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Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railway Trip 9/26/2021

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I awoke at the Best Western Plus in Gilroy and after our morning preparations we checked out then met Robin and Bill at the car. We went to Longhouse Restaurant where I had a waffle and bacon this morning. From here I drove to Watsonville to our first surprise.

Santa Cruz Big Trees and Pacific CF-7 2467 ex Santa Fe F7 247L.

Santa Cruz Big Trees and Pacific CF-7 2524 ex Santa Fe F7 216L. I then drove us to Felton and we took Robin and Bill to the covered bridge.

The Felton Covered Bridge. We then drove over to the Roaring Camp and since Robin had bought parking, I showed the attendant his ticket and he let us park.

Big Tree and Pacific Railway History

The railway began life as the 3 foot 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.

Our Trip

Our first thing to do was to shoot an engine by the parking lot.

Big Tree and Pacific Railway CF7 2641, originally Santa Fe F7 222L. We all walked to the park.

You must pass through the Roaring Camp Covered Bridge.

The Roaring Camp station where you take your ticket to them and they give you a ticket in return.

The train entered the station area and you board by the ramp. This train had a consist of Big Tree and Pacific CF7 2600, concession car 801 (ex. Boston and Maine), open air car 501, open air gondola 503, open air car 502, open air gondola 504 and parlour car 802 (ex. Boston and Maine). All open cars were built from flat cars.

My lovely wife Elizabeth, Bill and Robin maskless for this picture although everyone was required to wear a mask aboard the train. We rode the open air car to the Boardwalk. Now sit back and enjoy a trip thought the redwood forest to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz.

The trip to Santa Cruz before we wyed the train. The first wig-wag crossing signal in Santa Cruz no longer works but the second one works and wags just fine.

We started to wye but came to a stop when a white van backed up and went onto and over the rails but he did get clear of the tracks.

The white van just after the incident. The driver had his head hidden as we went by him. I knew that he blew it! Now on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

The tracks to the boardwalk.

The way to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

The engine has completed the turning process of the train. Now sit back and enjoy the trip to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

The journey to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Here we all detrained.

Elizabeth and I walked to the front of the train for a pair of pictures then walked around the Santa Cruz Boardwal and inside a building where we had to go upstairs to use the restroom, as a pirate show going on on the first floor. We went back outside.

Monterey Bay. We sat on a bench before walking to the east end where we found Robin. We exited Santa Cruz Boardwalk and walked the length of the train.

The train at the out-of-service location in Santa Cruz. We sat down on curb and waited for the train to return.

The train returned to the station and we took seats in Parlor Car 802 for the trip back to Felton. It had been a most wonderful trip on the Big Trees and Pacific Railway with Elizabeth, Bill and Robin all making their first trip aboard this route. We all had a fantastic time on this train plus all the others this long weekend.

I drove us on CA Highway 17 to CA Highway 1 to Watsonville then CA Highway 156 to CA Highway 152 to CA Highway 99 to Bakersfield to Jersey Mikes for dinner. Elizabeth then drove us on CA Highway 99 to Speedway Gas for petrol then continued to Interstate 5 to CA Highway 22 to drop off Bill and Robin before we headed home to the apartment, having driven 1,293 miles on this trip.