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Walkin' The Lines: Monterey Bay Railwalks


  Looking south as railroad line crosses the trestle-rampart across San Vicente Beach, near Davenport. 


Looking south as railroad line crosses the trestle-rampart across San Vicente Beach, near Davenport. 

A series of walks (safely and legally), on regional railroad rights of way to explore who built them, when, why and the impact they had on the history of the region. Most of the walks are five miles or less and usually include periodic deviations off the line to explore adjacent historical sites.

Legally Experience the railroad prior to Rail Trails. We are conducting the railwalks on the branch line between Watsonville and Davenport in a three-way partnership between Cabrillo College, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (the owner of the line), and the Iowa Pacific Railroad (the operator of the line.) We will have the right of way to ourselves and be able to experience its soaring and unusual vistas and perspectives without having to dodge bicyclists, runners, baby carriages or other distractions. 

Sandy Lydon is uniquely qualified to lead these groups, having researched and written extensively on the history of the region's railroads and consulted with the Smithsonian on their major transportation exhibit: "America on the Move." He also successfully completed the Federal Railroad Worker Safety training and is legally qualified to lead groups on the Santa Cruz Branch Line.

The purpose is to help you see and understand the history of the region from the perspective of the railroads and those who built them.

These are not hell-bent, head-down hiking experiences! If you want a sweat-popping workout, go to the gym. Run a marathon. These railwalks will be saunters. Walkabouts. We'll be exploring history both on and off the tracks. They will require thoughtfulness and patience. Most of all, patience.


WARNING! NO AGENDA!

This is an apolitical course. This is not an adventure with a particular "agenda." I have no public opinion about the future of the rail line and the uses it may or not eventually have. Nor is the group interested in your opinions about things that have happened in the recent past – the acquisition of the railroad line by the SCCRTC, etc. If you have opinions about proposals for the future, please keep them to yourself. Hijackers are not welcome.


General Requirements:

  • Must be over 18. These are excursions for adults who have a bit of seasoning and perspective, and patience. Also, our insurance requirements dictate no kids.
  •  No video, audio recording or photographing of historic photographs used by instructor in presentations.
  • Don't schedule something hard up against the scheduled 5:00 PM ending. We'll do everything we can to get us back to the walk's end on time, but the vagaries of railwalking sometimes intrude. Therefore, I wouldn't suggest that you plan to be someplace at 6:30 PM. Instead, maybe schedule the evening so that you can soak your feet. 

Suggested Stuff you might consider bringing:

  • Lunch – We're working on having a truckwagon shadow us, so you might not have to carry your lunch. Stay tuned.
  • Snacks and liquid to carry with you
  • Hiking boots - We will be hiking primarily on railroad ties and railroad ballast (large diameter gravel), and hiking boots will provide ankle support.
  • Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen – the sky is usually bright, and glaring
  • Long sleeves and long pants. There is some poison oak alongside some of the access trails - if you are highly sensitive to it, wear long sleeves and long pants. It can be avoided with care. 
  • Binoculars - the vistas are incredible and there are birds.
  • Still camera.
  • Patience...as noted above.

The RailWalks are being administered through Cabrillo College Extension.  You may register for them either on line by following the links noted below, or you may do so by telephone at: 831-479-6331


  A winter flood in February, 1881 broke not only the railroad's trestle across the San Lorenzo River, but also the company's financial back as well. 


A winter flood in February, 1881 broke not only the railroad's trestle across the San Lorenzo River, but also the company's financial back as well. 

New Railroad Walks – Spring, 2015

The Santa Cruz City Transect – The Backyard View of Santa Cruz's History: From the West Side to the San Lorenzo River

This walk begins in Santa Cruz's historical industrial area on the west side, and then moves slowly, exploring all along the way, to the depot site and railyard and then along Beach Street, discussing the Boardwalk's history and finally concluding at the San Lorenzo River. This is a very history-dense walk and we'll poke and prod Santa Cruz's history all along the way.

Date: Sunday, March 8
Time: 9:00 – 5:00 PM
Distance we will walk: Approximately 5 miles.

Place of beginning: 8:45 AM, corner of Beach Street and Third Ave., Santa Cruz (at the end of Beach St., beside the roller coaster). We will carpool from here to the west side, and then walk the tracks back here and a little farther.


  Trestle crossing Soquel Creek at present day Capitola. The creek is in the foreground, and the train is headed toward Santa Cruz.


Trestle crossing Soquel Creek at present day Capitola. The creek is in the foreground, and the train is headed toward Santa Cruz.

The By-The-Sea Transect: From Capitola-by-the-Sea to Aptos-by-the-Sea

This walk will begin near the "Jewel Box" in Capitola, and then proceed eastward through and across Capitola, tarry a bit and then venture out into the eucalyptus groves, pass New Brighton State Beach and eventually end in Aptos Village. This route is a remarkable example of F.A. Hihn's (the railroad's original President), influence on the railroad's route. This is a particularly scenic route.

Date: Sunday, March 15
Time: 9:00 – 5:00 PM
Distance we will walk: Approximately 5 miles

Point of Beginning 8:45 AM – We will assemble in Aptos Village in the parking area behind the Epicenter Bicycle Shop, and then carpool over to 47th avenue and the place where we'll set off.

To Register: Click Here

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