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The Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway Santa Cruz Beach Train 8/14/2014

by Chris Guenzler

We pulled into the parking lot and I walked down to the shop area to see what I could find.

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway CF7 2600, ex. Santa Fe 2600, nee Santa Fe F7A 248L built by Electro-Motive Division in 1949.

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway passenger train which would take me on my first ride on this unique railroad at 10:15 AM.

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway CF7 2641, ex. Santa Fe 2641, nee Santa Fe F7 222L built by Electro-Motive Division in 1949.

The Roaring Camp covered bridge.

The Roaring Camp station.

The Roaring Camp water tower.

The Story of Roaring Camp

The area's first railroad, the Santa Cruz & Felton, began carrying tourists to the Big Trees and the beach in 1875. In 2013, the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad celebrated its Golden Anniversary (50 years) and the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway has been operating along the 1875 Santa Cruz & Felton route since 1985.

The dream of preserving a piece of the 1880s and early California was the dream of Roaring Camps Founder F. Norman Clark. Tragically in December 1985, Norman Clark passed away of pneumonia resulting from his selfless work to open the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway. His wife, Georgiana, the longtime Vice President of Operations was elected chief executive officer by the respective board and continues as President of the company.

Today, Melani Clark, daughter of Roaring Camp Founder, F. Norman Clark and Georgiana serves the company as its CEO, continuing to preserve a piece of the 1880's and early California that was the dream of Founder, F. Norman Clark. Georgiana continues to serve the company as Chairman of the Board of Directors and President.

Big Tree and Pacific Railway History

The railway began life as the three 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.

A trip on the Big Tree and Pacific Railway

I went to pick up the tickets at the station which was not yet open. On the way back I met Leathe Brown whom I asked if I could park in the employee parking since my mother used a walker and she said sure. I walked back to the parking lot and moved the car to the employee lot. She needed the restroom so I sent her there, then picked up the ticket for my mother's trip on the Big Trees and Pacific Railway before calling Leathe who brought my tickets over to me for this train trip as well as the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad this afternoon at 2:01 PM for the both of us. I put my mother on the boarding ramp then went to get my pictures of the train arriving.

The train pulled into the boarding area and stopped. I helped my mother into the open car then I rode in the last seat on the train so I could take pictures as we headed down to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

The interior of Parlour Car 802 in which I was riding. This was my second trip on this railroad.

We departed at 10:22 AM and left the cabooses and Roaring Camp behind.

The train took the first curve of the trip.

The train rolled out into the Redwood forest.

Crossing the San Lorenzo River on this 1909 truss bridge.

Our train took another curve on this railroad. A good historical narration was given throughout the trip.

Hikers stopped to watch our train go by on the hiking train crossing.

There are plenty of curves along the route.

The Garden of Eden swimming hole in the San Lorenzo River.

I love taking trains through forests.

There are retaining walls along this railroad.

At points along the route I could see the top of the trees.

The train crossed Arch Bridge.

The San Lorenzo River is visible through the trees.

Another view of the Arch Bridge.

This railroad has plenty of curves on the route to Santa Cruz.

Crossing another trestle.

Straight track along our route.

This curve ended the straight track.

Taking another curve.

On the curved approach to our crossing of Highway 9.

The train crossed Highway 9.

Highway 9 dropped down the hill below us.

Traversing Powderhouse Creek.

Cut logs along our route this morning.

The train has reached signs of civilization.

Bicyclists use our route as a bicycle path.

More logs along our route.

More curves along our route.

A short piece of straight track.

The train took another curve.

Crossing yet another bridge as we neared Santa Cruz.

We have entered Santa Cruz city limits.

A switch to the cement plant.

The train started crossing streets in Santa Cruz.

This switch goes to nowhere.

The train reached a siding in Santa Cruz.

This siding has tunnel equipment in it.

Entering and proceeding through the 900 foot tunnel.

One of the unique features of this railroad is its street running down Chestnut Street.

We came to the wye.

We took the northwest leg of the wye.

We stopped after passing the switch; our conductor would throw the switch and we would reverse to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

This is as far as we went on the Davenport Line west.

The switch was thrown and we started reversing the train.

Reversing down the Davenport Line.

The train went under this unique bridge in Santa Cruz.

Reversing down Beach Street.

We reversed until we had to stop due to a parked delivery truck. Our conductor hopped off to find the driver who was in the ice cream shop.

The driver moved his truck off the tracks.

The train reversed into our Santa Cruz Boardwalk stop and I detrained to take pictures of our train.

Our train parked in Santa Cruz. I walked back on the train and the employees took my mother off the train using a wheelchair lift then I detrained and we headed to a restroom.

On the way there we passed a map of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. I then bought my mother and I swirl ice cream cones before we returned to the train and they used the wheelchair lift to put my mother back on the train.

My mother, Nancy, on the Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railroad.

We left Santa Cruz with me in the open car for the trip back to Roaring Camp. Everyone should come and ride the Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railroad. We returned to and would now wait for our next train ride up Bear Mountain at 2:00 PM.

Click here for the next part of the story!