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By Brian Bergtold
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Where do I begin? I guess I'm biased because the Branch was my first real exposure to trains as a young kid, and it runs just a mile from my current house. In a word, it is a 31 mile representation of the entire Coast Route and then some. From the warehouses of Watsonville to the high cliffs of Davenport, almost every inch of the line runs through a different scene. Running M-W-F, it hauls coal, slag, and gypsum to RMC Pacific's Davenport cement plant, as well as lumber for two lumber yards. This includes interchange traffic with the Santa Cruz Big Trees and Pacific, which operates the former SP Olympia Branch to Felton (former South Pacific Coast).
For the uninitiated, lets follow some trains along the branch.
Leaving Watsonville Jct., the trains roll down the middle of Walker Street and various warehouse and agricultural cold storage centers before veering past the old Watsonville depot.
A mile or so later the line breaks out into vast strawberry fields.
It then meanders through hills and eucalyptus groves before coming back out into the open near an old schoolhouse turned residence.
It soon passes through more lush scenery:
The first flirtation with the Monterey Bay comes a couple of miles later at La Selva/Manresa beaches. Here is a train coming westbound to davenport:
And one coming eastbound back to Watsonville:
Soon it is back through a field, then into a residential area, crossing two wooden trestles through and over backyards.
A few miles later trains run through the tiny town of Aptos, home of the worlds shortest parade. The parade started as a celebration of the towns victory over SP in a fence dispute. Local merchants dumped a pile of dirt on the tracks in protest, keeping trains from running. Here a train skirts east through town at dusk:
And out of town heading west:
Capitola is the next destination, but not before passing through the dense eucalyptus groves in Tannery Gulch. Here a train rumbles uphill heading east:
Capitola is a quaint little seaside village, whose major landmark is the huge trestle/bridge that hovers overhead:
The train then rocks and rolls it's way out of town:
The next major spot is the small craft harbor:
Then a wig wag 1/4 of a mile later in Seabright:
The famous Boardwalk soon looms, and trains are once again at the sea as they lumber down Beach Street in Santa Cruz:
Trains then climb back into the neighborhoods of west Santa Cruz and a myriad of crossbuck protected crossings:
It is soon time to highball to Davenport along high cliffs and through verdant fields:
On arrival at Davenport, the crew leaves their inbound train above the beach before heading into the RMC Pacific cement plant to make up their outbound consist:
I hope these photos illustrate why so many people think the Santa Cruz Branch is something special. They only scratch the surface as to what can be seen out here!
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