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Santa Cruz Railroad

  (Redirected from Pacific Improvement Company)

The Santa Cruz Railroad was a narrow gauge railroad that ran 21 miles[1] from Santa Cruz to Pajaro, California.[2] It started operation in 1874, running from Santa Cruz to Soquel, California.[2] It began operation over its full length in 1876 and was sold in foreclosure in 1881.[2]

Santa Cruz Railroad
Locale Santa Cruz County, California
Dates of operation 1874 (1874)–1881 (1881)
Successor Southern Pacific
Track gauge 3 ft (914 mm)
Length 21 mi (34 km)
Headquarters Santa Cruz, California



After Southern Pacific completed a railroad to Watsonville, California, in November 1871, Santa Cruz County, California voted to subsidize construction of a railroad from Watsonville to Santa Cruz. When Southern Pacific seemed uninterested in building a standard-gauge railway, the narrow gauge Santa Cruz Railroad was built with local financing. Construction began at Santa Cruz in 1873. Trestling was more extensive than had been predicted, and expensive Howe truss bridges were required to cross the Soquel and San Lorenzo Rivers. The first train from Watsonville reached Santa Cruz on 7 May 1876. Operational income was insufficient to cover unexpected expenses from a right-of-way disagreement near Watsonville and repair of storm damage in the winter of 1877-78. The Santa Cruz Railroad was unable to pay bond interest after completion of the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1880 gave residents of Santa Cruz a shorter route to San Francisco. Operations ceased in February 1881. Through a subsidiary Pacific Improvement Company, Southern Pacific purchased the railroad in foreclosure for less than the construction cost, and converted it to standard gauge in 1883. Southern Pacific formed the subsidiary Pajaro and Santa Cruz Railroad on 11 April 1884 to operate the line until actual merger into Southern Pacific on 14 May 1888. The 3.7-mile (6.0 km) Aptos branch from Aptos to Loma Prieta was built as the Loma Prieta Railroad in 1883 and abandoned in 1928.[3]


Number Builder Type Name Works number Notes[3]
#1 0-4-0 Betsey Jane sold to a lumber company in the Santa Cruz Mountains
#3 Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 Jupiter 3972 sold to Guatemala in 1885
#4 Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 Pacific aka Neptune 3774

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  1. ^ Rice, Walter (2008). Rails of California's Central Coast. p. 31. 
  2. ^ a b c Robertson, Donald B. (1998). Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: California. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printing. p. 181. ISBN 0870043854. 
  3. ^ a b McCaleb, Charles S. (1975). "The Santa Cruz Railroad". The Western Railroader. Francis A. Guido. 38 (324): 1–12.