Friday, March 3, 2017

Quarterly Bulletin – Vol. 2: No. 2 (Apr-Jun 2017)

Santa Cruz Trains Quarterly Bulletin
Vol. 2: No. 2 – April-June 2017

Feature Article:
Repairing tracks in Santa Cruz: The thankless duty of all railroad companies
By Derek Whaley



A recent series of winter storms have swept through Santa Cruz County, destabilizing mountainsides, destroying roads, and damaging portions of railroad track. But winter storms are hardly a new phenomenon. Railroad companies realize quickly that maintaining tracks in Santa Cruz is an expensive task. Photo by Ben Rylander.
From Chittenden in the south to Swanton in the north, the railroad trackage in Santa Cruz County has taken a beating of late.

The Swanton Pacific Railroad had to cancel its annual Al Smith Day in April due to track damage, reporting that "volunteers have already begun planning necessary repairs to the railroad." The right-of-way was already damaged from a New Years' Day washout, but this was made worse by heavy rains in January and February. The road to Swanton is also damaged and unstable, causing further headaches.

On the other side of the county, agricultural run-off has caused the tracks at Gallighan Slough to be completely undercut (see photo, pg 1). Howard Cohen writes that "this is a direct result of illegal dumping of storm water from the adjacent berry field onto the rail corridor."

Slides, sinks, and washouts have also impacted trackage along the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway line. It may take months before all of these routes are running at peak efficiency again, and many repairs will have to wait until the rainy season ends in April.

Although these are just some issues in a laundry list of problems caused by winter storms that saw Santa Cruz County virtually surrounded by closed roads for brief periods of time, they are also not the first time that the county has suffered infrastructure damage due to overly harsh winters. Indeed, the railroad route that once passed through the Santa Cruz Mountains to Los Gatos met its ultimate fate when such a winter storm severely damaged large stretches of the right-of-way in February 1940 in areas that received especially severe poundings in the recent atmospheric rivers. It is doubtful that the existing former right-of-way, today largely a Santa Cruz City water district fire road, remains in the same condition as it did before January. But this is just the way of life in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

When the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad opened in 1875, winter storms tossed much of the track work into the San Lorenzo River near modern-day Inspiration Point and the Garden of Eden. Slides such as this recurred along the same stretch of track almost annually, while larger storms had a habit of destroying the tracks outright. When the South Pacific Coast Railroad took control of the right-of-way in 1879, it built a tunnel beneath Inspiration Point to help avoid an especially persistent slide zone, but slides continued to fall on the tracks at the southern tunnel portal forcing the railroad to repeatedly extend the tunnel entrance further and further to the south.

Beside this site was a place known as Coon Gulch, but in reality it was simply a slide zone that could not sustain a railroad track on solid ground. A cheaply-built wooden bridge spanned it originally, but was replaced with a wooden truss bridge when storms washed out the first structure. This, in turn, was replaced with the elegant concrete arch half-bridge that still sits there today. Now when slides occur, they simply pile up on the tracks and crews push them over into the gorge—the trackage remains more or less intact.

The Santa Cruz Railroad suffered its own problems with winter storms. At the mouth of the San Lorenzo River, a long trestle and truss bridge was built in 1876 to complete the line between Santa Cruz and Watsonville. But in January 1881, a winter storm washed this entire bridge out to sea. This was one of the many reasons the railroad went bankrupt later that year and was sold at auction rate to the Southern Pacific Railroad. A new truss bridge was built in November 1883 to replace it.

An especially rainy winter in 1893, meanwhile, washed out the entire northern entrance portal of the Summit Tunnel between Laurel and Wrights. Crews were on the scene almost immediately to repair and upgrade the portal, installing a custom-designed oval concrete entrance portal that could withstand earth movements and an adjacent spillway to reroute water around the tunnel mouth. When the 1906 earthquake struck, the tunnel broke in half but the northern portal masonry survived unscathed.



Washout from storm damage near Olympia Station on the Southern Pacific route over the Santa Cruz Mountains, February 29, 1940. Bruce MacGregor Collection.
More generally, the routes through the Santa Cruz Mountains, to Watsonville, to Boulder Creek, to Loma Prieta in the modern-day Forest of Nisene Marks, and to Davenport all suffered their share of washouts, slides, and sinks between 1880 and 1940. Meanwhile, runoff from nearby agricultural fields and migratory dunes regularly cover the tracks in north and south county even today. But it is the job of the railroad to accept these expenses and repair the damage on an annual basis.

Until the closure of the Mountain Route in 1940, the Southern Pacific Railroad spent millions of dollars between 1906 and 1939 repairing annual storm damage to its mountain tracks. Bridges were built and reinforced with concrete foundations, tunnel portals were repaired and strengthened, culverts were installed at all major streams and creeks to avoid undercutting the track, and unsteady stretches of right-of-way were braced with redwood beams.

The history of local railroading is one of expensive and frequent repair work. Roaring Camp knew this when they purchased the Southern Pacific trackage between Santa Cruz and Olympia in 1982—it was sold because it was too expensive to repair after the winter storms of that year. Likewise, Iowa Pacific and Swanton Pacific understand that railroading in Santa Cruz County is expensive, but worth the cost. Santa Cruz has a long railroading tradition and no winter storm can put an end to it.


Special Report:
A childhood at the Santa Cruz yard
By Tom Clark

Derailed Southern Pacific freight train near Manresa State Beach,
April 1978. Photo by Tom Clark.
I became a model railroader at an early age, but it was during summer vacation of 1976 that I ramped things up and started to play with real trains. At that time I was 11 years old and, one day while hanging around the Santa Cruz railroad yard, I lucked out and met an engineer, James Hutton. After talking trains with him as we ate lunch, he invited me to sit in the cab of the GP-9 locomotive. This became a daily routine and resulted in my also meeting the brakeman, Bob Dickie, and the conductor, Bob Rice. Dickie was a very charismatic fellow with a corny sense of humor and Rice was a kind grandfather type of figure. The three of them let myself and two of my friends spend a lot of time in the caboose. It was their way of rewarding us for all of the work we saved them, by hooking up all of the rail-car air lines and running over and setting the far away track switches as they stood there and drank their coffee and directed us.

Every morning, I listened for the train horn as it passed 7th Avenue. That gave me enough time to run up the two flights of stairs to my parents’ third story attic where I could watch the first locomotive appear onto the trestle at the Boardwalk.

First, I counted the number of engines, then I made guesses as to how many cars the engine quantity might indicate. Many times there were 60 to 80 cars, first the Pacific Fruit Express reefers and Hydra Cushion box cars, then a random assortment of Staley tank cars and empty lumber flat cars. The last two-thirds of the train was always hopper cars loaded with coal and empty, covered hoppers for picking up cement from the Davenport cement plant. Before the caboose emerged from the hillside and onto the trestle, I was usually down the stairs and out the door, jumping onto my bicycle to race down to the yard and meet Jim and the rest of the crew. 

Two years later, in April of 1978, word got out that a train derailed at Manresa State Beach on its way to Watsonville Junction. That was a bit outside of my cycling distance, so I pestered my mom to take me until she gave in. Actually, she was curious and glad to do so.

I watched and took pictures with my Kodak “Instamatic” for a couple of hours on that cold, foggy morning. The crew laid new track sections onto the road bed, then placed wheel trucks onto the tracks, measured the distance between them, and then placed the cars back onto the trucks. A pair of heavy cranes, one at each end, raised and lowered the cars back onto their trucks with cable slings.

Boxcar being loaded by crane back onto its trucks near Manresa State

Beach, April 1978. Photo by Tom Clark.

That was when I learned that the only thing holding the cars onto the trucks was their own weight. A pin on each truck inserted into a hole on the underside of each end of the car, plus gravity. Restoration of the railroad line was a relatively short process and, if my memory serves me right, the Santa Cruz Branch was up and running just a couple of days later.A year after the retirement of engineer Jim Hutton, I moved with my family to Garmisch-Partenkir- chen in the Bavarian Alps. This put an end to my adventures on the Santa Cruz line, since when I got back, I discovered new circles of friends and new activities.

All these years later, I keep thinking about one thing: Jim Hutton was 65 when he retired in 1977; that means he was born around 1912. After thinking about this, I realized how much steam-era railroading he must have experienced. Those GP-9 Diesel locomotives, as old as they looked to me, were just new-fangled things to him, that came along in the later years of his career. Oh the questions I wish I had known to ask....

Railroading News:
Railroad Museum moves to North Bay
After over a year of indecision by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Committee (RTC), the Golden Gate Railroad Museum management finally found a new home on the Northwestern Pacific Railway trackage at Schellville as of January 6, 2017. Plans are in place to store the rolling stock at the local freight yard until a more permanent facility is built.

The museum has yet to comment on plans for the future beyond the building of their storage facilities, but they have hinted at a permanent museum nearby and the possibility of excursions both locally along the NWP line and further afield. Currently, the museum's rolling stock remains at the Niles Canyon freight yard awaiting available storage space and negotiations with the Union Pacific Railroad for a relocation. Further information on the museum's relocation project is not known at this time.
Polar Express woes
On December 2, concerns were raised about the wobbly nature of the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway's seasonal Polar Express train as it travelled between Capitola and New Brighton State Beach. A Trail Now video went viral accompanied by complaints from some early passengers, prompting the excursions to be canceled for ten days.

Iowa Pacific Holdings, parent company of the local railroading franchise, issued a statement on December 3, stating that the ten-day delay was not, in fact, due to track problems but rather because the company had failed to file notice with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that the track was in a sufficient condition to qualify for excepted track status. The filing period for such a filing is ten days.

Although they were under no obligation to do so, Iowa Pacific conducted numerous repairs along the right-of-way to decrease the wobbling during the ten days in which they awaited approval from the FRA. Also, to make up for a week of lost sales and canceled tickets, the railroad added three more days of excursions prior to Christmas.

Approval was given on December 9 for the Polar Express to resume normal operations the following evening. No track defect violations were found by the FRA, while service across the line was improved during the waiting period.
Chinese tourists ride train, skip city
For the past few months, tour buses full of up to 300 Chinese tourists have quietly been visiting Roaring Camp Railroads almost daily in the twilight hours before the park officially opens.

As part of a whirlwind three-day tour between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a group called Sea Tours departs from Monterey early each morning and arrives at Roaring Camp. Usually, they take a quick 40-minute train ride to Rincon aboard the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific line before being whisked away northward. The groups give the City of Santa Cruz a complete skip.

The recent winter storms have shortened these excursion rides but not ended them. Since January, the special early morning excursions have taken the tourist groups either past Mount Hermon to the north or south into San Lorenzo Gorge to Inspiration Point. The highlights of the trip are the redwood forests and the river or Bean Creek, depending on the journey.
Capitol Corridor to pass through Pajaro
Following a tax boost from the recent November election, plans to extend Caltrain's Capitol Corridor south to Salinas are now in the works. Contracts are already being signed for demolition crews who will remove existing portions of track to facilitate the upgrade of the entire line between Gilroy and Salinas.

Although this project will not immediately benefit Santa Cruz County, plans are in place to upgrade the stations at Watsonville Junction and Castroville for future use as passenger hubs for people commuting along restored Santa Cruz and Monterey branch lines. The Santa Cruz Branch line, owned by the county and operated by Iowa Pacific Holdings, has been involved in a long-term feasibility study to assess, among other things, the merits of restoring passenger service to the county. Monterey County, meanwhile, has a larger challenge ahead due to the repurposing of their trackage as a rail trail and heavier local resistance.

Web Register:
Facebook Chatter (/groups/sctrains)
ContinuousThanks to photographer Howard Cohen for keeping everybody abreast of the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railways operations this past winter. Other frequent photographic contributors include Gary McCourt, Dom Blevins, Bill Dawkins, Brian Bergtold, and Janie Soito. Dec. 12 – William Turner shared a humorous video of a Canadian train plowing through snow-covered tracks. Dec. 20 – Dale Phelps shared an hour-long documentary produced by Bruce MacGregor on the railroad car manufacturing business of Thomas and Martin Carter in the 1870s. The full documentary can be found here. Dec. 23 – Dana Bagshaw informed visitors that the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center has a toy railroad display running for the holiday season. Howard Cohen also noted an increase in boys crossing the Soquel Creek bridge over Capitola Village, warning the public that this is both illegal and highly dangerous. Dec. 26 – Soito shared a video recorded by a drone of the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific's seasonal Holiday Lights Train as it drove down Beach Street toward the wye. The video can be viewed here. Trevor Park of Treefrogflag Productions also shared his half-hour documentary about the return of passenger service to Santa Cruz County, which is available here. Jan. 2 – Ian Applegate shared a special New Years’ Eve video of the Holiday Lights Train, available here. Jan. 8 – Derek Whaley shared his interview with John Abatecola at TSG Multimedia, available here. Cohen also shared photographs of tank cars that are currently being stored on the Santa Cruz Branch Line, prompting a discussion between members on the merits of hiding Union Pacific rolling stock on unused local track. Jan. 11 – A mysterious train whistle heard across Santa Cruz prompted a long, somewhat conspiracy-laden conversation over train whistles on cars and Trail Now! advocates attempting to sabotage local railroading. Jan. 12 – Dawkins shared video footage of the century-old causeway at Wrights still being used to divert water in the recent winter storms. The video is available here. Jan. 30 – Dawkins shared a photograph of a South Pacific Coast Railroad pile-driver, prompting a discussion on the construction of the railroad over the mountains. Feb. 7 – Whaley shared an LA Times article about the end of government-sponsored rail projects in California. Dwight Ennis, in response, gave an excerpt from a San José Mercury News article explaining precisely why rail projects are not profitable or feasible currently. Whaley also advocated for the creation of a digital railroad journey using Unity, which prompted Dawkins to provide the following link to a digital recreation of the route between Felton and Boulder Creek. Feb. 12 – Dawkins recommended setting up temporary passenger service between Santa Cruz and Pajaro due to the closure of numerous roads throughout the county. Feb. 13 – James Galleguillos recommended the Railroad Park Resort in Dunsmuir to people wanting to spend the night in an old converted railroad car. Feb. 16 – James Davey shared a video of a Union Pacific train passing in front of the Boardwalk in 2004. Feb. 17 – Dawkins shared a photograph of a collision in Santa Clara in 1903 between Southern Pacific and South Pacific Coast trains. Feb. 23 – Tom Clark shared photographs of a derailment near Manresa State Beach in 1978 (see article above).


Recent SantaCruzTrains.com articles:
DEC. 16 – Sea Pride Packing Corporation
DEC. 23 – Carmel Canning Company
DEC. 30 – Monterey Fish Products
JAN. 6 – Roller Coasters at the SC Beach Boardwalk
JAN. 13 – Custom House Packing Corporation
JAN. 27 – Castroville Freight Yard
FEB. 3 – McGowans Nos. 1 and 2
FEB. 10 – Petersen
FEB. 17 – Pajaro
FEB. 24 – Trafton

Monthly Timetable:
MARCH 
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Mar. 1-14: Weekends 11:00am-3:00pm
Mar. 15-31: Weekends 10:30am-4:30pm

Wednesdays 10:30am-3:00pm
Roundtrip from the Billy Jones Depot kiosk

Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum
Open House
Mar. 3: 5:00–8:00pm
Mar. 4-5: 10:00am–4:00pm

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
RTC Meeting
Mar. 2: 9:00am @ County Board of Supervisors Chambers

Transportation Policy Workshop
Mar. 16: 9:00am @ TBA

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
Mar. 1-31: Daily @ 12:30pm [Steam only on weekends]
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Rain Forest Weekends
Mar. 1-26: Every weekend

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Beach Train
Mar. 30-31: Daily
Departs from Roaring Camp Station & Boardwalk

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway
Not operating

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
Mar. 11-12
Come volunteer and ride the trains!

APRIL
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Weekends 10:30am-4:30pm

Wednesdays 10:30am-3:00pm
Roundtrip from the Billy Jones Depot kiosk

Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum
Open House
Apr. 7: 5:00–8:00pm
Apr. 8-9: 10:00am–4:00pm

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
RTC Meeting
Apr. 6: 9:00am @ TBA

Transportation Policy Workshop
Apr. 20: 9:00am @ TBA

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
Apr. 1-30: Weekdays @ 11:00am

Weekends @ 11:00am, 12:30pm
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Model Railroad Exhibit
Apr. 8-9 @ at the General Store exhibition space

Eggstraordinary Easter Egg Hunt
Apr. 15-16
Train rides with an Easter egg hunt on Bear Mountain

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Beach Train
Apr. 1-30: Daily
Departs from Roaring Camp Station & Boardwalk

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway
Not operating

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
Apr. 8-9, 22
Come volunteer and ride the trains!

MAY
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Weekends 10:30am-4:30pm

Wednesdays 10:30am-3:00pm
Roundtrip from the Billy Jones Depot kiosk

Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum
Open House
May 5: 5:00–8:00pm
May 6-7: 10:00am–4:00pm

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
RTC Meeting
May 4: 9:00am @ TBA

Transportation Policy Workshop
May 18: 9:00am @ TBA

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
May 1-26, 30-31: Weekdays @ 11:00am

Weekends @ 11:00am, 12:30pm, 2:00
May 27-29: 11:00am, 12:30pm, 2:00, 3:30
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Annual Civil War Battles & Encampment
May 27-29: Activities across Roaring Camp

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Beach Train
May 1-31: Daily
Departs from Roaring Camp Station & Boardwalk

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway
Not operating

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
May 13-14, 27-28
Come volunteer and ride the trains!

Imprint: Derek R. Whaley, editor. For submissions, email author@santacruztrains.com.
© 2016-2017 Derek R. Whaley. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Quarterly Bulletin – Vol. 2: No. 1 (Jan-Mar 2017)

Santa Cruz Trains Quarterly Bulletin
Vol. 2: No. 1 – January-March 2017

Feature Article:
Measure D Passes – New Study to Assess Local Rail and Trail
By Barry Scott

After months of campaigning and endless bickering between proponents and opponents of the bill, Measure D has passed into law with the required supermajority in Santa Cruz County. But what does this comprehensive transportation funding plan mean for the Santa Cruz Branch Line and the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Trail? Quite a lot, actually.

Fourteen California counties floated transportation sales tax measures this year in a response to what has become a crisis in funding new construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure projects.  Santa Cruz with Measure D and Monterey with Measure X were two such counties. While many counties focused on maintenance and construction of roads and highways, Santa Cruz opted for an impressive blend of road and highway projects with support for Metro transit, bike and pedestrian trails, and a little—eight percent—for upkeep of the rail corridor and additional studies of transit on the Branch Line.


The rail component began at 15%, and it might even have been 20% and been able to fund actual passenger rail service but for the fact that sales tax measures of this type require a supermajority, 66.7% approval, in order to pass. Santa Cruz County civic leaders had the unenviable task of finding a distribution of revenue that would garner public support—not too much for Highway 1, not too much for the Branch Line or rail trail. A plan to dedicate $10 million to build a rail station at Pajaro was axed and more money was put into the Metro bucket in the aftermath of their service cuts. All in all, Measure D was a pretty balanced package, and one of the most alternative transportation-friendly measures ever produced in the state.

Hotly contested by one loud, but small local group, the measure passed by 67.46%, with more than 80,000 voters saying yes, more than the required two-thirds required. The votes for Measure X in Monterey County, with similar (though smaller) contributions to transit and trails, has yet to be called and stands at 67.12% approval. The Transportation Agency of Monterey County (TAMC), had the same challenge the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) had in presenting a balanced measure that could pass. Both organizations are partners in regional rail projects, and passage of Measure X is important to the success of local projects in both counties.

Measure D is great news for rail transit proponents for more reasons than the meager 8% allocated to the rail corridor. An additional 17% of funds are earmarked for the Monterey Bay Scenic Sanctuary Trail network, which will be expanded beyond the almost eleven miles of parallel track and trail that has already been funded through previous measures. As more of this parallel trail is built, it will become more difficult for anti-rail, trail-only advocates to remove the existing rail infrastructure. When considered together, 25% of Measure D is dedicated to the award-winning rail-and-trail project.

Source: Santa Cruz County RTC, “Measure D: 2016 Transportation Improvement Plan" <http://sccrtc.org/funding-planning/2016transportationballotmeasure> 27 November 2016.
Measure D funds additional studies necessary to pursue eventual rail transit, including environmental and economic analyses, and without this funding the project would be at full stop. The newly-commissioned Unified Corridors Investment Study will look at investments that can be made to the highway, Soquel Avenue and Soquel Drive, and the rail corridor in an integrated and sustainable manner. A request for proposals has been issued and a consultant will be selected to help develop four investment “themes” that the RTC will provide for evaluation. The consultant will score transportation investment proposals using performance metrics based on the Sustainable Transportation Analysis and Rating System (STARS) that shaped the goals and policies of the long-range Regional Transportation Plan. STARS ensures that economic, environmental, and equity needs are met in a balanced way.

Rail transit serves this goal very well and there is good reason to be optimistic about the future of the Branch Line. This coming year, look for updates from the RTC and attend hearings and stay current by signing up for updates at: http://sccrtc.org/about/esubscriptions.

Barry Scott is an Aptos resident and the California state program director for the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED).


Special Report:
Advice for aspiring rail explorers
By Brian Liddicoat

“I won’t tell you how to get there. That would ruin it for you. Finding it yourself is half the fun.”

That is what Professor Sandy Lydon told me over a decade ago when I asked him for help in finding the “lost tunnels” of the South Pacific Coast Railroad. In those days, there were very few websites that even mentioned the tunnels. There was no Google Maps. Exploring and finding the old right-of-way was a lot more work in those days, but that just made finding it that much more meaningful. Today, with two kids and a busy law practice, I really appreciate having websites that help me find just about any railroad site on the first try with my iPhone’s map app, but there’s something to be said for trying so many trails to find a tunnel portal that you begin dreaming about it at night.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself a few things about exploring abandoned railroads that might have saved me a lot of time and heartbreak:

First, start at the local library. All the answers you seek are there. That is still good advice for just about any research project. I wasted many weekends of hiking in the wrong place when a look through books on the local railroads would have pointed me in the right direction.

Another piece of advice: go now. If you wait a year, it may be gone. In the 1990s, I had no interest in exploring railroads. That is too bad because, in just a few short years, we lost both the Northwest Pacific Railroad, with its incredible series of tunnels and trestles, and then the vast, historic Norden complex near Donner Pass. A lot of short-line railroads have gone under in the same time period and are now lost forever. The Northwest Pacific could have kept a railroad explorer in business for years, with miles of gorgeous redwood-lined track. In the decade since its closure, the right-of-way has become so overgrown as to be largely impassable to all but the most dedicated. I am still hoping to visit Island Mountain (Google it), but it will have to be by helicopter. So, if you learn of something that interests you, don’t wait: go now!


Lastly, be safe and sensible. I should tell you to always take another person with you, but, the truth is, walking abandoned railroads is my “me” time. Still, railroad exploration means going into remote areas where dangerous conditions should be expected. At least tell someone where you are going and draw them a map if you can. Tell them to call law enforcement if you aren’t back by a given time. If you are confronted by property owners or railroad police, apologize profusely and leave. It is not about avoiding arrest. It is more about not making people so frustrated and angry that they put up fences and gates to keep out the rest of us. I have always been pleasantly shocked at how accommodating railroad crews are if you are polite and simply indicate that you want to photograph the line. Be nice.

So, get out there! Even if you don’t find your railroad or right-of-way, you are going to see some beautiful scenery and may even make some friends. An abandoned railroad is like a long, winding time machine. Walk carefully and pay attention. It is talking to you, telling you of great sacrifice and glory long sleeping, but it has not quite disappeared yet

Warning: The Santa Cruz Branch Line is a live rail line and not abandoned. For your safety, please do not trespass on the rail line. Violators may be prosecuted.



Railroading News:
Whaley releases new local trains book
It has been nearly two years since Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains first released, and sales have remained steady and interest in the book and the history of Santa Cruz County railroading is strong than ever before.
Thus, it is unsurprising that author and historian Derek R. Whaley has found time to release a short companion book to his historical tome. Entitled Santa Cruz Trains: Reflections on the Mountain Route, this 64-page coffee table book features 30 rare and unpublished photographs and postcards of sights and scenes associated with the Southern Pacific Railroad's former route through the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Accompanying these photographs are 31 quotations from local newspapers, railroad magazines, contemporary books, and famous authors of the nineteenth century proclaiming the wonders and visual splendor of the once-famous route through the redwoods.

This is a collection of photographs and quotes that will make one smile and reflect fondly on what was once perceived as a modern marvel and one of the most beautiful railroad routes in the world.

Santa Cruz Trains: Reflections on the Mountain Route is available now Create Space.com for $12.99. It will be available on Amazon in mid-December.

Silence over future of railroad museum
As the date of the election approached, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) decided to delay a final decision on the relocation of the Golden Gate Railroad Museum that was proposed over a year ago by the organization. Since the election, however, the first two meetings of the RTC have been cancelled leaving the museum move in doubt. Currently, the museum rolling stock is being stored at Niles Canyon awaiting transfer to a new venue.

If you wish for the museum to move to Santa Cruz, let the RTC know by emailing info@sccrtc.org.

Historian Brian Liddicoat gives talk
In what is becoming a rather common event in Santa Cruz County, Watsonville lawyer Brian Liddicoat recently gave a free talk at Loma Prieta School entitled "Trains and Lumbering in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 1800s". Held on October 20, this event was sponsored by the Loma Prieta Museum and the Loma Prieta Community Foundation. Liddicoat has discussed local railroad history throughout the Bay Area since 2009. He has given twenty presentations on the various aspects of the local railroads and the industries that utilized them. If you are interested in having Liddicoat speak at an event, contact him at (831) 594-4418.

Sustainable guided bus system proposed
At the October 6th meeting of the RTC, a proposal to replace the current tracks along the Santa Cruz Branch Line with a guided bus system was proposed by Stanley Sokolow, who included in his proposal many photographs and links to successful guided bus operations.

Sokolow’s primary argument is that, although a light rail train can carry more passengers than a bus, such a system is unsuitable for Santa Cruz County due to its restricted population size and the range of the right-of-way. He notes the flexibility of the system compared to trains, since the buses can go off the track when needed, and he recommends the local government look at cities like Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, which have recently adopted such a system. Implementation of this proposal would replace the current Santa Cruz Branch Line tracks.

Fiery Summer in the mountains
On September 28, Ian Applegate and his coworker, Jason Bunter, were working on the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railroad in the morning when they smelled smoke in the woods nearby. They were doing right-of-way maintenance near the Garden of Eden footpath just south of the San Lorenzo River truss bridge and an illegal campfire has broken out of its pit and was beginning to spread to the surrounding trees. Although the fire was only about five feet in diameter when they called 911, it had grown to roughly sixty feet by the time they hung up. The only reason it was contained was because they happened to be working in the area. This was the third of three small fires that broke out along the right-of-way last summer.

“The End of the Line” article published
Derek R. Whaley recently published an article entitled "The End of the Line: The Abandonment of Passenger Services in Santa Cruz County, California" in Railroad History (No. 215 Fall-Winter 2016).

The article documents when the various rail services were set up in Santa Cruz County and then discusses the reasons why the passenger service industry collapsed in the county between 1930 and 1959.

The article is supplemented with nearly two dozen photographs, many of which have never been published before. Whaley has been working on this article since 2014. Single copies of the issue can be purchased for $15 at http://rlhs.org/Publications/History/rrhback.shtml.


Web Register:
Facebook Chatter (/groups/sctrains)
Continuous – Brian Bergtold and Howard Cohen have been sharing videos and photographs of the Santa Cruz Branch Line in action. In addition, Tom Clark, Bill Dawkins, Ralph Parks, Dale Phelps, Craig Polson, Lisa Robinson, and Derek Whaley have all posted wonderful historical photographs of the local lines.
Sept. 3 – Dawkins shared some information on the Nestldown miniature railroad, which operates at a private wedding venue on Old Santa Cruz Highway.
Sept. 4 – Ian Applegate posted photos of the Roaring Camp Beach Train relocating to the San Lorenzo River bridge to allow EMT access at the Boardwalk on Labor Day.
Sept. 22 – Phelps reposted an enlightening article about Alma originally posted on the San Jose History page.
Oct. 1 – Dawkins posted a lovely newspaper article from 1875 announcing the opening of the Felton & Santa Cruz Railroad.
Oct. 2 – Bergtold posted a video showing all four Roaring Camp steam locomotives operating during the Harvest Faire & Steam Festival.
Oct. 3 – Polson discovered two original South Pacific Coast Railroad passes for sale on eBay.
Original South Pacific Coast Railroad ride pass from 1887, the last year the railroad ran independently of Southern Pacific.
Oct. 10 – Janie Soto shared an intriguing Watsonville Register-Pajaronian article from 1995 discussing plans to restore passenger rail service to Santa Cruz County.
Oct. 16 – Whaley reposted Bruce Sawhill's letter to the Santa Cruz Sentinel extolling the virtues of restoring the Santa Cruz branch line to full service. Whaley also shared a source for free railroad journals on the web.
Nov. 3 – Trevor Park shared a video from his Treefrogflag Productions studio of the Roaring Camp trains during the Harvest Faire & Steam Festival.
Nov. 9 – Karl Rowley posted troubling news that Brian Peoples of "Trail Now!" has been spreading false propaganda about the fiscal and environmental costs of a restored Santa Cruz branch line.
Nov. 10 – Cohen posted a photograph showing repairs to a washout at La Selva Beach, as well as evidence of track repairs and upgrades in preparation for the Polar Express excursion train.
Nov. 12 – Bergtold posted a video of the Santa Cruz Lumber Company railroad operation on Pescadero Creek from 1953.
Nov. 18 – Gil Pennington revealed some excellent local stereoscopic images he found on ebay.
Nov. 20 – James Davey posted a video of a derailment at Aromas in November 2003.
Nov. 21 – Thomas Rivette expressed concern regarding the status of the railroad bridges on the Santa Cruz branch line. The answer can be found here. Cohen also reported that the Polar Express's gallery cars arrived, allowing the excursions to go forward.
Nov. 22-23 – Cohen showed photographs of a SC&MB locomotive leading repair work on the branch line.

Recent SantaCruzTrains.com articles:
SEPT. 2 – Curiosities: Skee-Roll at the Boardwalk
SEPT. 9 – Aeneas Sardine Products Co.
SEPT. 16 – American Can Co.
SEPT. 23 – San Carlos & E.B. Gross Canneries
SEPT. 30 – Monterey Canning Co.
OCT. 7 – Curiosities: The Hihn Railroad Grade
OCT. 14 – San Xavier Fish Packing Co.
OCT. 21 – Hovden Food Products Corp.
OCT. 28 – Enterprise Packing Co.
NOV. 4 – F.E. Booth and Edgewater Packing Co.
NOV. 11 – Curiosities: Casa del Rey Hotel
NOV. 18 – Del Mar Canning Co.
NOV. 25 – Pacific Fish Co. & California Packing Corp.


Monthly Timetable:
DECEMBER
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Weekends 11:00am-3:00pm
Roundtrip from the Billy Jones Depot kiosk

Los Gatos Children's Holiday Parade
Dec. 3: 11:00am-1:00pm

Holiday Train
Dec. 8-11: 6:00pm-9:00pm
Dec. 15-23: 6:00pm-9:00pm

Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum
Open House
Dec. 2: 5:00pm–8:00pm
Dec. 3-4: 10:00am–4:00pm

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
Special RTC Meeting
Dec. 8: 9:00am @ Santa Cruz City Council Chambers

Transportation Policy Workshop
Dec. 15: 9:00am @ TBA

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
Dec. 1-2: 12:30 [Diesel #40]
Dec. 5-31 Daily: 12:30am [Steam only on weekends]
Dec. 25 No trains running
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Holiday Tree Walk
Dec. 3-4, 10-11: 12:30pm
View decorated Christmas trees atop Bear Mountain!

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train
Dec. 3, 11 19-22: 6:30pm
Dec. 4, 10, 18, 23: 5:00pm, 6:30pm
Dec. 17: 5:00pm, 6:30pm, 8:00pm
Roundtrip from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Chanukah Train
Dec. 29: 6:30pm
Roundtrip from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway
The Polar Express™
Dec. 1, 7-8, 14-15: 5:30pm, 7:30pm
Dec. 2, 9, 16: 3:00pm, 5:30pm, 7:30pm
Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-23: 1:00pm, 3:00pm, 5:30pm, 7:30pm
Roundtrip from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
Dec. 10-11
Come volunteer and ride the trains!


JANUARY
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Weekends 11:00-3:00pm
Roundtrip from the Billy Jones Depot kiosk

Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum
Open House
Jan. 6: 5:00pm–8:00pm
Jan. 7-8: 10:00am–4:00pm

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
RTC Meeting
Jan. 5: 9:00am @ TBA

Transportation Policy Workshop
Jan. 19: 9:00am @ TBA

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
Jan. 1-31: 12:30 [Steam only on weekends and holidays]
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Not operating

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway
Not operating

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
Jan. 8-9
Come volunteer and ride the trains!


FEBRUARY
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Weekends 11:00-3:00pm
Roundtrip from the Billy Jones Depot kiosk

Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum
Open House
Feb. 3: 5:00pm–8:00pm
Feb. 4-5: 10:00am–4:00pm

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
RTC Meeting
Feb. 2: 9:00am @ TBA

Transportation Policy Workshop
Feb. 16: 9:00am @ TBA
Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
Jan. 1-31: 12:30 [Steam only on weekends and holidays]
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Not operating

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway
Not operating

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
Feb. 4-5
Come volunteer and ride the trains!


Imprint: Derek R. Whaley, editor. For submissions, email author@santacruztrains.com.

© 2016-2017 Derek R. Whaley. All rights reserved.