Ocean Shore Railroad: Angelo Misthos Tells Us What You Didn’t Know

Hello June.

Some of your readers interested in the Ocean Shore R.R. may not know that efforts to resurrect it began almost as soon as it was abandoned. Jack Wagner’s THE LAST WHISTLE is the best reference.

I recall several San Francisco newspaper articles during the 1930s; and as a teenager I got up the nerve to go to the company’s office in downtown S.F. to inquire of its progress, and met the President, George Middleton. The office was shared with a mining company–either Alaska-Juneau Gold Mining or Bunker Hill. I can’t remember and don’t know of any relationship with the new OSRR.

Mr. Middleton said the line would re-enter San Francisco by the old, seldom-used Southern Pacific’s Ocean View line. That track was now in the heavily built-up Mission District where people in homes could practically shake hands with the engine crew if a train ever went by. I remember being skeptical that the City would permit it.

Apropos of that time, I have a copy of the December, 1935, issue of “Railroad Stories” magazine and the article “The Ocean Shore Comes Back” by G. H. Kneiss, which told of the expected rebuilding, mainly to exploit the timber resources of the Butano Forest, close to the original route, but never reached.

There are a number of court cases involving the OSRR from that time on the Internet, mainly dealing with the railroad’s suits for incursions on its former right-of-way, some becoming precedents for other cases.

One of the more interesting is a 1941 appeal re an earlier decision about the injury from falling rocks in June, 1936, to a power shovel operator engaged by the railroad to clear the blocked north portal of the Pedro Point tunnel. A few months earlier the shovel had been “almost completely buried” by a slide at the south portal. I find it almost incredible how the shovel made it to the south portal.

This was before Hwy. 1 had been re-routed closer to the coast, and so the shovel had to have taken the long route past Green Canyon and over Devil’s Slide on a roadbed neglected for over fifteen years. What problems the operator encountered can only be imagined. Mr. Wagner’s book chronicled how all these efforts came to naught.


Angelo Misthos, OSRR Buff & John Vonderlin Fan, Says

countryside.jpg (Photo: Is this the Ocean Shore Railroad smokin’ through Pacifica?)

Mr. Vonderlin, I’ve enjoyed reading Half Moon Bay Memories and El Granada Observer as well as your Pescadero Memories, particularly references to the OSRR, which I became acquainted with in the late 1920s.

My uncle took my brother and me on a hike along the right-of-way from Thornton to Mussel Rock. Though the rails had been torn up, still it was obvious a railroad had been there.

In 1939 I made several bike trips down the coast from San Francisco, once climbing to the top of the collapsed tunnel at Pedro Point to view the grade south to Devil’s Slide. And I also drove to Santa Cruz in a friend’s Model A Ford, borrowed from his brother, always looking for OSRR remnants.

At Pescadero beach it looked like grading of the dunes had been done south of the “mysterious tunnel” bluff you described. On a much later visit I found the tunnel portal, and since the grading I’d seen earlier would have led to the tunnel site, I surmised that the OSRR had built the tunnel either as a pilot bore, or to use it to blow down the hillside for easier grading.

Your north portal pictures puzzle me as they don’t appear to coincide with this surmise. I’ve never seen anything about this in the OSRR literature.

Re the Palmer Gulch Trestle: I have a photo of it given to me in 1939 that shows the trestle had already started to sag in the middle. About 1960 a friend and I hiked down to it; by then it was sagging noticeably. On the north side was a large, weathered (tool?) box, about 12’x4’x4′ roughly. It had an old padlock on it which we left as is.

We walked across the trestle, and my friend took pictures, of which I have a couple. Unfortunately, they are now badly faded (Polaroid camera?). but the rotted ties are still evident. I don’t believe it burned down because I saw an internet picture of it taken a few years after our crossing, and it was in nearly collapsed condition, and the text said it totally collapsed shortly after. Regrettably I didn’t add it to my OSRR “favorites,” and have never found it on the Web again.
Thanks again for your interesting memories of the San Mateo coastside.

Angelo Misthos, Sebastopol CA.


John Vonderlin replies

(email John: [email protected])

Hi June,
I received this interesting email today. It reminded me the tunnel (s) story is not a mystery solved. I’ll get back to it. The gentleman from the cemetery has said he’ll show us it, so maybe it exists. I sent Angelo a picture of a burnt timber, though that might have happened after collapse. I loved that he lives in Sebastopol. I used to have a wonderful ranch/family orchard in the hills west of town during the Seventies. George Lichty, the cartoonist of “Grin and Bear It,” fame lived across the street. The Thomases who owned the American Opinion Bookstore (John Birch Society–remember them?) were at one corner, two gay interior designers from S.F. on another and a schoolteacher couple who were Sufis on another. A great time in my life to recall. Where has my youth gone?
Larry Fitterer and I are going to be lowering ourselves down the cliffs into “The Notch” and Acid Beach on April 9th or 10th. Yee-Haw. Hopefully, I won’t break my typing fingers or anything else. Enjoy. John