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Speeder Trip on the Big Trees & Pacific Railway and Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway 4/25/2015 Part 2

by Chris Guenzler

Chris Parker and I got up at the Big 6 Motel in Santa Cruz and after having breakfast we drove CA Highway 9 up to Felton and parked the car in the lot and walked in to find Harry Fischer to find which motor cars we would be riding on this unique trip. We found him and signed our needed paperwork for the trip.

Big Trees and Pacific Railway History

The railway began life as the 3 ft narrow-gauge Santa Cruz and Felton Railroad, built between its namesake cities of Santa Cruz and Felton in 1875 to send logs and lumber down from the Santa Cruz Mountains to mills and wharves on Monterey Bay. In 1876, the South Pacific Coast Railroad narrow-gauge network completed its line from Alameda to Los Gatos, then over the mountains to Felton, absorbing the Santa Cruz & Felton to complete the line to Santa Cruz. In 1887, the Southern Pacific purchased the South Pacific Coast and converted it to standard gauge over the course of more than a decade. Washouts closed the majority of the line in 1940, and the Santa Cruz-Olympia section remained in operation to serve the timber and sand industries. In 1981, further washouts brought closure of the line from Eblis to Olympia, until the line was purchased by Norman Clark, operator of the narrow gauge Roaring Camp & Big Trees tourist railroad and adjacent 1880s-themed park in Felton. Local legend has it that the name "Roaring Camp" is historical too, coming from the moniker that Mexican authorities gave to what was then,in the 1840s, the wild settlement of Zayante, founded by mountain man Isaac Graham. The first train from Felton to Rincon ran in 1985 (the year after Clark's death from pneumonia that he acquired in his work to reopen this line) and the entire line to Santa Cruz was once again reopened to traffic some time later. As of 2006, Clark's widow Georgiana continues to serve as the railway's Vice President of Operations.

Trains originate at the Roaring Camp depot in Felton, but the original South Pacific Coast depot at New Felton (built in 1880) still stands and serves as administrative offices for the company. The freight shed, constructed from boards salvaged from the Boulder Creek to Felton log flume, is still used by the SCBT&P as a workshop. The original Santa Cruz & Felton never crossed the San Lorenzo River and continued through the middle of the town of Felton. Roaring Camp and its two railroads host numerous events throughout the year, and is also home to a Chuckwagon Bar-B-Q and events facilities.

Big Trees and Pacific Railway Motor Car Trip.

My first view of the Felton Speeders we would be using today from Felton. Another group would leave Davenport and meet us at the wye in Santa Cruz.

It had poured last night in Santa Cruz but our trip today would be dry but cold and windy along the coast.

This is how you get a motor car from its trailer to the tracks.

Big Trees and Pacific CF-7 2600 in Felton.

I would be riding this Fairmont A-4D Motor Car owned by Rick Smith.

Some of our riders like this one bought their pet along for a ride.

Chris Parker and Jay on his motor car in front of ours. We had our Safety Briefing before the trip started. We would pull down to the Roaring Camp Station for a bathroom break.

The Trip Starts

I started my new mileage from here to where the Big Trees & Pacific trains load.

Chris and Jay are heading onto the mainline.

We joined them on the mainline.

We ran by the cabooses at Roaring Camp. We all stopped for a bathroom break.

All the motor cars are on the mainline at Felton.

We left Felton for Santa Cruz on this leg of our trip today.

Chris Parker and Jay run by the handicap boarding area in Felton.

We all ran by the parked cabooses in Roaring Camp.

Through the cut and out into the Big Trees known as Redwoods.

Rolling through the Redwood forest.

We crossed the San Lorenzo River on this 1909 truss bridge.

I always feel lucky to be going on a train or in this case a motor car through a Redwood forest.

There are retaining walls along the railroad.

We crossed Arch Bridge.

More retaining walls along the railroad.

I love riding through forests.

We crossed another small trestle.

Still we are rolling through the forest down this unique railroad.

Sometimes I watch the motor car behind us.

The crossing gates were put down for our crossing of CA Highway 9 which was closed for construction on this trip.

Always look up in a forest.

After any stop the motor cars bunch up for a few minutes before they separate down the railroad.

We crossed Powderhouse Creek.

The forest is amazingly beautiful.

Faces carved into the sandstone along our route this morning.

Soon we left the forests for the urban enviroment of Santa Cruz.

We were flagged across Encinal Street.

We were flagged across Fern Street.

We were flagged across Coral Street.

Crossing CA Highway 1 with the crossing gates down.

We are heading to the Mission Hill Tunnel.

We ran through the Mission Hill Tunnel in Santa Cruz. Then we started our street running on Chestnut Street in Santa Cruz.

Street running on Chestnut Street in Santa Cruz.

The wig wag crossing signal at Lincoln Street in Santa Cruz.

Street running on Chestnut Street.

The wig wag crossing signal at Walnut Street in Santa Cruz.

We continued our street running on Chestnut Street until we made our way back to the private railroad tracks.

We ran down to the wye.

The motor cars from Davenport were waiting for us to arrive here.

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway

We had reached the mainline of the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway and stopped for a safety briefing.

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway Brief History

Construction was started on the Santa Cruz Railroad in 1873and was completed in 1876 as a narrow gauge line. The Santa Cruz Railroad was acquired by the Southern Pacific in 1881 and shortly after was converted to standard gauge. Southern Pacific ultimately acquired other lines into Santa Cruz but before the SP was merged into the Union Pacific in 1996, only the 32 miles between Watsonville Junction, Santa Cruz and Davenport remained.

On May 6, 2010 the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission unanimously decided to purchase the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line for $14.2 million. On January 19, 2011, the RTC secured approval and funding from the California Transportation Commission for purchase of the Branch Line. On May 17, 2012, the RTC selected Iowa Pacific Holdinds to operate freight and tourist passenger train service on the Branch Line.

On October 12,2012 - after more than ten years of extensive due diligence and negotiations - the RTC closed escrow for the acquisition of the Santa Cruz Branch Line from the Union Pacific thereby placing a new transportation corridor in public ownership and beginning a new era of mobility options and opportunities. Acquisition of this key transportation corridor allowed greater transportation options to more than 80 parks, 25 schools and over a half of the county's population who lives in census blocks within 1 mile of the corridor.

The majority of funding for acquisition of the rail corridor was provided by California and Santa Cruz County voter approved Proposition 116 which specifically stipulatesthat it is for "rail projects within Santa Cruz County that faciltate receational, commuter, intercity and intercounty travel." The California Transportation Commision released funds to the RTC with Condition to initiate recreational passenger rail service and a cimmitment to follow all Proposition 116 requirements. The tracks cannot, as has been speculated, be removed and replaced with a trail only.

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway Motor Car Trip

One of the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway empolyees gave us their raiload's safety briefing. Our first stop would be a bathroom stop at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

After the safety briefing was over, we headed for the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

First we had to run through the new Santa Cruz Roundabout.

We did our street running on Beach Avenue in Santa Cruz.

We ran on the private railroad tracks along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. This is where the Big Trees and Pacific passenger trains stop in Santa Cruz.

We made a bathroom stop at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

Me and the speeder I am riding in today.

We left the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and started east by heading to the San Lorenzo River bridge and where my new rail mileage started.

We crossed the San Lorenzo River Bridge.

The San Lorenzo River.

We ran under the East Cliff Road bridge.

We climbed out of the cut from the East Cliff Road bridge.

"We had to flag across Seabright Avenue in groups of five as we would do at seventeen more grade crossings on our way to Watsonville.

Wig wag crossing signal at Seabright Avenue in Santa Cruz.

We left Seabright Avenue.

We ran by the Milepost 19 signpost before we reached the Arana Gulch Trestle.

We crossed over the Arana Gulch Trestle and the Santa Cruz Marina.

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