Facebook Page

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 then walked down to the shop area to see what I could find.

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway CF-7 2600 ex Santa Fe 248L.

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

Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway CF-7 2641 ex Santa Fe 222L.

The Roaring Camp Covered Bridge.

The Roaring Camp station.

The Roaring Camp water tower.

The Story of Roaring Camp

Mountain man, Isaac Graham, settled here in the 1830s. Soon after, Mexican authorities named Graham's wild settlement "Roaring Camp."

In 1842, Graham established the first saw mill west of the Mississippi. Fortunately, the Big Trees here were spared the woodman's axe, and 25 years later became the first virgin stand of coastal redwoods to be protected from logging.

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 RR celebrated its Golden Anniversary (50 years) and the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific RY 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 3 ft (914 mm) 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 open yet. On the way back I met Leathe Brown who I asked if I could park in the employee parking since my mother uses 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 here there and I picked up the ticket for my mother's trip on the Big Tree and Pacific Railway and then had to call Leathe who brought my tickets over to me for this train trip and then 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 pulling into the station.

The train pulled into the boarding area and came to a stop. 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 inside of my car I was riding. This was my first ever trip on this railroad.

We left 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.

The train crossed the San Lorenzo River on this 1909 truss bridge.

Our train took another curve on this railroad. They give a good historical description during the trip.

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

This railroad has 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.

Through the trees you can see the San Lorenzo River.

Another view of the Arch Bridge.

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

The train crossed this trestle.

The train ran down this piece of straight track.

This curve ended the straight track.

The train took this curve.

The train took this curve as we closed in on our crossing of Highway 9.

The train crossed Highway 9.

Highway 9 dropped down the hill below us.

The train crossed Powderhouse Creek.

Cut logs along our route this morning.

The train has reached signs of civilization.

Bikers use our route as a bike path.

More logs along our route.

More curves along our route.

A short piece of straight track.

The train took another curve.

The train crossed this bridge as we closed in on Santa Cruz.

The train has 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.

The train went in and through the 900 foot tunnel.

The train did street running down Chestnut Street in Santa Cruz.

We came to the wye in Santa Cruz.

We took the northwest leg of the wye.

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

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

The switch was thrown and we started backing the train.

Backing down the Davenport Line.

The train went under this unique bridge in Santa Cruz.

Backing down Beach Street in Santa Cruz.

We backed down until we came to a 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 of the tracks.

We backed into our Santa Cruz Boardwalk stop. I detrained to go and take pictures of our train here.

Our train parked in Santa Cruz. I walked back on the train and then they got my mom off the train using a wheel chair lift. We got off and headed to a rest room.

On the way there we passed a map of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. I then bought my mother and me swirl ice cream cones. We then went back to the train and they used the wheel chair lift to put my mother back on the train.

My mother on the Santa Cruz & Big Trees 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 Railroad. We returned to Roaring Camp and we would now wait for our next train ride up Bear Mountain at 2 PM.