We've lived in the San Jose area for 43 years and have never been to Roaring Camp in Felton to ride the redwood forest steam train. We'll, it was about time. So to celebrate 46 years of marriage we decided to do it. "How romantic!" you say.
A little history
Mountain man Isaac Graham settled in Felton in the 1830s. Soon after, Mexican authorities named Graham’s wild settlement “Roaring Camp.” In 1842, Graham established the first saw mill west of the Mississippi. Fortunately, the redwood trees in that are were spared the woodman’s axe, and 25 years later became the first virgin stand of coastal redwoods to be protected from logging. Some of this area is now part of Henry Cowell State Park.
The first railroad in the here started operation in 1875. The Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad is a narrow guage run that starts from the Roaring Camp depot and runs up steep grades through a redwood forest for 2.5 miles to the top of Bear Mountain. The steam engines date from the 1890s, and are the oldest and most authentically preserved narrow gauge steam engines still providing regular passenger service in the United States. The locomotives are not the familiar ones you see but are gear driven at the wheels for power and traction up steep grades. Watch for them in the video. Of course, the weight of the 60 ton #7 engine (Sonora) helps with traction, too.
Originally, two large trestles formed a "corkscrew" loop at Spring Canyon, but these were destroyed by a 1976 fire. Within six months, a switchback was constructed to bypass the severed loop. The switchback has an estimated 9.5% grade, making it the steepest passenger grade still in use.
So join with us on this spectacularly beautiful ride to the top of Bear Mountain. For some unknown reason the stop at the top of the mountain is called "Bear Valley."