South Pacific Coast Railroad - Standard Gauge Operation

Standard Gauge Operation

The track in Alameda could only be used for local service after being isolated by the 1906 earthquake. It was electrified in 1911 and operated as part of the SP's East Bay Electric Lines until 1941. The remaining line from San Jose to San Leandro Bay became part of the Southern Pacific coast division main line; but the southern end of the system from San Jose to Santa Cruz had become a branch line by 1915 useful only to lighter locomotives, but requiring two or three of them to move trains over the grade. It was used by SP's "Suntan Special" which came down the San Francisco Peninsula and took passengers right to the beach and boardwalk in Santa Cruz. The Boulder Creek branch was dismantled in 1934 after a few years of service by a McKeen railmotor. The tracks through the Santa Cruz Mountains suffered major damage during a storm in the winter of 1940, and the line was abandoned the same year. Four tunnels survived until abandonment. The longest, at 6,200 feet (1,900 m), ran from Wrights Station to Burns Creak near Laurel, crossing underneath Summit Road. The second longest tunnel, at about a mile long (1.6 km), went from Laurel to Glenwood, crossing underneath the present location of California State Route 17. The third tunnel, about 900 feet (270 m) long, went from Clems, under a ridge, to Mountain Charlie gulch. The shortest of the abandoned tunnels is in Zayante. It is currently being used as a records storage facility by Iron Mountain. Under contract to Southern Pacific, the F.A. Christie railroad salvage firm removed the track and trestles and, when this was completed in April 1942, dynamited the tunnels. Although a long-persistent rumor holds that destruction of the tunnels was motivated by post-Pearl Harbor fears of a Japanese invasion of the US West Coast, the decision to dynamite them predated the Pearl Harbor attack and was made solely for business reasons. The line from San Jose to Los Gatos remained in freight service after the last commuter train ran in 1955.

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