano Brothers, Inc., a successor to the Cowell Lime & Cement Company, sought permission by the city council to establish a building materials and supply warehouse across from the tannery. The final decision had been deferred multiple times but the site was appropriate for the purpose and was finally confirmed in August. Provenzano, however, were required to either remove or rehabilitate the three tannery buildings on the property, which were used for tan bark storage. Whether the railroad directly delivered the bark to these sheds or shipped it from the Union Depot is unknown. In any case, Provenzano decided almost immediately to extensively renovate the property. A railroad spur was installed to the center of the property and, in December 1864, plans were announced for a large rental warehouse and heavy transit exchange. It was probably at this time that the firm of Las Animas also became involved.

Aerial photograph showing the Salz Tannery and the Provenzano warehouses and transit yard, 1970s.
[Tannery Arts Center]
Around 1968, the Provenzano property was split in half, with the portion along the tracks containing the spur taken over by Las Animas Concrete. It is unclear if Provenzano or Las Animas built the well-known cement tower present at the site today. Provenzano appears to have never used the spur it commissioned and Las Animas never needed it, but the Salz Tannery began using it via an agreement with Provenzano and Las Animas almost immediately. Extant photographs and aerial images from the 1970s shows both tanker cars and poorly-sealed boxcars parked on the spur, suggesting the railroad delivered tan oil and exported leather. A sign at the spur read "For Hide Service Only," further emphasizing that the concrete firm did not use the tracks.

The Salz Tannery spur, just north of Encinal Street, 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
How long this operation continued is unknown, but it likely ended around 1985, when Southern Pacific sold the branch line north of Santa Cruz to Roaring Camp Railroads. Meanwhile, due to competition from China and other developing countries, Salz Leathers increasingly struggled to make a profit. Various attempts to make the business more central to Santa Cruz history, such as awarding it landmark status in 1973 and registering it in the Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey in 1976, failed to stem the tide indefinitely. The tannery finally closed in 2001. It was the oldest operating leather tannery west of the Mississippi River. 

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.98 69N, 122.0324W

The Salz Tannery spur is one of only two spurs that still exist today along this stretch of track. It sits near 146 Encinal Street, which is today occupied by Las Animas Concrete. It has been out of use now for over forty years and the tracks are deeply packed with sand, cement, and other aggregates, although they are still hypothetically usable. Trespassing onto the property is not advised, but it can be visited during operating hours so long as visitors check in at the office first. The site of the tannery itself can also be visited and is now occupied by the Tannery Arts Center, which is an arts community complete with apartments, studios, a theater, dance studio, art gallery, cafe, and offices.


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:

Friday, January 10, 2020

Bridges: Gharky's Vineyard

The grade between Mission Hill in Santa Cruz and the Hogsback within Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is relatively steep for a railroad. Designed as it was in 1875 to access the Davis & Cowell property in Rancho Rincon—a requirement if the railroad wished to build through the property—meant that certain benefits of the earlier route surveyed by the San Lorenzo Valley Railroad in the late 1860s had to be sacrificed. Numerous solutions, too, had to be adopted, such as a tunnel through the Hogsback and substantial bridgework along the slide-prone Coon Gulch. One lesser known, but vitally important, section of track, though also had important bridgeworks installed.

Birds' Eye View of the City of Santa Cruz, 1907. Gharky's Vineyard is at the center-top of this painting, although at this time it is mostly just undeveloped land with an indistinguishable fill for the railroad right-of-way (an unseen train on the tracks is billowing smoke). Downtown Santa Cruz is from the center down and the San Lorenzo River is at right.
[Bancroft Library]
Along the northern boundary of the Santa Cruz city limits, David Gharky owned an 18.893 acre plot that ran beside the west side of (West) San Lorenzo River Road (State Route 9). The awkwardly-shaped property contained a small stream that watered private vineyards owned by Gharky. Unlike the route to the north, through which all gulches and gullies were culverted, Pogonip Creek through Gharky's Vineyard supported a small floodplain that made the grade into the forest all the steeper. To rectify this issue, the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad constructed a substantial fill between today's Encinal Street and the northern boundary of Gharky's property, through his lands and those of J. Heller, with an 80-foot bridge across the creek itself, which passes under the right-of-way between modern Golf Club Drive and Encinal Street. The grade remained relatively steep since the fill was not heavily reinforced and, therefore, settled more than was desirable. Nonetheless, this worked for the light-weight rolling stock of the narrow-gauge Santa Cruz & Felton during the four years that it ran as an independent railroad.

Survey map of the City of Santa Cruz showing the location of David Gharky's land at the northern city limits, 1866. Map by Thomas W. Wright, Santa Cruz County Surveyor. [Jason Christian]
In 1879, the Santa Cruz & Felton was taken over by the South Pacific Coast Railroad, which ran heavier rolling stock and longer, heavier trains, despite remaining narrow-gauge. One of the company's many improvements along the Santa Cruz & Felton line was properly reinforcing the fill through Gharky's vineyard. In August, Chinese work crews moved in and completely regraded and refilled the stretch of track and removed the bridge, replacing it with a culvert and diverting the creek through a canal. It is probably around this time that the pond on the east side of the tracks along Pogonip Creek first formed. It remains today as the Salz Pond, although it is relatively inaccessible to the public. For three decades, nothing changed except the fill's widening around 1907 to support standard-gauge rails. At this time, the culvert was broadened slightly to an approximately five-foot-long ballast-deck bridge that runs over Pogonip Creek.

The creation of the Casa del Rey Golf Links at Pogonip in 1912 prompted the need for an access road. Rather than purchasing several easements from neighbors further south, Fred Swanton purchased only two: one through Gharky's old vineyard, and the other that continued through the adjacent lands once owned by Thomas W. Hinds. This new route met the railroad grade at a point where the tracks were high above the surrounding land, so a cut was made through the fill, and a new bridge installed atop the road.

The bridge over Golf Club Drive on a rainy day, c. 2012. [Derek R. Whaley]
The new bridge above Pogonip Avenue (later Golf Links Boulevard and now Golf Club Drive) was only 20 feet in length and involved no trestlework at all. Instead, a wood ballast bridge was installed over the road supported by two redwood piers, which were eventually shielded from damage with lumber coverings. This unassuming structure has remained in place for over one hundred years, in a sense marking the gateway to Pogonip to visitors of the park. The bridge remains in use by the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway and is now owned and maintained by Roaring Camp Railroads.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Northern (Western) abutment: 36.9897N, 122.0335W
Southern (Eastern) abutment: 36.9895N, 122.0334W

The bridge remains quite visible and accessible to the public along Golf Club Drive. Visitors, however, are advised that the tracks atop the bridge remain an active railway and the area is also heavily frequented by the homeless, so caution is advised at all times. Furthermore, crossing the bridge or walking the tracks is considered trespassing without receiving permission from Roaring Camp Railroads.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, January 3, 2020

Stations: Golf Links

Fred Wilder Swanton was a man with a vision when he decided to add a resort hotel to his Casino and Natatorium at the Santa Cruz Main Beach. The Casa del Rey Hotel opened to great fanfare on May 1, 1911, but no resort is complete without some extra amenities to entice travelers. The hotel included a Spanish garden, lounges, an overbridge to the Casino's grand ballroom, and several other special touches, but Swanton's biggest venture related to the resort was the opening of a golf course two miles away atop a hill on the northern border of Santa Cruz known as Pogonip.

Players teeing off at Hole 7 toward the lower portion of the Casa del Rey Golf & Country Club grounds, 1917. Photograph by Howard Clinton Tibbitts. [Worthpoint]
The Casa del Rey Golf & Country Club was the first golf course built in Santa Cruz County and the last major project overseen by Swanton as president of the Santa Cruz Beach Company. His overspending and poor money management led to the company going bankrupt in 1914 and reincorporating as the Santa Cruz Seaside Company the following December.

Golfers playing a game on the Casa del Rey Golf & Country club course, 1910s.
[Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History]
The golf course was built on 145 acres of Henry Cowell's private ranch, which was leased to Swanton for the purposes of the course. The hill, Pogonip, was named after a Shoshone Native American word that roughly means "icy fog," an appropriate description of the type of weather that often permeates the hill in cold autumn mornings.

The Casa del Rey Golf & Country Club clubhouse beside the artificial lake built in the middle of the Hole 10 fairway, c. 1920s. [Deep Blue Moon]
The location was convenient because it sat immediately beside the Southern Pacific Railroad's branch line between Santa Cruz and San José, so vacationers could be easily shuttled to or from the course by simply taking the train between the Casino and the new Golf Links station built on the west side of the tracks. The station opened to traffic in May 1914 and was located slightly south of the Powder Works spur, which had gone out of use the previous year after the facility shut down. Nothing is known with certainty regarding the arrangement of station, but it was likely a simple structure with an overhead awning and bench seats for waiting passengers. Behind the station, a long flight of stairs ascended to the golf course above. The station was a flag-stop, so passengers had to flag down passing trains.

Players teeing off at Hole 1 outside the Casa del Rey clubhouse, 1917.
Photograph by Howard Clinton Tibbitts. [Worthpoint]
The new golf course opened to the public on February 12, 1912 with a tournament to celebrate George Washington's birthday. The centerpiece of the course was the two-story clubhouse designed by L. D. Esty and erected beside the first tee and the eighteenth hole. This log cabin-style structure, a part of the Craftsman Bungalow style, was unlike anything seen in the city at the time, and harkened back to an earlier, more rustic period, which was appropriate for a golf course that sat on the fringe of the redwood forest.

Panoramic photograph of the clubhouse, 1920s. [Deep Blue Moon]
After the Santa Cruz Beach Company went bankrupt, the golf course was purchased by a new company which operated as the Santa Cruz Golf & Country Club. Without its connection to the Casa del Rey, however, the course struggled to find golfers. The course had been designed as a mid-income experience, but middle class people were not especially interested in golfing at the time. And with the opening of the more upscale Pasatiempo in 1929 and Rio del Mar in 1930, and the advent of the Great Depression the golf course on Pogonip Hill simply could not compete and was forced to shut down in 1934.

A woman riding a horse over a table outside the clubhouse, late 1930s. [Deep Blue Moon]
In 1936, after two years of neglect, the property was taken over by Dorothy and Deming Wheeler, who saw the potential in the location as a polo field and, therefore, opened the Pogonip Social & Polo Club. In addition to running riding classes, polo games, and other horse-related activities on the property, the Wheelers installed a swimming pool and tennis courts beside the refurbished club house. The Golf Links flag-stop, rarely if ever used since the 1910s, was formally abandoned on August 28, 1939.

People playing bike polo outside the clubhouse, 1948. [Deep Blue Moon]
The polo club at Pogonip was relatively short-lived, but significantly better photographed than the earlier golf course. It was somewhat revolutionary in its acceptance of both men and women at the same time, and many photographs attest to this. During World War II, injured servicemen used the location for rehabilitation. The polo club did not reopen after the war but the clubhouse continued to operate as a general-purpose social club and hireable venue for events, operating under the name The Pogonip Club.

The Pogonip Club clubhouse after nearly two decades of abandonment, July 2007.
Photograph by mBeth. [Flickr]
In October 1989, the Loma Prieta Earthquake damaged the clubhouse to a substantial enough degree that it was forced to shut down pending repairs. But those repairs never came. The land and facilities, along with around 500 acres of legacy Cowell land, were donated to the City of Santa Cruz shortly after the earthquake to create Pogonip Open Space. The city promptly filled in the pool and abandoned the tennis courts. The clubhouse is still standing, but the structure is fenced off and access to the public is prohibited even by park staff. Plans to refurbish and reopen the structure have failed repeatedly over the past thirty years, despite consistent pleas from the public to do so.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9962N, 122.0377W

The site of Golf Links station is along the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railroad line about 0.2 miles north of where the tracks enter the redwoods near Golf Course Drive. Legally, this stretch of track is the private property of Roaring Camp Railroads and it is also not an entirely safe stretch of track due to the presence of multiple homeless camps in the area. There are several trails that provide access to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and the University of California, Santa Cruz campus, and the main entrance to Pogonip is via Golf Course Drive off State Route 9.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, December 27, 2019

Stations: Powder Works

When people think of Santa Cruz County, explosive power is not something that usually comes to mind. But when the American Civil War was raging in the east, a group of California investors thought it prudent to prepare for the possibility that the war could migrate West and engulf the continent. They also thought the price of explosive powder, which had to be shipped from the East, had become simply unaffordable. As such, the California Powder Works was incorporated in San Francisco in late 1861 as the first explosive powder refinery on the West Coast.

Cartridge label for a pack of twenty-five 10-gauge bullets produced by the California Powder Works, c. 1900.
[Public domain]
It took the firm two years to decide on an ideal location for its primary facility, but it eventually settled on the broad floodplain of the San Lorenzo River just south of the Hogsback and north of the Santa Cruz city limits. The location was ideal: the surrounding oak, madrone, hazel, and alder provided key materials for barrel-making and charcoal production. The river supplied a constant source of water to run pumps, steam machinery, and essential fire suppression equipment. And the redwood could be cut into timber and used to build structures that had a higher resistance to both fire and explosions than many local woods. Other necessary materials, such as saltpeter and sulfur, were shipped from overseas.

The Powder Works office and community center, 1904.
[Brian and Ollie Hoefer – Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
The nearby paper mill owned by John Simes built the initial facility in early 1864. The powder works included twenty-one powder mills, ten shops, six magazines (warehouses), and thirty-five support structures, such as worker cottages, offices, stables, and the cookhouse. The entire project cost $1,000,000, which was a substantial amount at the time. The powder works opened for business in May 1864, and within the first year, 150,000 kegs of powder weighing 25 lbs. each had been produced. To keep this operation running, John H. Baird, the company president, hired up to 275 men to work year round at the site. To streamline the shipment of powder, the company purchased Gharky's pier at the end of Main Street in Santa Cruz, converting it into the Powder Works Wharf.

A five-horse team driven by Thomas H. Rountree hauling two boxcars to the main entrance
of the Powder Works for the difficult haul up to the railroad grade, c. 1904. [Public domain]
For the first twelve years that it operated, the powder works shipped out all of its products via wagon and steamship. The company extended its wharf to support larger ships, while it improved the southern end of the Bennett Toll Road into Santa Cruz to better withstand the rigor of laden wagons. Within the facility itself, the company installed an extensive horse-powered narrow-gauge railroad system that ensured fluid movement of materials and products between buildings without being encumbered by wet ground and rocks, which in extreme circumstances could cause barrels of explosive material to break and explode.

The covered bridge over the San Lorenzo River at the California Powder Works, June 1890.
Photograph by Clarence Cardoga. [Giannino Collection – Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
Over the San Lorenzo River, a 168-foot-long covered bridge was built in 1872 to resolve a longstanding problem of bridges being washed out in every winter storm. The bridge was a relatively rare Smith truss design and, despite its substantial length, it has withheld the rigors of time to survive to this day as the oldest covered bridge in the county. The bridge spanned the river, linking the superintendent houses on the east bank, as well as some random out buildings, with the primary complex on the west bank of the river.

The tall entry gate along the county road at the point where River Street turned into
West San Lorenzo Drive (the future State Route 9), c. 1890s. [Public domain]
It took very little time for the California Powder Works to see the potential in rail transportation all the way to the Santa Cruz Main Beach. Indeed, it supported the San Lorenzo Valley Railroad project of the late 1860s and early 1870s, which would have passed directly through its property, but the project ran into several legal obstacles and eventually fell apart. A new venture, slightly less convenient for the powder company, came about in late 1874 as the narrow-gauge Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad. Although the route ran far above the powder works, the powder works immediately entered negotiations to find a way to connect their internal rail network to the line between Felton and the Santa Cruz beach, where the railroad was erecting its own Railroad Wharf.

A four-horse team hauling a boxcar up the hillside to the railroad grade, with a brakeman standing atop the car, c. 1880s. [Public domain]
The solution was twofold and required changes at both ends of the powder work's supply line. At the main facility, a tedious, steep switchback was installed between the main entrance of the powder works at the top of River Street (the future State Route 9) and the railroad grade high above. The switchback was completed in 1877 and required two landings for horses to be re-rigged at the opposite end of the boxcar. Conveniently, the grade was so steep that empty boxcars could simply be rolled down the grade by a single brakeman, so horses were only ever required for the climb up to the top.

The Powder Works Wharf in the distance, connected via a short wharf to the Railroad Wharf, c. 1880.
[Public domain]
At the beach, the newly-erected Railroad Wharf, which sat at the end of Pacific Avenue (near the present site of the Municipal Wharf) was connected to the Powder Works Wharf two blocks over via a long, serpentine connection wharf that was slightly wider than a single narrow-gauge track. This allowed the powder works to ship goods directly by rail from its facilities along the river to its wharf at the beach via the Santa Cruz & Felton's tracks. In 1882, the South Pacific Coast Railroad, which took over the Santa Cruz & Felton in 1879, decided that the situation at the beach had become a bit excessive and negotiated a new shipping deal with the powder works that allowed them to use the Railroad Wharf directly. This allowed the powder works to demolish its old wharf and the short-lived connection.

A powder monkey standing outside the Powder Works powerhouse, late 1880s. [Public domain]
Little changed for the powder works of the next three decades. The facility did not expand substantially after it bought the San Lorenzo Paper Mill in 1872, and the relationship with the railroad did not change despite the Southern Pacific Railroad taking over the line in 1887. With the completion of the railroad route through the mountains in 1880, some of the explosive powder began being shipped through the mountains rather than via steamships, and this increased slowly throughout this time, eventually resulting in a powder magazine being setup at a place called Bermingham outside of Los Gatos in 1900. This powder was shipped almost exclusively to the New Almaden quicksilver mines for use in extracting mercury. The 1906 Earthquake, however, triggered a fire within the magazine, which exploded the powder and destroyed the facility.

Overhead view of the foundry and charcoal burner on the west bank of the San Lorenzo River,
with the worker village on the east bank, 1905. [Brian and Ollie Hoefer – Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Indeed, there was a constant risk of explosion when working with gunpowder and it impacted operations at the main facility several times over the decades. Despite building concrete walls with collapsable roofs, frictionless-horse railways throughout the facility, and minimizing the presence of open flames, explosions still happened. In September 1897, 100,000 lbs. of powder exploded in the middle of the night, although nobody was injured due to the hour it happened. A few months later, in April, a series of explosions tore through several buildings in the complex, shaking buildings in Santa Cruz and causing many to flee to the ocean shore in terror. By the end of the day, the storehouses for nitroglycerin and guncotton, several smokeless powder warehouses, and the dryhouse were destroyed, as well as a portion of the workers' village. Meanwhile, part of the surrounding forest was one fire. Fortunately, locals and the Naval Reserve came quickly and stopped the fires from spreading further.

The aftermath of an explosion at the Powder Works, c. 1904. [Brian and Ollie Hoefer – Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Perhaps the most famous incident involving the railroad, though, was when a boxcar full of explosive powder became decoupled from a departing train and started to hurl its way toward Santa Cruz at full speed. Powder Works station at the top of the grade was near the summit of the route, and the right-of-way to the beach was quite steep, especially at the beginning, so away went the boxcar and its inevitable derailment and explosion. Out of sheer luck, nothing impeded it on its way to the beach nor did the boxcar derail. As it passed through the Potrero District and the Mission Hill tunnel, it finally began to slow, coming to a stop just before reaching the base of the Railroad Wharf. Nobody was injured and the boxcar survived to be shipped off to San Francisco.

Powder monkey posing in the black powder magazine, surrounded by tins of powder, c. 1904.
[Brian and Ollie Hoefer – Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Things began to change quickly around the time of the earthquake. In 1898, Colonel Bernard Peyton had taken over the facility and he married into the DuPont Corporation shortly afterwards. DuPont had been an investor in the California Powder Works since 1876 but bought a controlling interest in 1903. The earthquake prompted DuPont to reincorporate its California facilities as the E. I. du Pont de Nemours Powder Company.

The station point for the California Powder Works on the railroad grade, with the siding at left, c. 1910.
[Harold van Gorder – Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History]
At the same time, the standard-gauging of the Southern Pacific tracks at the top of the grade in 1908 was a change the powder works wasn't really prepared for. Within their facility, they continued to use their old narrow-gauge tracks, but the standard-gauge tracks only went down the first switchback, where a large tanker car was parked to provide the powder works with oil. Despite an enlarged siding and transfer siding installed at the top of the grade, the amount of labor required to move dozens of heavy barrels of blasting powder from one boxcar to a bigger boxcar proved untenable.

View of the California Powder Works from the railroad grade high above, 1885.
Photograph by Taber of San Francisco. [William B. Becker – Toledo Museum of Art]
In 1912, an antitrust action against DuPont forced the company to separate its two California powder works (the other being in Hercules). Sant Cruz drew the short straw in the situation, though, and DuPont decided to pull out of the county and focus all of its efforts on its Hercules plant. Many of the staff relocated to the other facility when the California Powder Works shut down in 1914. For the past decade, the Santa Cruz facility had been having some financial hardship, made worse with the inadequate rail facilities prompted by the standard-gauging of the line. The closure was also a massive blow to the community, since the company employed so many people.

The modern entrance to Paradise Park Masonic Resort, where once stood the entry gate
to the California Powder Works, 2012. [Google]
For a decade, the power works sat abandoned, its machinery removed but many of its buildings and its iconic covered bridge left standing. Then, in 1925, the Paradise Park Masonic Club, which had formed the previous year for this purpose, purchased the property to use it as a campground for members. One of the members, Carlotta Scott, provided the name Paradise Park. Like most seasonal communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains, what began as a retreat slowly morphed into a permanent housing subdivision. Most of the former powder works land is now owned by Paradise Park or its residents, although the section to the west of State Route 9 is now privately-owned and the site of the former superintendent houses, which once sat high on the eastern hilltop along Graham Hill Road, have since been demolished.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.9997N, 122.0384W

The site of Powder Works station is not legally accessible to the public and currently sits along the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway's right-of-way high above State Route 9. The former switchback right-of-way that once took boxcars up and down the grade is now a private, one-way road known as Big Tree Manor. Similarly, Paradise Park Masonic Resort is a privately-owned residential subdivision—access is permitted by request or invitation only. The main road between the entry park and the main park, Keystone Way, once was the primary artery of the internal, horse-run railroad network. Very little survives from the time of the California Powder Works within the park except some scattered concrete relics and the covered bridge, which has been on the United States National Register of Historic Places (#15000279) since 2015.

Citations & Credits:
  • Brown, Barry. "The California Powder Works & San Lorenzo Paper Mill". Santa Cruz County History — Santa Crux Public Libraries. Accessed on 13 July 2012. <>
  • "The California Powder Works". Santa Cruz County History — Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Accessed on 13 July 2012. <>
  • Secrest, William B., Jr., and William B. Secrest, Sr. California Disasters, 1812-1899: Firsthand Accounts of Fires, Shipwrecks, Floods, Epidemics, Earthquakes and Other California Tragedies. Sanger, CA: Quill Driver Books, 2005.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.