Alfred Davis, backed by James Fair, charted a bold plan in 1877 to build a narrow gauge line from Oakland to Santa Cruz through the Santa Cruz Mountains. They foresaw big profits coming from the many sawmills along the way that needed their logs hauled away. The duo called their venture the South Pacific Coast Railroad. Davis invested his wealth, but Fair's millions reaped from Sierra gold mines provided the real capital.
The railroad's success hinged on nine tunnels, which kept the average grade to a modest 1.7%; the route peaked at 900 feet in Laurel, with the tunnels saving 700 feet of climbing.
The Laurel side of Wrights tunnel is located down a dirt road near the intersection of Schulties Road and Redwood Lodge Road. The tunnel was rarely photographed. During construction, Cornish miners got into a lively race against Chinese working from the west entrance. The Chinese won.