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Two 1/3 scale steam locomotives pulling passenger cars

Swanton Pacific Railroad

Did you know Cal Poly has a 1/3 scale railroad? Al Smith gifted not only the Swanton Pacific Ranch but also the Swanton Pacific Railroad to Cal Poly. The railroad includes live steam locomotives, a diesel locomotive and a variety of rolling stock.

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Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers working on Swanton Pacific Railroad track

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The gauges, knobs, and levers inside the cab of the 1/3 steam locomotive.

Swanton Pacific Railroad Equipment

Inside the cab of one of the Swanton Pacific Railroad steam locomotives

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Swanton Pacific Railroad - Davenport, CA


Looking for a new volunteer opportunity?  Look no further than the Swanton Pacific Railroad.  The 1/3 scale railroad is located on the beautiful 3200-acre Swanton Pacific Ranch near Davenport in Santa Cruz County.  A dedicated group of volunteers maintain and operate the railroad on behalf of the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. 
Volunteering with the Swanton Pacific Historical Railroad Society is made for people who:
  • Are captivated by all things trains
  • Have a love for history
  • Like to be working on a fun and diverse projects outdoors
  • Want live steam maintenance or operating experience
  • Have or want machine shop, welding, construction, foundry experience, or simply a desire to work with their hands and learn new things.
The Swanton Pacific Railroad serves as an operational memorial to Al Smith who acquired and relocated the trains to the Swanton Pacific Ranch. The rolling stock consists of three one-third scale Pacific-type steam locomotives that were built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a diesel switcher locomotive and a variety of passenger and maintenance of way railcars.

2020 Events

  • COVID-19 

    • Given the current situation with COVID-19 our volunteer work weekends and other railroad events have been canceled until further notice.  
  • Swanton Pacific Railroad New Years Event - Canceled  

    • With the track under repair and all of our locomotives in various states of restoration we are not able to offer train rides.  We will not be hosting a New Years event this year. 
  • Al Smith Day 

    • While we continue to work through the process to get the track repairs made, there is great uncertainty about our ability to host the 2020 Al Smith Day.  We continue to work to restore track that was damaged two winters ago.  Given the location of the damaged track we are not able to offer train rides.  We are optimistic that we will have the wash out repaired this year. 
  • Railroad "Summer Camp" - Work Week - First Week of August - Canceled

    • Each year the volunteers of the Swanton Pacific Railroad Society plan a week long "summer camp" to work on projects at the railroad.  Although we will not be operating any trains, there is a long list of projects that need to be completed.  Some of the projects include:
      • Finish, or at least work on, organizing the Car Shop metal shapes.
      • Sort out the storage container next to the Car Shop.
      • Build the Emergency/Medical/First Aid center in the Machine Shop
      • Finish the sliding doors in the Machine Shop.
      • Grade, and up-grade, the track at the Station.
      • Paint the passenger cars that need it.
  • Cal Poly Swanton Pacific Day - October 2020

    • The Cal Poly Cal Poly Swanton Pacific Day will be held in early October. We have been working with the Swanton Pacific Ranch and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences to highlight all of the activities that take place at Swanton Pacific Ranch.  We are hoping to be able to offer train rides this year, but an number of projects will need to be completed for that to happen.  At the very least, we expect to have a static display and the volunteers will be at the event to host tours of the roundhouse and shops.  If you are interested in volunteering at the Swanton Pacific Railroad this will be a good time to look around and talk with our volunteers.  In the spring, please check back here or on the Ranch web page  ( to get more current information about this event. 

Informal Visits

  • Until the shelter in place rules associated with COVID-19 are lifted we are not accepting any visitors at the railroad.  Please check back on this web site for any updates. 

  • If you want to visit the Swanton Pacific Railroad to learn more about what we do, please feel free to visit us on any of our regular volunteer work weekends. The volunteers work weekends start on the second Saturday of each month. The hours are informal but work normally starts around 9 and wraps up around 5 each day.  The volunteers will be happy to show you around and tell you about the history of the railroad and explain the work they do to keep the trains rolling.
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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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Swanton Pacific Ranch

Swanton Pacific Ranch

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

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Al Smith and Cal Poly Day Open House Events

Experience the 1/3 scale Swanton Pacific Railroad.

Ride the train

Railroad Society Officers

Learn more about the volunteer officers of the Swanton Pacific Railroad Society.

Railroad Society Officers