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Press Release: SIDETRACKED: The Santa Cruz Beach to 1903

SIDETRACKED: The Santa Cruz Beach to 1903 cover

The second SIDETRACKED book by Derek R. Whaley reveals the history of the Santa Cruz Beach before the Boardwalk

SANTA CRUZ, CA, May 17, 2024—Exactly 100 years ago, the Giant Dipper on the Santa Cruz Beach opened to an excited public. It was a groundbreaking milestone in a history that stretched 75 years into the past, to a time when California was not even a state. SIDETRACKED: The Santa Cruz Beach to 1903 explores the early days of this famous beach. Witness the golden age of Santa Cruz as a seaport. Walk along the Esplanade or through the gardens of the Sea Beach Hotel. Experience the thrills of the Plunge Baths. And peruse over 100 historical photographs that showcase the history of the Santa Cruz Beach as it has never been seen before.

Industrialization in the 1840s turned the Santa Cruz Beach into the largest shipping center south of San Francisco, specializing in exporting lime, lumber, and blasting powder. The beach was no place for rejuvenation and relaxation, yet people came from around the world to experience the therapeutic qualities of surf bathing in the Monterey Bay. Rustic bathing sheds evolved into elaborate bathhouses supported by hotels, restaurants, dance halls, and other attractions. Railroads, first drawn by heavy industry, brought thousands of passengers to the Santa Cruz Beach.

In this latest entry in his long-running Santa Cruz Trains series, Derek R. Whaley once more narrows his focus to a specific place and time in Santa Cruz’s extensive railroad history. In his previous entry in the series, SIDETRACKED: Laurel & Glenwood (2023), Whaley recalled the histories of two hamlets in the Santa Cruz Mountains that briefly thrived due to their proximity to the railroad. Now, Whaley shifts his attention to the Santa Cruz Beach and reveals how competing railroads played a vital role in transitioning the Santa Cruz beach from a seaport to a world-class destination resort.

SIDETRACKED: The Santa Cruz Beach to 1903 by Derek R. Whaley is available now on (Affiliates link) and in a short time from Bookshop Santa Cruz.

About the compiler

Derek R. Whaley is a historian, librarian, and former resident of Felton, California. He earned a doctorate in history from the University of Canterbury in 2018. He began researching Santa Cruz County history in 2011 and continues to do so from overseas. He has worked at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and The Tech Museum of Innovation, volunteered at the San Lorenzo Valley Museum and Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, and is well-known for his Santa Cruz Trains book series and website. He currently lives in Aotearoa New Zealand.