While most know Roaring Camp for the narrow-gauge Roaring Camp & Big Trees up Bear Mountain, as I've said before, the standard-gauge Big Trees & Pacific is an equally interesting line despite the fact it may not run steam. I have been assigned to this line twice and while it is not the same, I will assure you the scenery is much better (I'm not talking about the redwoods and the ocean, either!)
After much enticement by the descriptions of Roaring Camp colleagues who walked the line, I recently had some time and decided to trek on foot up the dormant northern portion of the BT&P line to Eccles, about three miles north of Roaring Camp. The SP ran up to serve the sand pits in Olympia into the early '80s (one current BT&P hogger made this run with steam on the SP) until the early '80s after storms washed out a large chunk of the line. Norman Clark was able to purchase it from the SP and ran the first train (as far as Rincon) before his death in 1925 using a small Whitcomb locomotive which switched the small yard at the sand pits.
The portion from the end of track at Eccles to Felton Junction (after the current tracks cross the San Lorenzo River south of Roaring Camp) follows a right-of-way built by the South Pacific Coast around 1879/1880. Most of the remainder (but not all) to Santa Cruz follows an even older alignment built by the Santa Cruz & Felton in 1875, which was purchased by the SPC to become the last leg of their line.
Here are a few pictures from this now-unused part of the BT&P line:
"Fishbelly" flats in the yard at Olympia, all of which are likely over 100 years old. Two are wooden, while the third is pressed steel (I believe these are somewhat rare these days?) The track continues for about 1/4 mile before simply ending near Eccles.
End of track at Eccles. The tracks once continued all the way over the summit to Vasona Junction in Los Gatos, where they could follow the Mayfield Cut-Off to San Francisco (by way of Saratoga, Cupertino, and Los Altos meeting the main at California Ave. in Palo Alto) or the original SPC alignment through Campbell into San Jose. The right-of-way can be easily followed from here to Tunnel #4 at Zayante, now used for secure records storage for the county.
Historic depot at the Mt. Hermon conference grounds, still served by BT&P trains on occasion during the summer months.
One of two bridges on the northern part of the line (the other is a more modern one crossing Zayante Rd.)
Restored and relocated freight depot at the new Santa Cruz Depot Park. Not too many years ago I remember this still being a substantial railroad yard, and the passenger depot still standing before burned to the ground by hobos living in the abandoned structure. The restored structure sits right on the wye serving as the interchange of the BT&P and the Union Pacific to Watsonville and Davenport.
These rails still exist in downtown Los Gatos along the highway 17 onramp. You can follow a somewhat overgrown (but easily evident) grade from behind the post office down a little ways before getting too close to Highway 17, which severed the original alignment. In railroad days before Los Gatos Creek was "relocated" into a concrete channel and the freeway routed around town, travelling on the new highway from San Jose to Santa Cruz involved driving through downtown Los Gatos (talk about traffic!) When the railroad was removed and the direct freeway route completed, several downtown businesses took a huge hit. The line over the mountains was abandoned in 1940, and into downtown Los Gatos in 1959.
Edited By Ed Kelley on 1130015979