A Short History Of The Ocean Shore Railroad (Part III)

As told to me in 1980 by Randolph Brandt, whose father was an investor, a stockholder, in the Ocean Shore Railroad:


“One night they had some kind of convention or big picnic down near Granada—anyway, the train was heading back to the City with a whole bunch of people on it.

“And around Pt. Rockaway, a big boulder came down. Right on the tracks. The train saw it and they stopped but they couldn’t get the boulder off the tracks.

“The train crew decided to back the train to the Pedro Valley. And they backed it down there right in front of Danman’s Place—the old saloon there. They spent the night in there. Eatin’, drinkin’, making merry.

“I understand they practically cleaned the place out as far as booze and grub went.

“Relatives and friends were disturbed when the train never showed up in San Francisco. They sent a work train down, got the boulder off the track, got the train back to the city. It was 18 hours late, I guess it was a big deal.

“…Tunitas was the end of the line and there wasn’t much of a station there.

[referring to the railroad ride] “Those 20 miles there was hell on earth if you know what I mean. I mean it was really rough going. Anybody riding on it today would say, ‘Never again’. They probably never wanted to do it a second time.

“…the old county road, as far as going along the ocean—it didn’t even exist in those days. It was all in back of the hills, sort of sandwiched in between the mountains and the skyline. It wound and twisted, a narrow road with hardly a straight stretch in it.

“The railroad took up the entire area all the way from Westlake clear to Sharp Park. When they did put the highway in about 1934, they took over the entire railroad right-of-way in order to bring it to the edge of the cliffs. When you got down into Montara you were out of the cliff areas.

“In my opinion, it was a pretty lousy road, frankly. It would never do for these high speed cars today. Definitely not a road for high speed.â€?

A Short History Of The Ocean Shore Railroad (Part II): Read The DEJA VU

“There were landslides from time to time. The Pedro Pt/Devil’s Slide area was a particularly bad section. On one occasion, I think around 1915, as a result of some fairly torrential storms, about a mile-and-a-half or two miles of right-of-way track just suddenly dropped from right under and fell into the ocean…”

As told to me in 1980 by Randolph Brandt, whose father was an investor, a stockholder, in the Ocean Shore Railroad:

“In 1907 they got a train into Rockaway, no Vallemar. I think the first train rolled into Vallemar around 1907. They sent an engine down there with two coaches—and a load of people, a lot of promotion and activity.

“People were assured that this was going to be the new ‘Coney Island of the West’. All sorts of grandiose plans and promoters were springing up. And these communities along the way which were yet unnamed—were coming to life like Granada.

“…The depot in San Francisco was located at 12th & Mission Streets. …

“They even invited people to go down on weekends to give ‘em a free ride down there—and a free lunch—and then when you got off the train down there, all these salesmen were there busy. Sales slips, you know, sign on the dotted line to buy lots.

“They assured people the railroad would be finished within a year or two—and have wonderful rapid transit right into the heart of San Francisco. Business was so good for awhile that they didn’t have enough coaches so they dragged out a bunch of flat cars and put benches in them, you know, and people rode flat cars with benches down there.

“If any of you have eer driven in an open car along here [Devil’s Slide] when it’s pretty windy, you can imagine how some of the ladies must have felt having their hats blow off—and I don’t know what else especially when they’re going around Pedro Point and Devil’s Slide.

“It gets pretty windy—especially looking over the edge of a flat car and seeing the ocean down below on the edge of the cliff.â€?

Randolph Brandt smiled and laughed.

“Must have been quite an experience.

“There were landslides from time to time. The Pedro Pt/Devil’s Slide area was a particularly bad section. On one occasion, I think around 1915, as a result of some fairly torrential storms, about a mile-and-a-half or two miles of right-of-way track just suddenly dropped from right under and fell into the ocean.

“Luckily, there were no trains in the area at the time.

“It disrupted service for awhile. They ran trains as far as they could go to where the right-of-way caved off—enough space left, apparently, and then brought in a train from the south and passengers got off the train, walked along the edge of cliff ‘til they got to the other train—and then ran the train backwards all the way to Tunitas [south of Half Moon Bay]

“Another problem—the boulders came off the cliffs every once in a while onto the track….â€?

…To be continued…

A Short History Of The Ocean Shore Railroad (Part I)

train.jpgA Short History Of The Ocean Shore Railroad (Part I)

As told to me in 1980 by Randolph Brandt, whose father was an investor, a stockholder, in the Ocean Shore Railroad:

“He, like a number of other people in the days when the stock was being offered to the public market, thought it was a good thing and it apparently was.

“There are a number of banks and prominent people—quite a number of people, well-heeled financially that invested money in it. Mr. Downey Harveyt there, was one of the original promoters of the line and he dropped, I think, around $2 million in it. Of course, he was one of those people that inherited the money, you know, didn’t have to work for it.

“And another man who was pretty well-off financially, too, was Mr. Foelder of the well known Foelger Coffee Company, and he dropped quite a bit of money into it—somewhere between a million and a million-and-a-half.

“In those days, a million was not considered pennies.

“When they got this thing started—it was just before the earthquake, well, 1905, well, railroads were springing up all over the place, up and down the state—from one end to the other they were starting to build…

“Why not a line down the coast to Santa Cruz?

“One of the reasons was tht they figured if they built the line through to Santa Cru they could take a lot of the business away from the SP [Southern Pacific], which had the monopoly up ‘til then by going the other way.

“Look like a good proposition. No one else was in there. They started work from both ends with one crew working from San Francisco south, another crew starting from Santa Cru, working north.

“Got along fine until a certain day in April 1906 when they had an earthquake. One of things they didn’t’ anticipate was a good deal of construction equipment, particularly in the area around Mussel Rock tumbled off the right-of-way and down into the ocean.

“A considerable financial loss.

“And part of the right-of-way, likewise, followed the equipment into the ocean—more financial loss—and additional expenditures the promoters hadn’t figured on.

“Recovered from that somehow and they pared down the project a bit as a result of that. One of the shortcomings of the original promoters was that they were a little too grandiose in their ideas. They started out—it was planned as a double-track electric, actually, to run from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, via Half Moon Bay.

“Better off if they’d started out with a single-track steam line. Then as business justified it, then extending to double-track, they might have succeeded. When you grade for a double-track along the line it actually costs you more than if you grade for a single track, so it means more money out. Since they never used the double track, well, it was just money wasted…”

Photo: Randolph Brandt

…To be continued…

Landmark Stands in El Granada

Look at this photo closely….the picture tells quite a story. It’s called the “Club House” in this shot by master Coastside photographer R. Guy Smith, but it originally served as a second Ocean Shore Railroad Station in El Granada. El Granada was the Ocean Shore’s “jewel” in its pearly necklace of beach towns, and what better sign of this exalted status than the unusual circular street layout for the resort, mostly in the flatlands–a layout that was to include beds of beautiful flowers in the center dividers now filled instead (mostly) with towering Eucalyptus trees.

To the right of the former railroad station, now a charming private residence (home of Jimmy Boyle, drywall specialist), there’s a concrete sidewalk, perhaps one of the few in El Granada at the time, that’s what it looks like.

And, to the west, is that the bathhouse overlooking the Pacific? There’s a pix of the bathhouse at El Granada in a previous post. Did you know there’s a search engine at the bottom on the right of this page? If you punch in a word or words and it’s mentioned in one of my posts the search function will find it.

The railroad went bankrupt about 1920 so the photo was taken afterwards. (I think the station was moved to the east from its original position.) But there’s not much action–no people, no cars. One slice of sidewalk, a bathhouse, a lost dream?

( At left, Maymie Cowley, the Coastside’s Madam)

Or is that building to the west actually the El Granada Hotel (part of which is also still standing, not the tall part, but the little cottages that were in back). The El Granada Hotel must have been the sole basis of the economy in El Granada–built by Maymie Cowley, a hardened madam from the Mid-West and occupied by “just passing through” hookers while she and her friends killed the time playing poker in the undependable light of the hotel lobby (legend has it that clever Maymie plugged the plug on the light so she could have a winning hand)

A very early photo of El Granada Hotel, circa 1908. I put Maymie in there later, during Prohibition, when she also operated the more famous roadhouse today known as The Miramar Beach Inn. Photo Randolph Brandt.

There were lots of streets with cracked sidewalks and ghostly sidewalks that went no where when I first came to the Coastside. It was these sidewalks that spoke to me and told me there were colorful stories to unearth. And there are– but they still haven’t all been told, have they? What a gorgeous and mysterious place we’re lucky enough to live in.

When you’re on a walk, it might be fun to find the second Ocean Shore Railroad station.

You Don’t Know What You’ve Lost….

Until you barely recognize it.

Here’s the Ocean Shore Railroad’s El Granada Train Station, built circa 1908. It still stands (well, sort of). On your next walk, try to find it!

Hint 1: It’s in use as a commercial building.
Hint 2: Don’t bother looking for the fields of artichokes.