Santa Cruz Co RR Hist Society adds track...

John Barnhill Sep 11, 2006

  1. John Barnhill

    John Barnhill TrainBoard Member

    Railroad Society Lays New Track At County Fairgrounds
    WATSONVILLE, CA -- If Col. John Stevens, father of the American railroad, could see it, he'd be proud.
    With cascading waterfalls and tracks that run through tunnels and over trestles surrounded by more than a hundred living trees, the Santa Cruz County Railroad Historical Society has laid new track.
    A fixture at the county fairgrounds since 1995, the nonprofit historical society, which works to present a history of the county's rail system, held a dedication and unveiling Friday of its recently expanded Model Railroad Facility.
    The project was made possible through contributions from Big Creek Lumber of Davenport and Granite Rock Co. of Watsonville, California.
    The cost of completing the expansion, which started in January, is estimated at $25,000.
    "I wasn't able to have a model railroad of my own when I was a kid," said Bob Grimsley, president of the Railroad Historical Society.
    Fulfilling his childhood dream, with the approval of his late wife, Grimsley joined the society 12 years ago.
    "I've been happy ever since," he said.
    Visitors to the model railroad can take the scaled down version back in time to 1922 through 1968 and tour Santa Cruz County.
    The model tracks run from Pajaro Junction north to Olympia, near Zayante.
    "It's always been a fantasy of mine to have a railroad with animation," Grimsley said.
    Still, the goal is to try to keep it as close to home as possible, Grimsley said.
    The new extension on the model, with a working saw milldrafted by Big Creek Lumber and a quarry just like the A.R. Wilson Quarry in Aromas, highlights commerce in Santa Cruz County.
    Railcars and locomotives in the late 1800s were the primary mode of transportation to move lumber and produce out of the county, Grimsley said, with four lines in Santa Cruz proper.
    For Graniterock, founded in 1900, using the rails to do business is embedded in its history.
    The company's first customer was a rail company supplying the ballast for train tracks, said Bruce Woolpert, chief executive officer of Graniterock.
    Woolpert's grandfather Arthur Wilson started the company.
    Today, Graniterock continues to use the railroad, sending 100 cars with material every day from its quarry to San Jose and San Francisco.
    If it weren't for the trains, the roads would be much more congested, Woolpert said.
    Every railcar holds the same material as four double-trailer semis.
    "It's a highly efficient way of moving large amounts of material," he sad.
    Seeing the finished model railroad expansion for the first time Friday, Woolpert was amazed.
    "Train sets are a big thing in families. It's an important part of growing up, and I don't think you ever lose that interest in trains," he said.
    Janet McCrary Webb, chief forester and part owner of Big Creek Lumber, said the detail that went into putting the model railroad together caught her eye.
    "I'm really impressed with what they did here," she said.
    Grimsley, who put the railroad display together with the help of three other members in the society, Albert Johnson, Greg Smith and Mike Taddie, said it was a long-awaited accomplishment that came down to the wire with the 2006 County Fair opening Tuesday. "It's a dream come true for me," he said. - Daniel Lopez, The Santa Cruz Sentinel

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