“I’ve been down the road and I’ve come back
Lonesome whistle on the railroad track”
-Neil Young – Mellow My Mind
On a recent visit to Santa Cruz I decided to sketch the utterly mundane. The parts of the cityscape that most people ignore and are blind to. Things that, in some cases, are obsolete but still standing. So on one Friday morning I set out to sketch railway signs, and Santa Cruz has quiet a few.
These signs speak of a time when trains passed through town on the now closed branch lines. One line, known as the Suntan Special, once threaded it’s way through the Santa Cruz Mountains to Los Gatos and brought beach goers to the coast in the age before the automobile reigned supreme and another line headed out to Davenport to the now closed cement plant.
My father used to relate the memory from his childhood, of hearing a steam engine, working it’s way up the wet rails, just up the canyon from my cabin and how the driver wheels would spin out and the train would have to back down the grade, sanding the tracks, to make another attempt.
But today, on that same grade the tourist train dubbed Big Trees & Pacific now takes passangers on a motley consist from Felton to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and back again. But really this lines goes nowhere, like an ocean going vessel on a landlocked reservior.
Railway tracks speak of the romance of the rails, about hope, about hopping a freight to a new chapter, a new life. And the signs are still there, if you know where to look, and I do.