In Memory

Frederick Norman Clark - Class Of 1953

Frederick Norman Clark

F. Norman Clark, who laid the track, split the rails and refurbished the cars that became the famous Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow-Gauge Railroad, died December 2, 1985 of a heart attack. The stocky, pleasant Clark was 50 and was familiar to thousands of fascinated tourists as the engineer who took them on a steep but pleasant journey through the redwood forests around Santa Cruz. It was a journey that Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Benjamin Harrison had enjoyed near the turn of the century.

Clark was a South Pasadena High School graduate descended from five generations of rail enthusiasts. At age 14 he helped in the formation of Griffith Park Travel Town in Los Angeles, a repository of once-fading rail cars now restored and on public display. In 1953, the year he moved from high school to UCLA, he founded the Southern California chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society and two years later--on his 20th birthday--was named president of the National Railroad Museum.

In 1958 Clark moved to Northern California with $25 in his pocket and an old railroad on his mind. He and some investors leased 179 acres of redwood forest in Felton, and Clark began work to restore what once had been among the most popular trains on the West Coast. That was the narrow-gauge Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad, later named the South Pacific Coast Railway. Roosevelt and Harrison wrote glowingly of their brief trips through the forest.

When Clark was finished five years later, he had constructed--much of it single-handedly--six miles of track, most of it up and down Bear Mountain, one of the world's steepest stretches still handled by steam engine.

Today his answer to the children's story "The Little Engine That Could" hauls 200,000 passengers annually. Earlier this year Clark added the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway to his holdings. That line, acquired from the Southern Pacific Transportation Co., rambles 8.5 miles on standard track from the beach at Santa Cruz to Olympia. It passes within a few feet of the Roaring Camp depot.

Clark's survivors include his wife, Georgiana, chief executive officer of the railroads, and two daughters.

Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1985