Last UP Santa Cruz Local

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UP Santa Cruz Local Leaving Watsonville

Written December 29, 2009: On Monday, December 28, 2009 the Union Pacific (UP) ran what is likely the last UP Santa Cruz Local. I knew the Santa Cruz Local normally ran on Mondays. I was off work so I went and chased the train. There was not a lot of advance publicity about the last trip. Still, I was surprised to see I was the only person documenting the last train leaving Watsonville up the Santa Cruz branch.

In January 2010 the Sierra Railroad is going to start leasing and operating the line. I posted information about the train running to the Coast and Heads Up lists, I don't know if that is why several other railfans showed up later in the day, especially for the return trip. Maybe they were planning to come anyway.

Steam powered narrow gauge trains once pounded the Santa Cruz mountains over the hill between San Jose and Santa Cruz. The South Pacific Coast Railroad was probably the most successful narrow gauge railroad in California history. Built by Comstock Lode millionaire James Fair (known variously as either “Slippery Jim” or “Sunny Jim”) and his front man, Alfred “Hog” Davis, it ran from Alameda to Santa Cruz, a distance of 80 miles. This old narrow-gauge line, the South Pacific Coast, was bought by the Southern Pacific (SP) and converted to standard-gauge. SP ran trains with names like the Suntan Special to Santa Cruz. The line over the Santa Cruz mountains was abandoned in 1940 as cars replaced steam powered passenger trains.

The passenger business gone, freight continued to roll into and out of Santa Cruz. The Southern Pacific operated trains into Santa Cruz on another rail line north from Watsonville that extended through Santa Cruz and continued north to the Cemex cement plant in Davenport. The Southern Pacific was taken over by the UP in 1996 following years of financial problems.

UP continued freight trains to Santa Cruz. The Cemex plant in Davenport was by far the largest business on the line getting it's own five day a week train of cement hoppers. The closure of that plant in March 2009 left the Union Pacific with only a handful of carloads a week coming off the long line extending from Watsonville to Davenport. There clearly was not enough business for this line to survive profitably even with service cut down to one train a week. Frankly, it is hard to see how Sierra can make a go of it. So, going into 2010 this little railroad line will be a priority for me.

December 28, 2009 was a rainy overcast day. That seemed fitting really, the run marked the end of class one railroads going to Santa Cruz on a sad rainy day. No loaded revenue cars came back on the train; only empties. No money was made on this trip. Yup, that's the problem in a nutshell.

Photos

Click on the following links to see pictures related to this story:

Sierra 48 in Watsonville Junction
Sierra 48 waited out this trip in the Watsonville Junction yard. When the Sierra Railroad takes over this will be the new power for the Santa Cruz Local.
Digital Image Number: 2009122901.18 Photo Location Map
South on Walker Street
UP Geeps head north light on Walker Street in Watsonville, CA on December 28, 2009.
Digital Image: 2009122901.44 Photo Location Map
Eucalyptus grove
December 28, 2009 the last UP Santa Cruz Local goes north along Buena Vista Drive, through a eucalyptus grove approaching the San Andreas Crossing at MP 6.87.
Shot on Fujichrome 400X. Scan 2010022601.1 Photo Location Map
Crossing Capitola
The Santa Cruz Local, after stopping for breakfast in Aptos, heading north over the long trestle in Capitola.
Digital Image: 2009122901.65 Photo Location Map
Down at the Boardwalk
The local passes the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on its northbound journey.
Digital Image: 2009122901.75 Photo Location Map
Going South Now Digital Version | Analog Version
After picking up cars and going around the wye the train now heads south back towards home
Digital Image: 2009122901.88 Photo Location Map | Analog Image: Shot on Ektachrome 100 (EB), Scan 2010022601.2, Photo Location Map
San Andreas Crossing
At MP 6.87 is the San Andreas Crossing where the UP line actually crosses Buena Vista Road. It was raining pretty good at this point
Digital Image: 2009122901.110 Photo Location Map
Back in Watsonville
Finally back in Watsonville. The local does its last street running on Walker Street at 3:05 p.m. The journey for UP's last Santa Cruz Local and the story of big time railroads running to Santa Cruz is likely drawing to a close.
Digital Image Number: 2009122901.125 Photo Location Map
End of the run
The last UP Santa Cruz Local ends its trip in Watsonville, Jct.
Shot on Ektachrome 100 (EB), Scan 2010022601.3, Photo Location Map.

Related Links

Click on the following links to see other posts related to this story:

Posting on Train Orders
You will have to a member of Train Orders to see the photos in full resolution. But, you can read the comments then see the photos here at no charge.
Set of photos on Flickr
This is a related set of photos on Flickr.
Blog Post on Topic
This is a post on our family blog on this topic.

Special Thanks

All the great folks who helped me out with information for these Web pages!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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