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Getting Sidetracked with Santa Cruz Trains

SIDETRACKED: Laurel & Glenwood cover

Thank you to everyone who came to my talk on March 25 at the Felton Branch Library, “Off Track in Scotts Valley: Exploring the curious absence of railroads in Scotts Valley.” It was definitely one of my stranger talks, considering it was actually about why a railroad wasn’t built there rather than the history of a current or former railroad line. A YouTube version of the talk should be available sometime in late June.

Most of the people who attended the talk were surprised to find a new Santa Cruz Trains book available at the book table: SIDETRACKED: Laurel & Glenwood. This book was long in conception but short in preparation, primarily because Laurel and Glenwood were never intended to be the first topic. I originally intended to publish SIDETRACKED: Wrights and the Summit Tunnel first, but the topic of my talk convinced me to fast-track the Laurel & Glenwood book.

The idea for an Arcadia Publishing-style book on a Santa Cruz Trains-related topic has been in the back of my mind since at least 2014. In fact, an actual Arcadia book was considered in 2014 before I decided to write Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. However, the fact that Arcadia takes advantage of its contributors and I would lose all control over my content convinced me it was not the best option. So I moved on, but never entirely forgot the idea of an Arcadia-style book.

Last year, I began organizing the thousands of photographs I had collected over the last twelve years. It became clear to me that the vast majority of these photographs would never see the light of day, at least not in the books I had planned. I already had (and still have) four large-scale Santa Cruz Trains books outlined. Two of these are in the style of Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains, one is designed more as an encyclopedia of freight companies, and one is a more academic book with relatively few photos planned for inclusion. That only left future Reflections books as a place to showcase photographs, but my idea for Reflections books has always been for photos that are more cream of the crop, not just any old photo of a place along a local railroad line.

In October 2022, I had just finished the release of the third and final Ronald G. Powell book, The Shadow of Loma Prieta: Part Three of the History of Rancho Soquel Augmentation, and I was taking a little time off to rest after three very busy years of researching, editing, and writing. My next project, Santa Cruz Trains: The Road to San Francisco, would be a long slog of a writing project, with a lot of research needed before I could even start. In January 2023, I decided I would return to California for a brief three-week trip to do some research, give a talk, and reconnect with family and friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen since 2018. I decided on the topic of my talk and the gears started turning in my brain: could I get a new book out in time for the talk? Should I even try…?

At the end of January, I was doing a training course in Dunedin near the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand. My evenings were mostly free so I began to sort photos of Laurel, Glenwood, Tunnel No. 3/2, Clems, and Edric into some folders on my computer. I soon began editing them to optimize them for publication. By the end of the week, most of the photos were dealt with and I concluded that I could, in fact, get a book prepared on Amazon in seven weeks’ time. Over the following two weeks I thoroughly researched and wrote all of the entries on the nearby resorts and tracked down some more photos of them (alas, I never could find one for Mount Pleasant Farm). I then collected my book chapters and blog posts for all the other locations, combined them into new articles, and filled in some of the missing information (there was more than I expected). That took about three weeks, and the last two weeks were focused entirely on getting the InDesign files arranged. The name ‘SIDETRACKED’ came to me quickly—it is a double entendre referring to both me (the author) getting sidetracked in my writing obligations, and a railroad siding or ‘side track.’

In hindsight, I realize that there were a few mistakes made that could have been avoided had I more time, but I am quite happy with the result. Several of the mistakes have been corrected in the current edition available on Amazon and in stores. More importantly, I now have a template for future books in the series. Arcadia may have created the format, but their rules are very restricted, whereas having complete control over the publishing process means that I do not suffer those limitations. These books provide me with a platform for updating old book chapters and blog posts, as well as sharing copious amounts of photographs that would otherwise sit on my computer unused except in colorized excerpted form on Instagram. SIDETRACKED will not replace the main series Santa Cruz Trains books, but they will provide more focused, illustrated looks at some of the locations from those larger books.

The future and potential of SIDETRACKED is exciting. Laurel & Glenwood has proven to be an immediate hit and I expect interest in it to continue to grow. If you already have a copy, please put a review on or Goodreads. While I have no solid schedule for future books in the series, I hope to publish at least one book a year alongside my other publications for the foreseeable future. Certain subjects lend themselves more to SIDETRACKED than others, including a variety of railroad-related content that does not belong in any other book and a quantity of photographs that exceeds the needs of my larger books. As mentioned earlier, Wrights and the Summit Tunnel will likely be the next SIDETRACKED book, but I have at least three others under consideration.

You can get a copy of SIDETRACKED: Laurel & Glenwood right now from, or buy it from Bookshop Santa Cruz, the San Lorenzo Valley Museum, Kelly’s Books (Watsonville), or Two Birds Books (Capitola).

Check back at for future Author Diaries and on the Santa Cruz Trains Facebook page for news about upcoming books in the Santa Cruz Trains series. And don’t forget to Subscribe on the main page for quarterly updates and press releases. Until next time.