Angelo Mithos: On Montara’s Dangling Rails

Story by Angelo Mithos


The Montara washout (dangling rails) is a puzzlement.  When I first  read about and saw a picture of the suspended track over  Montara Creek, I thought the trestle had washed away.  Now not so sure.  I searched all my OS material and couldn’t find the original article. In an Arcadia Publishing  book , San Mateo Coast by Michael
Smookler, Pg. 50, appears the same photo that June sent to John V., except more of the landscape appears to left and right.  Caption reads: “Montara Creek flooded and washed away the ground underneath the railroad tracks some time between 1907 and 1919, as shown in this westward-facing photograph. Point Montara Lighthouse buildings are on the shore side of the tracks. A trestle was later built to support the tracks. (Courtesy F. Bezek.)”
In another Arcadia book, Ocean Shore Railroad by Chris Hunter, on Pg.89 is a picture of a woman sitting on a trestle support. The caption reads: “Ted Wurm’s mother is shown perched here on the Montara trestle in 1916. The late Ted Wurm had a lifelong love affair with the Ocean Shore Railroad.”  ( Note: no Montara trestle  appears in the Trestle list in Wagner’s OS book.) It is obvious there’s no roadway immediately to Mrs. Wurm’s right. I mention this because on Pg. 126 is a photo showing Mr. Wurm Sr. (holding a single barrel gun), presumed Mrs. Wurm, another woman, and a small child all posing atop the trestle.
I have a photgraph of the same people, posed the same way, given to me in the late 1930s by Ted Wurm along with several other OS pictures, The only differences between it and the book’s picture is that in the book picture everything is reversed–the people are posed in exactly the same way, but Mr. Wurm Sr. is on the left of the picture and presumed Mrs. Wurm is on the right.  Also in the photgraph that I have, Mr. Wurm Sr.’s cap is not cut off and there are a few more railtoad ties in the foreground.  And it shows the roadway in its proper place–to Mr. Wurm Sr.’s left, i.e., just East of the trestle. The party was facing South; the photographer North. This agrees with my recollection and with the 1930s Brownie photos of the trestle I still have. It’s also evident in the Wurm photo that only every other tie was spiked to the rails and no guard  rails next to the main rails, in keeping with the OS’s “on the cheap” construction practices.  Incidentally, does anyone know anything about F. Bezek or when the aforementioned Montara flood actually occurred?   Angelo