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Roaring Camp Railroads

Roaring Camp Railroads

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Roaring Camp Railroads

177 página
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Lançado em:
Jun 10, 2013


In 1963, Norman Clark officially opened Roaring Camp to the public. Since then, it has become a popular and well-known destination for tourists and rail buffs from around the world who wish to visit and ride on its 100-year-old steam trains. Isaac Graham, who constructed the first powered sawmill and the first whiskey distillery in the American West, settled the area in the 1840s. Graham was notorious for his boisterous antics, and his settlement became known as a wild and roaring camp. Clark arrived in the area in the mid-1950s with $25 in his pocket and the dream of preserving a piece of early California. Clark s dream included a plan to construct an 1880s railroad town, complete with an authentic narrow-gauge logging railway. Over the last 50 years, Clark s dream has been continued and expanded, now incorporating two railroads, one of which dates to 1875.
Lançado em:
Jun 10, 2013

Sobre o autor

Beniam Kifle and Nathan Goodman have been involved with Roaring Camp for over 10 years and have collected a wide variety of historical photographs for this book, including many never-before-seen images from the Clark Estate.

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Roaring Camp Railroads - Beniam Kifle



Long before California was a state, a party of trappers from Tennessee and Kentucky made their way west over the Santa Fe Trail, arriving in Mexican territory in 1834. One of the members of this party was named Isaac Graham. Not being a Mexican citizen, he was prohibited from owning land. However, another member of his party, Joseph Majors, became a naturalized Mexican citizen and was then able to procure the land then known as Rancho Zayante. By 1841, Majors, Graham, and others had set up the first powered sawmill in California, along the banks of Zayante Creek. The sawmill was soon joined by a gristmill and a whiskey distillery.

This camp of British and American men in decidedly Mexican territory became an attractive spot for many travelers coming west in the 1830s and 1840s. As the population of Graham’s colony swelled, the sawmill and machinery roared and the liquor flowed. It soon became known as Drunkards Camp or A Wild and Roaring Camp, depending on who was talking about it. As the output of Graham’s sawmill increased beyond the capacity of his camp to use the lumber, he constructed a highway from his mill through the mountains into Santa Cruz. The highway was to be used for shipping his lumber, and still exists, as today’s Graham Hill Road. Until the railroad arrived in the middle of 1875, Graham’s road was the only reliable route into Santa Cruz.

In 1850, California was admitted into the Union. Isaac Graham died on November 3, 1863. By 1867, arrangements were being made for his lands to be turned over to local logging interests. Wealthy San Francisco attorney Joseph Welch thwarted that plan by purchasing the land himself. Welch ended up with approximately 300 acres of old-growth redwood trees and meadows, including a grove of truly massive trees along the San Lorenzo River. What became known as the Big Trees Ranch was one of the first properties ever purchased with the aim of preservation. While the rest of the Santa Cruz Mountains were being clear-cut, Welch was hard at work setting up a tourist resort in his grove of big trees. By 1880, a narrow gauge railroad deposited travelers, eager for picnicking and escaping the heat of California’s Central Valley, on the doorstep of his resort.

Today, this tradition continues thanks to the vision of Norman Clark and his family, who arrived in the area in the mid-1950s with the dream of preserving this slice of California’s history. Upon seeing the Big Trees Ranch, Clark found it to be a perfect location, and he was able to secure the 180 acres still owned by Joseph Welch’s descendents in a 99-year lease. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Clark’s dream becoming a reality, this book is a look back over those first 50 years and what it took to build America’s Most Backward Railroad.



In 1875, the Santa Cruz & Felton Railway (SC&F) was hastily constructed over the course of nine months, originally conceived as an extension of a lumber flume that terminated in what is now downtown Felton. Cut lumber from mills in the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River was floated down the 40-inch-wide triangular flume, and upon its arrival in Felton, it was sorted and loaded onto the 36-inch-gauge flatcars of the SC&F. After eight miles of sharp curves through the San Lorenzo River Canyon, the SC&F arrived at the wharf in Santa Cruz. Here, the lumber was loaded on oceangoing ships and sent to market.

After only five years of existence, the SC&F was purchased by another 36-inch-gauge railroad looking to gain access to Santa Cruz. The South Pacific Coast Railroad (SPCRR), which had started construction only a year after the SC&F, was being built south from Dumbarton Point and Newark through San Jose and Los Gatos. In 1879, the SPCRR had reached Felton after boring two separate, mile-long tunnels and two shorter tunnels, and building countless bridges to get through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Rather than constructing a new line down the east wall of the San Lorenzo River Canyon, the SPCRR absorbed the SC&F. By May 1880, the line over the hill was open for business. Heavy freights full of lumber, lime, produce, and gunpowder battled the grades out of the mountains, and long passenger trains full of travelers and tourists rolled in.

The SPCRR was short-lived as well, and in 1886, it was sold to the Southern Pacific Railroad. The sale did not much affect the day-to-day operations until around 1900. In December 1902, the first section of standard gauge track was laid, and on May 29, 1909, the first standard gauge Southern Pacific train ran between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. For the next 30 years, the Southern Pacific did big business in the Santa Cruz Mountains. By the end of 1940, however, the line over the hill between Los Gatos and Olympia had been torn up, and all trains were routed through Watsonville. The portion

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