Monday, April 28, 2014

Publication & Distribution

Draft cover for the book (photo permissions pending).
Okay, a lot of people have been asking me of late regarding my publication plans and this is where I tell everyone the not-so-great news: I'm going digital for the first edition. This was not how I originally intended to distribute Santa Cruz Trains, but after a lot of thought and a look at my current financial situation, it's what makes the most sense.

There is an additional reason, though. When I first set out to make this book, I saw the year 2015 looming. That is a very important year for Santa Cruz railroad history. It marks the 75th year since the railroad route over the Santa Cruz Mountains was shuttered. February 26th, 1940, was the last day a train ran over the route. That night, a disaster of epic proportions single-handedly destroyed much of the route. While the tunnels survived, slides, sinks, and washouts ripped large portions of the route between Felton and Alma to shreds. Evidence shows that the section in the Burns Creek basin was especially hard hit, though other sections, including at the top of the Zayante grade and in the upper Los Gatos Creek basin, were severely damaged as well. The Southern Pacific, which had desired to shut down the route since at least 1931, took advantage of the destruction and got permission to close the bugger down. I've been working since last year on an article just on this subject entitled, "The Scandal of 1940: How the S.P. Ended Operations in Santa Cruz" (or something similar).

I'm using the February 26th date as my goal, hoping that the entire book can be done by then, but I feel my research may lack in certain areas and that better photographs may come along in the following years. Thus, I plan to release the digital version in 2015 and a large-format, soft-bound 2nd edition a few years later, probably around 2018. This will give time for people to find new photographs, discover new secrets of the route, and provide me with information that was not previously forthcoming. There are a lot of people out there with information and photographs that have not come forward; hopefully by providing this window of 3-4 years between releases, this new information can clean up some of the more sketchy information that is currently available. I know I am not satisfied with everything I've found.

In the end, I want this to be a bit of a crowdsourced project. While I remain the author and editor, I've already been in communication with multiple people that have special knowledge regarding certain areas of the old Southern Pacific routes. I fully intend to use that knowledge to the best of my abilities to make this book the most definitive source of Southern Pacific activities in the Santa Cruz Mountains available. But that will come in time. Until then, this blog and the 2015 digital first edition of Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains will provide the outlet for local historians to come together and share the information they have. Stay tuned! We're just getting started.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Southern Pacific Employee Timetables Needed

After a brief weekend trip to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, I've nearly finished my survey of the Southern Pacific's employee timetables for the Santa Cruz Mountains Route. Unfortunately, their collection was not complete and there are a few specific timetables I need to verify the additions and abandonments of various stops. The employee time tables that I am missing are:

South Pacific Coast Railroad, No. 1-18, and from 20 to its absorption into the Southern Pacific in 1887

Santa Cruz Division, Nos. 5-10

Coast Division, Nos. 13, 16, 22-24, 26-39, 41-52, 56, 58-66, 68-74, 76-78, 83, 85, 89, 91, 92, 99, 101, 103, 104, 110, 113, 122, 123, and 136

If you have access to any of these timetables, even just one, or know of somebody that does, I would really appreciate it. Thank you!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Site Summary Boxes

One of the features that will be implemented on virtually every page of my book will be Site Summary Boxes. These helpful little boxes will span the foot of the page just beneath the citations and will help inform readers of the specifics of a location in a quick glance. Unlike the contents within the page, these will be uncited under the expectation that the information has already been cited within the article or in one of the introductory chapters. There are three different type of site summary boxes dealing with stations, trestles, and tunnels. All of this information, including samples, will be located in the methods section of the book near the beginning.  Note: The header lines will not be in the finished book and are here for reference. They will also be added to article pages throughout

Universal to all boxes:
One of the primary reasons for these boxes is to allow aspiring researchers knowledge of the precise locations of stations, trestles, and tunnels. Thus there are sections that all three types of site summary boxes have in common:

  • Location: This is the Southern Pacific mile-marker notation of the site's location, sometimes with adjustments. The marker is based on the last available mile marker for that site and may have been adjusted to match the year of other mile markers (thus the mile markers for a site noted only in 1899 may be adjusted to match sites from 1923). The official mile marker notation will be posted in the article. For trestles, the location is based on the center of the trestle. For tunnels, the locations span the entire length of the tunnel, rounded up to the nearest tenth of a mile. When distances to or from a location are not posted in official documents, they are estimated using's Measure Distance on a Map tool (
  • Nearest Stops: This category is purely for reference and may anachronistically note neighboring stops that never existed simultaneously. That is because these references are as much a guide for the book as they are for geography. Distances for trestles are references from the center of the trestle while distances for tunnels are referenced from the nearest portal. Thus,  the length of the tunnel is not taken into account but only the distance to the nearest portal.
  • Coordinates: This feature is for those geocachers out there as well as your everyday hiker. These coordinates are based on estimates using's system of using Google Maps to find points ( The coordinates are not 100% accurate but based on the best available estimate using the service and through my own research.
  • Current Status & Ownership: Thinking about hiking that right-of-way? Think again. Some places really aren't worth visiting while others may cause you more trouble than their worth. This section deals directly with the status of the site—as in what is still there—and the legality of accessing the site. And as a note, private property, when noted, means precisely that. Get permission from the owner before accessing the site.
Station Boxes:
The core component of the book will be stations, so naturally boxes dealing with stations are paramount. In addition to stations, sidings, spurs, freight stops, and other such locations will all fall under the station category for consistency purposes. The breakdown of the box is as follows:
  • Established: This is the date that the station first was opened. If there are multiple names for the station, the dates for each named station will be listed (i.e., Lorenzo: 1885; Filbert: 1887).
  • Service Ended: Since the majority of the stations along the route are now closed, this box notes the last year the regular service to the station ceased.
  • Namesake: Stations have names, but the origins of those names are sometimes shrouded in mystery. Here is posted the most likely namesake for a station's name. If a name's origin is in doubt, the box refers the reader to the article for more information.
  • Structures & Facilities: A station requires little more than a sign to designate it as such, and here posted are the myriad things that made each stop worthy of note.

Trestle Boxes:
There are a lot of trestles that once spanned the Santa Cruz Mountains' various rivers and streams. Most are now gone, though many have left pieces behind. These site summary boxes are here to help readers find and explore the history of these locations.

  • Built: Every trestle had to be built, and this is where the date of that construction will be noted. If the trestle was replaced, it will be noted here as well.
  • Decommissioned: Sadly, few trestles remain in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here you will find the date that the trestle went out of use (though the precise date of its demolition is not always known).
  • Length: Trestles could be very short or very long. For whatever reason, the Southern Pacific rarely noted the length of a trestle, but by using's Measure Distance on a Map tool (, the lengths of most trestles can be determined pretty accurately. (Note: A metric measurement should accompany the foot measurement on the example below.)
  • Construction Materials: Was the trestle made of wood or steel? Was the steel a custom build or a prefabricated design? Were any piers required to hold the trestle up? These answers and more can be found in this box.

Tunnel Boxes:
At one time, there were eight tunnels that ran through the Santa Cruz Mountains. A ninth was anticipated but collapsed during construction while a large one to Pescadero was planned but never was built. Each has its own set of interesting facts to necessitate site summary boxes:

  • Built and Decommissioned: Just like with trestles, tunnels had to have been built and all but one of them are now decommissioned. Look here for the dates of those important events, as well as the dates for any significant expansions to the tunnel.
  • Length: Unlike trestle lengths, the Southern Pacific kept good records of their tunnels and the lengths of all eight of them are known. Check here to see the length of the tunnel in feet and meters.
  • Construction Materials: Tunnels were made of a variety of materials but generally wood, brick, and concrete. Check here to see what materials comprised each tunnel.

That sums up the site summary boxes. They are all in production currently and will roll out across the blog over the next few weeks. If you feel like an important fact set is missing from these boxes or something is really unnecessary, feel free to note it in the comments below or email me. As usual, all suggestions will be considered. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

General Outline

Welcome to the Santa Cruz Trains update blog. On this site I will be posting updates, requests, problems, and other information regarding the writing of my book: Santa Cruz Trains—Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

First, let's get a few questions about formatting out of the way. This book is dealing with a number of different topics. Railroad fans will be sad to see that the trains themselves will barely make an appearance. Indeed, I am actively seeking photographs that do not include trains prominently displayed. The reason for this is that this is a book about locations. The locations include trestles, tunnels, freight stops, lumber mills, limekiln refineries, and even a black powder works. They also include the more obvious stations and flag-stops used by passengers. This book is NOT about physical trains or their components. While those are important issues that will occasionally crop into the content of the book, they are not the centerpiece. If you'd like to know about local narrow-gauged rolling stock (engines and cars), check out Bruce MacGregor's The Birth of California Narrow Gauge. It is an excellent book that deals with local railroads prior to 1910. The engines after that are more obscure and any book on Southern Pacific Railroad engines and rolling stock will likely suffice.

With that covered, let's talk a bit more about what this book is about. It is about places. Some of these places can be visited today while others cannot least not as they once were. Familiar places such as Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Boulder Creek will be nestled in nicely alongside unfamiliar places such as Eva, Eblis, and Hayes. Well-known railroad tunnels such as the Mission Hill Tunnel will sit side-by-side with lesser known ones such as the Mountain Charlie Tunnel. Similarly, trestles visible to all such as the one at Shady Gulch alongside Highway 9 will be discussed with lesser known trestles like that crossing Hendrys Creek. This is a book of places. Not people. Not trains.

So here's a rough breakdown of how things will be arranged:

Chapter 1: A Brief History of the Railroads
A brief history of the San Lorenzo, Santa Cruz & Felton, South Pacific Coast, Felton & Pescadero, Southern Pacific, and Dougherty Extension Railroads. Much of this material has been covered by others in better detail than I will provide, thus I will only summarize the essentials.

Methods & Techniques:
This section follows the first chapter and will outline some of the techniques and methods I will use later in the book. It is here for a reason, and is essential to understanding certain aspects of the later sections. I will devote an entire blog post or two to this in the coming weeks.

Chapter 2: A Walking Tour of the Routes
This is already far along in progress. It is designed as a half-historical, half-contemporary walk along all of the right-of-ways that will be discussed in the later sections. Each and every location will be mentioned in geographic order with an accompanying page number so that this chapter can also be used as a jumping off point for people wishing to look further into specific stops. The material is gathered together from my own person journeys and those of close reliable colleagues who have helped in this book project.

Chapter 3: From Santa Cruz to Olympia
This is the first section that dedicates from one page to four pages of space to specific stops along the right-of-way, specifically the route between the Santa Cruz wharves to where the line terminates today.

Chapter 4: From Eccles to the Summit Tunnel
This section continues the route through the Zayante Creek, Bean Creek, and Burns Creek basins to the Summit Tunnel, which will have its own article in the following section.

Chapter 5: Los Gatos Creek
This section concludes the primary Mountain Route following the tracks as they pass through Los Gatos Creek and terminate at Vasona Junction.

Chapter 6: The Felton Loop
This section returns to Felton and discusses the original Santa Cruz & Felton RR right-of-way from Felton Junction to Old Felton, the brief loop created by the Felton Trestle, and then the Felton Branch to the Holmes Lime Kiln thereafter.

Chapter 7: The Boulder Creek Branch
This section follows the route of the Felton & Pescadero Railroad on its journey to Boulder Creek.

Chapter 8: The Dougherty Extension Railroad
This final and shorter chapter follows the route of the private Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company tracks that led north from Boulder Creek into Castle Rock State Park.

Chapter 9: The End of the Route
Following the bulk chapters, this little chapter will discuss the closure of the line in 1940 and the continuation of the route to Olympia and Los Gatos after the main line closed. It will further discuss the end of the excursion trains to Big Trees, the closure of the Los Gatos Branch, and the purchase of the line in Santa Cruz by Roaring Camp after the sand pit in Olympia closed in the early 1980s.

A complete and comprehensive list of sources will be provided, especially since there will be interesting techniques used in the pages themselves (to be discussed later).

A necessary companion to the methods section, this estimated 4-page section will explain common terms and abbreviations used throughout the document.

Finally, there must be an index for this book and it will be as complete as possible.

Naturally I have not included all the smaller things such as forewords, dedications, and the table of contents here, but this is the rough general outline of the document. Feel free to suggest alterations or reorganizations; I am quite flexible at this point. Thus far only a few location entries, half of chapter 2, and a bit of the first and last chapter have been written. The rest is still in blog form awaiting editing.

That's it for now, but, again, give me any suggestions you desire. I want this project to be somewhat open source and every contribution will be noted when possible. Cheers!