Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Memories of Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz, California

Growing up in Santa Cruz, California, we spent a lot of time at Harvey West Park. It was where the summer day camp was held, where we learned our swimming lessons, there was a steam train to climb on, junk food to eat at the snack shack, a kiddie railroad to ride on, an old cemetery to hide in, and little league baseball games to watch. As a child, you take it all in and don't really understand the history completely. The steam engine had always been there, and that was that. As I look back, I realize there was a lot more history, memories, and details standing right in front of me the entire time.

Harvey E. West, Sr (1894-1979)

To us kids, Harvey West Park was really Harveywestpark -- one word that meant fun, sun, and running around! The fact that it was actually a person's name -- a man named "Harvey West" -- didn't really connect with us.

Harvey West was born in 1894 near Santa Cruz, just down the road in Soquel, California. He was a lumberman by trade, starting the Placerville Lumber Company in 1936. Later in life, his fortune made, he became a wonderful philanthropist. Harvey donated 27 of the 50 acres that make up the park, which was dedicated on May 30, 1959. Harvey West passed away in 1979.

The Great Big Steam Locomotive

The Southern Pacific engine #1298 was built in September 1917 as one of the last of the S-10 class 0-6-0 engines by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. There were 27 S-10s built in total during the 1913 and 1917 production runs, and only six survive to this date: Engine #1215 is in San Jose, CA; 1221 is in Deming, NM; 1233 is in Woodland, CA; 1237 is in Salinas, CA; 1238 is in Fresno, CA; and 1298 is still in Santa Cruz, CA.
Back in the 1970s, you could run around and play on both the locomotive and the oil tender. The tender was sold around 1987 to Rick Hamman as a spare for the SP C-8 2706, which are all now owned by John Manley, so the SP S-10 1298 at Harvey West Park is much less imposing than it was at one time. Sadly, it kind of looks cute now -- not the super powerful monster of steam that it once was to a child's eyes. The tender looks like a C-9 style, and carried oil to power the locomotive.

In September and October of 1987, the Santa Cruz City Council voted to sell the entire train engine and tender at the recommendation of the Parks & Rec department. There were lots of letters to the editor, and eventually only the tender was sold, but the train is no longer a playground structure -- it now has signs that stay keep off.

The S-10 was a switcher engine, doing the hard work of shuffling short cuts of cars into their places, while making up trains in the yard. These switch engines moved from rail yard to rail yard, making up freight trains, or doing short shuttling jobs of moving customer cars directly to their on-rail drop-offs. Larger facilities, such as the San Jose passenger terminal, had their own depot switchers dressed up with chrome and a more glamorous livery paint job.

Arizona Eastern Railroad #39
According to HL Broadbelt Collection, as listed in the Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History, SP steam engine 1298 began its life as the Arizona Eastern Railroad Company's number 39, and was Baldwin number 46313 built in September, 1917. Arizona Eastern merged into the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. in 1924, and #39 was re-numbered as Southern Pacific 1298. It's unknown where locomotive 1298 did the bulk of its work -- it could have been nearby at San Jose or Watsonville, or even the small switch yard in Felton, as perhaps the yard downtown at the Santa Cruz depot. Since it was originally in the Arizona Eastern fleet, it was most probably used as terminal switcher in and around San Diego, including San Diego's Santa Fe Union Depot for passenger train switching -- there were a couple 0-6-0 switchers used by the Arizona Eastern in this capacity, including ones leased back from the Southern Pacific during WW II. As of 1956, the 1298 is listed as being assigned to "Southern Pacific W" as stated in a September 30, 1956 bulletin -- where "W" could just mean West.

The engine arrived in Santa Cruz in 1961, as reported by Railroad Magazine in 1961's Volume 73-74: "The Southern Pacific's final retired steam engine, a switcher, No. 1298, has just gone to a park in Santa Cruz, California."

  • Wheels: 0-6-0
  • Builder: Baldwin Locomotive Works
  • Build Date: 09/1917
  • Construction No.: 46313
  • Empty Weight: 154,600
  • Weight on Drivers: 154,600
  • Driver Diameter: 51
  • Tractive Effort: 29,720
  • Boiler Pressure: 190
  • Cylinders: 19x26
  • Fuel: Oil
  • Gauge: Standard

The Swimming Pool

The swimming pool was built in 1959, and featured a high dive that scared every Santa Cruz child silly. The long climb up the stairs seemed to take forever, and at the top you could literally touch the clouds on a foggy day. Looking down from the high dive, you could barely make out a small blotch of blue where you assumed the pool should be. Jumping to your death was a daunting task, made all the worse by the stories that your friends told you about the kid who was split in half when his legs flew apart. It was a rite of passage to close your eyes, step off the board, and keep your legs pressed as tightly as possible together to avoid a horrible death. The water hurt your feet as you hit it, and if you managed to hold your breath through the impact, you ended up at the bottom of a 12' deep-end looking up at a surface impossibly far away. Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation held swimming lessons at the Harvey West Park swimming pool, and that's where we all learned to swim. There were two pools: an L-shaped one with the deep-end roped off, and a kiddie pool that was always very warm. Again the rumor was that it was warm because of all the little children doing unspeakable things, but I'm now pretty sure that it was the fact that the Sun can warm up a shallow of 2' of water pretty easily! 

The Snack Shack and Kiddie Train

After swimming lessons, you would run over to the snack shack and get a dixie cup of soda pop and some pink popcorn. They also had hot dogs and other classic candies from the 1970s. At the snack shack, you could buy tickets for the little kiddie train that ran down the side of the park and back. The snack shack also was the locomotive barn for this miniature train.


  1. Love your memories and information on the train at Harvey West. I used to take my son to play on it. Sad to see it roped off.

  2. Thanks for the memories! (Big Smile!)

  3. Have you come across any mention of the circus being performed at Harvey West in the 1940s/50s?

  4. I remember visiting that locomotive in 1980 and still think of how much fun it was to climb on a real train! Pity it's off-limits now.

    Visited the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and there's an locomotive located just outside at a park there too. Signs to keep-off too but it reminded me of that great place in Santa Cruz.

  5. Want to see photos of the totum(sp?) pole and the coach...

  6. My own contribution: