The History of Wrights Station
Located at the top of Los Gatos Creek Canyon, the location that became Wrights Station gained prominence because of the sudden influx of railroad workers, mostly Chinese, who were housed at this now-remote place while boring the 1.2 mile Summit Tunnel through the mountains beginning in 1877. The location was named after James Richards Wright, the owner of a large parcel of land adjacent to the construction site. Wright owned a fruit orchard and vineyard nearby and also owned the Arbor Villa, a stagecoach hotel near Summit. The town of Wrights can officially be dated to 1879 when the post office was established at the station house. The Summit Tunnel was completed the next year in 1880, placing the station as a vital link between the Santa Clara Valley and Santa Cruz. Wrights became an important freight station for farmers who wanted to quickly bring their goods to market. Nearly 3,200 acres of fruit orchards and vineyards were under cultivation by the late 1800s.
Wrights Station went through two booms and a bust before it finally busted once and for all. In 1885, a fire begun at the town’s hotel completely leveled the village. But by 1887, the town was mostly rebuilt and expanded, with a new depot, hotel, store, post office, and blacksmith shop. Chinese houses dotted the hillside beside the tunnel’s mouth. Wright School was founded in 1897, and that school remained in service until 1928. When the Southern Pacific leased the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1887, they opened up Sunset Park, a picnic area, north of Wrights along a short spur.
The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 brought destruction upon Wrights Station and the Summit Tunnel, but it ultimately led to the town’s second awakening. A project to standard-gauge all the narrow-gauge rails had been implemented prior to the earthquake, but since the tunnel and tracks had to be repaired anyway, the conversion was done in the process of repairs. The interior of the tunnel was re-bored due to a five-foot offset along the fault line. The tunnel was completed in 1908 and service between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz resumed immediately after.
However, Wrights Station was never destined to survive. As Highway 17 and the automobile diverted much traffic away from the town, farming in the area decreased. Frequent landslides and flash floods at the tunnel’s portal made it a bane in the side of the Southern Pacific. The Southern Pacific finally closed the freight office at Wrights in the fall of 1934. The post office at Wrights was shut down in 1938 and the Arbor Villa burned down in 1940.
Today, Wrights Station is a ghost town. Nothing is left of Wrights except the ruins of the tunnel’s portal, a bridge, and the name of a road “Wrights Station Road”.
The new Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery sits just above where the station and town once stood.