When planning for this “Depot of the Week” series, I looked at hundreds of depot postcards trying to decide which to choose. Should I choose selections of those magnificent architectural monuments unique to a particular railroad, or those smaller ubiquitous “whistle stop” stations that even the layman would recognize as being a depot? I decided that either of two architectural adjectives, beautiful or functional, had to be met to merit their inclusion in this series.  Santa Fe’s La Grande depot epitomized beauty and our depot, a Southern Pacific Railroad Common Standard #22 is all about functionalism. Just note the classification “Common Standard”. That alone says it all.

 

When you click through to view this week’s card, “Big Trees Station”, you may wonder if I loaded the right postcard, because all you “see” is just a locomotive standing in a forest. This is not just any forest, but a stand of some of the largest and oldest trees on earth. It was here a narrow gauge railroad, running south from Alameda on San Francisco Bay to Santa Cruz on Monterey Bay by the name of the South Pacific Coast, located a “depot’ on their scheduled timetable. The SPC “depot” was located at this spot because one could step off the train and be towered over and sheltered by 200 foot tall giants in a serene glade covered by moss and ferns with the sounds of the San Lorenzo River and the wind in the big trees playing a concert that would “sooth the even the most worried mind” of the times. The list of industry giants, dignitaries, religious leaders, presidents and royal figureheads that stopped here just to awe at the scenery and especially the magnificent trees would fill a large book unto itself. Several “picnic specials” were on the timetable each weekend year after year. Even Southern Pacific’s famed “Sun Tan Special” on its way to the beaches at Santa Cruz was a regular visitor until the closure of the line in the 1940’s due to floods.

 

By the teens a very SP looking structure measuring about six feet by six feet at the most was located here. But, at the time of this postcard, the “depot” was just a bench sitting in absolutely one of California’s most beautiful settings. The depot “floor” was moss and ferns, the “walls” were blooming dogwood, the “ceiling” was the branches of 1000 year old plus redwood trees, and the summer “air conditioning” was the coastal fog that floated in each day from Santa Cruz.  When Teddy Roosevelt visited, he took in the sights and sounds and became so peaceful and relaxed that he lay down on the forest floor and took a long nap.

 

The “depot” is around the curve just behind the locomotive to the left. You can see the depot marker sign between the locomotive and the redwood tree. You can also see the passing track on the right where the picnic specials and private Pullman cars would lay over. Look closely at the track ties. This picture was taken not long after the SP had taken control of the South Pacific Coast and had laid the longer ties in anticipation of standard gauging the line from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz. The project was held up a few years due to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The card is postmarked 1909.

 

SPC’s Big Trees “depot” has certainly met one of my two needed criteria; beauty. I feel it actually may have been the most beautiful “depot” in California. It is still there today, but trains pass with thousands of tourists who have no idea of the historical significance of what is now just a small clearing in the woods just south of Felton and a wide spot in the roadbed along the line of today’s Santa Cruz Big Trees Railroad. Sadly, it’s not a stop along the way. 

 

 

 

South Pacific Coast Railroad - Big Trees Station