The railroad pictured here was not part of the north-south Southern Pacific or Ocean Shore Electric Railway that ran along the coast from Santa Cruz. It ran 3.5 miles in the canyon above San Vincente Creek and brought limestone from the quarry to the cement plant in Davenport.
The standard gauge railway, built beginning in 1905, had sharp curves and deep cuts to make grade in the extremely steep canyon. There were eight trestles, and to save money, the span length was increased from the standard 15 feet to up to 26 feet! The trestles were so shaky and wobbly the workers were terrified to cross them. By 1913 they decided to fill the groaning and creaking trestles in with dirt. It took 3 years to fill them all.
In 1923 a narrow gauge mining railroad located in Alaska was purchased from the Alaska Gastineau Mining Company. The entire railway was transported to Davenport and by 1924 was installed and had replaced the first standard gauge railway. In 1942 an electric trolley was purchased to transport the mine workers back and forth from the mines.
The trains stopped running in 1970 as quarry operations moved to Bonny Doon and an automatic conveyor system was set up. Today only a few scars on the hillsides are left to prove that a railroad once chugged along the canyon wall about 150 feet above San Vicente Creek.
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- The Wildest Ride in Town: Davenport’s Cement Plant Railroad System. Alverda Orlando. Santa Cruz County History Journal S.C.C. Historical Trust Inc. 1995;(2):17–24.
- Santa Cruz Cement. Robert W. Brown. The Industry Railway Record. Number 21; page 314-316. 1968.