Swanton Pacific Railroad

The CZU Lightning Complex Fire (CZU Fire) swept through Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch in August 2020, destroying much of the ranch and its structures. The Swanton Pacific Railroad, located on the ranch, incurred significant damage. Most all railroad facilities and equipment were destroyed, and current repair estimates produced and reviewed by subject matter experts are more than $10 million.  

 Cal Poly has spent the last two-plus years in recovery and rebuilding efforts to restore the ranch to achieve its strategic educational intent: developing exceptional leaders through interdisciplinary, whole systems thinking and Learn by Doing practice to bring about sustainable, long-term solutions to the management and stewardship of working landscapes. Though invaluable from a historical perspective, the railroad does not fit within the strategic intent of the ranch when viewed through that lens. Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to transfer the railroad.   

 We will actively seek to transfer the railroad assets to an entity or entities with which they more strategically fit and that will care for and restore these important artifacts of history. When making the original donation of Swanton Pacific Ranch, Al Smith knew that it was possible the university may not be the best steward of the railroad assets in the long-term; so, he explicitly outlined potential future recipients. Cal Poly firmly believes that getting these invaluable assets into the hands of an entity whose core mission it is to restore and care for them and make them once again available to the public will be best in the long run and is what Al Smith would have wanted. 

For more information, please contact:
Swanton Pacific Railroad
College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences
California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

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