Friday, June 2, 2017

Quarterly Bulletin – Vol. 2: No. 3 (Jul-Sep 2017)

Santa Cruz Trains Quarterly Bulletin
Vol. 2: No. 3 – July-September 2017

Feature Article:
Santa Cruz railroads on YouTube: The story of Treefrogflag Productions
By Trevor Park


If you are a fan of railroading in the Santa Cruz area, you have probably seen one of our videos. While we do produce other railroad related content, the bulk of Treefrogflag Productions’ YouTube Channel is comprised of videos from the Santa Cruz area. We’ve covered everything from the evolution of the Santa Cruz Branch line to the continuing saga of Roaring Camp Railroads. However, Treefrogflag Productions came from humble beginnings.

Paul Nolan sets up his camera next to Trevor's camera for the very first day of filming for "Passenger Trains return to the Santa Cruz Branch" on April 17, 2015 for Treefrogflag Productions. Photograph by Trevor Park.
I started the YouTube Channel back in 2008 so I would have a place to post my very rudimentary Roaring Camp videos. I was into flags at the time and had a tree frog as a pet. For some reason I couldn't think of a good name that was related to trains, so I decided to call the channel Treefrogflag.

While these early videos were not even 1% of the quality of our current content, it was a good start to something great. I ran the channel for many years on my own until around 2013. At this point, my friend Paul Nolan, who had been running his own YouTube Channel, had the grand idea of combining our growing production skills and making videos together for Treefrogflag Productions. 

Trevor Park (right) and Paul Nolan (left) stand in front of Roaring Camp Railroads engine #3, Kahuku. Photograph by Phil Reader.
Paul and I have known each other since we were two years old and Paul actually grew up next door to my aunt. They both lived directly across the street from the Santa Cruz Branch line, which saw three round-trip trains a week when we were little kids. Paul and I have very fond memories of watching the Santa Cruz local going by, one of the many reasons why we both got the railfan bug. He and I both thought it was a good idea to make train videos in our spare time, but it was only once we combined our video skills that Treefrogflag Productions really became something.

Our first collaborative project happened to be a video on the 50th anniversary of Roaring Camp Railroads, when all four steam locomotives were rolled out of the shop under steam as a celebration for the railroad’s birthday. We loved the way this project turned out so much that we continued making videos together.

Paul and I have since made many releases, the most popular of which today is our "Trains Return to the Santa Cruz Branch" video (2015) that shows the first train on the Santa Cruz Branch since the rebuilding of the La Selva Beach Bridge.

It is extremely rewarding for us to be able to make videos that people enjoy watching and hopefully learn something from. We love being able to share our passion for railroading through our videos, and we hope you will go check out the channel soon! 

You can find our YouTube channel at this link: www.youtube.com/user/treefrogflagAnd you can like us on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/TreefrogflagProductions.

Historical Moment:
Santa Cruz's first Cement Works
By Derek Whaley

Sometimes when writing history, not all the information is there when you need it. As I wrote Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Potrero District was an evolving beast. I was never entirely happy with it but the article had to be finished. A few months later, information from Newspapers.com, an old Southern Pacific stations book, and Michael Luther, an author of Limekiln Legacies, revealed the otherwise undocumented earliest patron of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the Potrero District.

The following information, a "deleted scene" from my book that belongs near the top of page 53, is the product of Luther and my research on the topic from mid-2015.

In March 1877, the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company established its base of operations in Hiram Abiff Imus’s orchard, immediately next to Gharkey’s orchard and the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad right-of-way near modern-day Pogonip Open Space.1 Popularly known as the Santa Cruz Cement Works, the company had a shaky and ultimately failed existence in the county from the beginning.

The first year of operation for the Cement Works began in October 1878 when a large fĂȘte 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 A.Y. Easterby, was a prominent San Joaquin Valley farmer who was one of the first to plant wheat in California.2 The Cement Works included three patented pieces of machinery, the Davis Pulverizer being the showcase of the operation. To support the Cement Works, a railroad siding was established immediately beside the Santa Cruz & Felton tracks.3 When the Southern Pacific Railroad leased this route in 1887, the station was formally named “Cement Works” in agency books.AB1888

From the very beginning, the Cement Works was troubled. The facility lacked a mixer or any furnaces, crippling its operation to 25 percent capacity. The company was attempting to reverse engineer Portland cement, but for two years it failed to produce something useable and the shareholders rebelled. Around 1880, the company president obtained a mortgage for the property from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in order to finally build the missing furnaces, but the high cost of the machinery broke the company.4 In January 1881, barely more than two years into its operation, the cement plant shut down.5 Nothing more was heard about the company 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 that 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.6

In the 1890 Southern Pacific agency book, the name “Cement Works” was stricken from the stations list.SP1890 The next year, it was revealed that the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company 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 Portland cement in the state. The dilapidated state of the 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?”7

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.8 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.9 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.10 One of its last vestiges, the railroad siding, probably lingered beside the mainline until around 1907 when the Southern Pacific standard-gauged the tracks.

A few years after the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company shut its doors, a new company under the same name opened in Davenport, soon afterwards returning Santa Cruz County to prominence in the Portland cement market. Few people then knew or remembered this first failed attempt to make Santa Cruz the Portland cement capital of California. The site of Cement Works is now the Granite Rock Company’s facility on Coral Street, which has its own now-abandoned spur.

Citations:
1. SC Weekly Sentinel, 09/29/1877, 3:5; ibid, 03/12/1881, 2:3.
2. SC Weekly Sentinel, 10/12/1878, 2:2.
3. SC Sentinel, 06/28/1893, 2:2.
3. SC Sentinel, 08/10/1900, 2:2.
4. SC Weekly Sentinel, 01/08/1881, 3:1.
5. SC Sentinel, 02/14/1888, 2:1.
6. SC Sentinel, 04/01/1891, 1:1.
7. SC Sentinel, 01/03/1895, 3:1.
8. SC Sentinel, 04/24/1900, 2:6; SC Evening Sentinel, 05/02/1900, 3:1.
9. SC Sentinel, 08/10/1900, 2:2.

Railroading News:
County seeks federal funds for track cleanup following winter storms
The clean-up of damage caused by the January and February storms that wrecked portions of the Santa Cruz Branch line between Watsonville and Davenport continues in earnest by Iowa Pacific Holdings and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC).

Numerous downed trees, washouts, and sinks caused by the storms still need to be removed or repaired before regular service along the line can resume. Howard Cohen reports that negotiations continue between the RTC and the Pajaro Valley berry farmer whose backed-up culvert washed out a significant portion of the right-of-way near milepost 5.

At the April 6 meeting of the RTC, the commission adopted a resolution to seek funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help repair the right-of-way. Naturally-caused damage to the line is outside the commitments of the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway and, therefore, the responsibility of the county to repair. Nonetheless, a number of locals, many associated with the anti-rail group Trail Now, voiced their anger at using federal funds to repair the washout, although many locals voiced their continuing support.

A tree fallen on the tracks in May from the January-February storms near Portola Avenue in Capitola. Photograph by James Long.
An additional proposal was made at the May 18 meeting of the RTC which recommended measures to combat the fourteen downed trees on the line. The committee approved a $10,000 agreement with local firms to remove the trees. The trees have all since been removed and travel between Watsonville and Santa Cruz is possible again.

Currently, the primary source of income for the county's railroading operations is railcar storage and railcar deliveries to Big Creek just outside of Watsonville, although there are other smaller patrons considering using the line.

Minor damage along the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway line slowed Roaring Camp operations throughout the spring season but the line has since been fully repaired.
Swanton Pacific summer update
By Rhoda Fry
The late season rain storms not only caused washouts at the railroad, but also Swanton Road. Consequently, Al Smith Day, an event celebrating our founder’s April birthday, was canceled. Because the railroad is adjacent to an important riparian habitat that is the subject of many studies, permits from numerous agencies are required in order to assure that repairs are made in an eco-friendly manner. This has provided volunteers the opportunity not only to plan and rebuild a section of the railroad but also learn about the ecosystem. 

Volunteers and guests are welcome on scheduled workdays (see Timetable below) and by appointment on other days, including weekdays. You can find updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SwantonPacificRailroad and sprr.calpoly.edu
Santa Cruz Trains book gets revision
Derek R. Whaley's book Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains (2015) was quietly updated to the Fourth Revision in May to fix two issues discovered by readers.

The GPS coordinates provided throughout the book for railroad stops and tunnel portals have been reorganized so that they can now be used on Google Maps without modification. Previously, users would have to move the hemispherical coordinates (N, S, W, E) before results would properly appear.

The second issue, pointed out in a recent book review by Railroad History (Spring-Summer 2016), rewords all instances of the term "narrow-gauged" to "narrow-gauge" to reflect current usage.

A few other items were corrected as well due to suggestions from readers, including:
  • Page 65: Photo caption changed from "boxcar" to "caboose".
  • Page 110: Corrected "rarely-used" to "lightly-used".
  • Page 200: Map updated to correct trackage.
Unified Corridor Study scope expanded
Facing restrictions to its scope, the Unified Corridor Study by the Santa Cruz County RTC, now in Phase 2, has been expanded to encompass the entirety of the Santa Cruz Branch line to Watsonville Junction in Pajaro.

The 2012 study was commissioned to research ways in which portions of the Santa Cruz Branch line, Soquel Ave/Dr, and State Route 1 could be optimized to reduce traffic stresses in the county. However, the railroad route to Davenport and to Pajaro was not originally included in the study. The range of State Route 1 within the study is also now expanded to the Monterey County line and Davenport. 

Other aspects of the study to be improved include scenario analysis of various transportation options, performance measures regarding the sustainability of each route, and improving public transparency.

The expansion of the study requires an additional $500,000 from Measure D funds. The commission approved the proposal at the March 2 meeting despite some opposition from the public.

Impact study planned for Davenport track
An environmental impact study for the rail trail along the Davenport portion of the Santa Cruz Branch line was approved at the RTC meeting on April 6. The commission needs to conduct such a report before section qualifies for funding from Measure D. Construction on the section must begin no later than 2020 to qualify for funds.

Web Register:
Facebook Chatter (/groups/sctrains)
ContinuousHoward Cohen has continued to share his photographs of the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway's daily operations, including numerous photographs of the repair work on the line. Bill Dawkins, meanwhile, has shared a number of photographs and videos of both current and historic area railroad lines.
Mar. 1 – Tom Clark shared a YouTube video (link) showing the Southern Pacific's Santa Cruz local in 1983.
Mar. 10 – Cohen shared a link to the Turrill-Miller Photograph Collection, which includes photographs of Manresa beach, its trestle, and its station. Also, Paul Pritchard shared a photograph of the last Big Trees Picnic Train passing the Boardwalk in 1965.
Mar. 16 – Eddie Sims shared a photograph of the Capitola railroad bridge from 1938. He posted another photograph of a Santa Cruz local from 1948 on Mar. 30.
Mar. 30 – Trevor Park also shared a new video (link) from Treefrogflag Productions focusing on the seasonal Polar Express train.
Apr. 10 – Dawkins posted a 2008 video (link) of a train derailment on the Permanente line.
Apr. 13 – William Turner asked about the length of railroad tracks, prompting Dawkins to reply with 39-feet for most lines, a number Brandon McShane backed up.
Apr. 14 – Ian Applegate shared an advertisement by Roaring Camp from 1987 promoting the beginning of the annual Beach Train to Santa Cruz. Dawkins also informed the group that a house overlooking the old Pacific Mills logging railroad of Love Creek Road in Ben Lomond was for sale.
Apr. 18 – Janie Soito shared an advertisement and timetable for the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad from 1904, inadvertently assisting in site research.
Apr. 24 – Len Klempnauer shared a c. 1950 photograph of a parade organizing in the Santa Cruz Union Station parking lot, where most parades began or ended.
Apr. 26 – Craig Polson shared an old photograph of the Brookdale truss bridge over the San Lorenzo River. Derek Whaley also shared a public letter from the Trail Now group which intends to cause a delay in returning passenger service to Santa Cruz County.
Apr. 29 – Brian Liddicoat reported a successful trip visiting remnants of the Boulder Creek Branch.
May 2 – James Long informed the group that a number of trees are still down on the tracks near Portola Ave.
May 3 – K. Mikael Wallin shared an artistic photograph of the right-of-way near Capitola.
May 11 – William McKay reminisced about a garden railroad he remembered from near Villa Montalvo.
May 20 – Barry Scott shared a list of five things people can do to promote local rail transit.
  1. Complete the Unified Corridor Study survey distributed by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (link).
  2. Sign the petition to build the trail, but leave the rails.
  3. Send an email of support to info@sccrtc.org.
  4. Subscribe to one of the RTC topic pages.
  5. Share the above with your Facebook friends.
May 22 – Soito shared a promotional map of Rob Roy at the Sea from the 1920s.
May 25 – Park shared a new video (link) from Treefrogflag Productions of the Santa Cruz Beach Train.
May 31 – Soito shared a photograph of the Santa Cruz freight yard in the late 1930s during a busy summer day.

Recent SantaCruzTrains.com articles
MAR. 10 – Williamson
MAR. 17 – Thurwachter
MAR. 24 – Cassin
MAR. 31 – Railroad Hotels
APR. 7 – Gravel Pit No. 1
APR. 14 – Jensen
APR. 21 – Beach
APR. 28 – Thompson
MAY 5 – Warnock
MAY 12 – Ranch
MAY 19 – Struve
MAY 26 – Mack

Monthly Timetable:
JUNE 
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
June 1-6: Weekends 10:30-4:30
June 7-30: Daily 10:30-4:30

Flapjacks & Railroad Tracks Pancake Breakfast
June 10: 8:00am-10:15
Breakfast Meal for $8.00 (children’s rates offered)

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

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
RTC Meeting
June 1: 9:00am @ Watsonville City Council Chambers

Transportation Policy Workshop
June 15: 9:00am @ RTC Office

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
June 1-5: Daily 11:00 (also 12:30, 2:00 weekends)
June 6-30: Daily 11:00, 12:30, 2:00
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Redwood Mountain Faire
June 3-4: All Day

Father's Day
June 18: Great Train Robberies on all train rides

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Train Rides
June 1-4: Weekends
June 5-30: Daily
Departs from Roaring Camp Station & Boardwalk

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
June 10-11, 24-25
Come volunteer and ride the trains!

JULY
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Weekends 10:30-4:30

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

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

Transportation Policy Workshop
July 20: 9:00am @ RTC Office

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
July 1-31: Daily 11:00, 12:30, 2:00 (3:30 weekends)
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Moonlight Train Dinner Party
July 1: 6:00pm
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Fourth of July
Events all day

Day Out with Thomas™ 
July 28-30: Hourly from 10:30am
Ride Thomas the Tank Engine™!

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

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
July 8-9, 22-23
Come volunteer and ride the trains!

Open House
July 29 All day


AUGUST
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Train Rides
Aug. 1-15: Daily 10:30-4:30
Aug. 16-31: Weekends 10:30-4:30 (Fri. 10:30-3:00)

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

Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
Meetings
Aug. 3: 9:00am @ TBA

Transportation Policy Workshop
Aug. 17: 9:00am @ RTC Office

Roaring Camp Railroads
Train Rides
Aug. 1-20: Daily 11:00, 12:30, 2:00 (3:30 weekends)
Aug. 21-31: Daily 11:00, 12:30 (2:00, 3:30 weekends)
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Day Out with Thomas™ 
Aug. 4-6: Hourly from 10:30am
Ride Thomas the Tank Engine™!

Moonlight Train Dinner Party
Aug. 26: 6:00pm
Roundtrip from Roaring Camp Station

Summer Gathering of Mountain Men
Aug. 19-20: All day

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway
Train Rides
Aug. 1-18: Daily
Aug. 19-31: Weekends
Departs from Roaring Camp Station & Boardwalk

Swanton Pacific Railroad
Work Day
Aug. 12-13, 26-27
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.

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 JosĂ© 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.