Bay Area Bike Rides by Ray Hosler

Train Tunnels Through the Santa Cruz Mountains

Train GIFFrom Los Gatos we followed the South Pacific Coast Railroad right-of-way, now a hiking trail along Los Gatos Creek. We climbed Lexington Reservoir's dam and took Alma Bridge Road heading southwest.

We picked up rideable portions of the right-of-way beyond the reservoir, arriving at a remote paved road and the Wrights town site. "The tunnel is right over here," my friend said. The four of us dismounted and walked our bikes on a trail next to a rocky creek bordered by grass and redwoods. I took a photo in front of the tunnel.

Looking around, we saw no signs of the town, where steam trains entered the first of two mile-long tunnels, dug with sweat and muscle into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Gone is the Sunset Park picnic grounds, children playing, farmers discussing fruit growing in Santa Clara Valley, the smell of barbecue. In the brilliant sunshine of a warm spring day we heard only the sweet, peaceful sound of bird songs. A tributary of Los Gatos Creek spilled over the tunnel entrance. Tall redwoods caress the steep slopes of this bucolic little valley, sheltered from another much different valley building our future, down the hill 10 miles by rail.

aldercroft entranceAnd so it came to pass, my first view of a railroad tunnel in the Santa Cruz Mountains. More than 30 years later I occasionally stop and visit these vanishing tributes to the golden era of railroading. A few tunnels can be found easily, while the others are remote, and mostly on private property. The following pages give you a glimpse of the train's glory years and the tunnel entrances as seen between 1986 and 1999.

Acknowledgments

The historical information and period photos are taken from Bruce MacGregor's books on the South Pacific Coast. Central Coast Railway They're out of print, but can be purchased from used book stores.

Check out Advanced Book Exchange to find them. His books are:

Right-of-way at Aldercroft Heights Road,
looking southeast.

South Pacific Coast, Howell-North Books, 1968; Narrow Gauge Portrait South Pacific Coast, 1975,

Glenwood Publishers; A Centennial South Pacific Coast, Pruett Publishing, 1982.

Another authoritative book on railroading in the Santa Cruz Mountains is Rick Hamman's

California Central Coast Railways, Pruett Publishing, 1980. It's available in soft cover (revised and updated, 2002) by Otter B Books of Santa Cruz.

I recommend "A Centennial" over MacGregor's other two books. The first book is excellent as well. The second book is mostly new photos with little new text. Rick Hamman's book concentrates on railroads other than South Pacific Coast.