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Children's book tells tale of Watsonville history

Modified: Thursday, Mar 14th, 2013




WATSONVILLE — Once upon a time, teams of men with picks and shovels worked alongside giant steam engines to break rock at A.R. Wilson quarry in Aromas, from where it was hauled across the state.

A new children’s book penned by a Watsonville woman tells the story of one of those steam trains.

“Engine Number 10” was written by Rose Ann Woolpert, who works in the marketing department of Graniterock Co. in Watsonville and serves as the company’s historian. The book tells the story of an engine that helped Graniterock Co., one of Watsonville’s most longstanding businesses, shape the region.

Woolpert will be at Crossroads Books on Saturday for a book signing.

The book intersperses the history of Graniterock Co. with California history, and a small measure of artistic license.

Steeped in California history, the book takes readers on a 100-year journey to the days when the quarry was founded.

Eventually steam shovels came into use, followed by 10 steam engines, nine of which were worn out hauling heavy rock.

Only Engine Number 10 remained when more powerful diesel engines replaced steam technology.

When a new, bright green and orange diesel comes to work at Graniterock Co., Number 10 is relegated to the scrap heap.

But when the diesel is trapped by a rockslide, Graniterock Co.’s founder A.R. Wilson is reminded by his grandson that the old steam engine is available to help.

That grandson was Bruce Woolpert, who eventually became Graniterock Co.’s CEO. He died last year in a boating accident.

When asked to help, Number 10 replies, “yes I will,” a version of Graniterock Co.’s motto, “Yes We Will.”

“Bruce’s message was yes I will,” said Woolpert, who was married to Bruce until his death. “That was a piece of him.”

Number 10 rescues the diesel, and, saved from the scrap heap, spends years sitting at the quarry, where it eventually becomes home to a family of bees.

Woolpert held onto Number 10, which he gave in the late 1980s to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

There, the fully restored train has pulled passengers on three-mile excursions along the Sacramento River.

The train has appeared in the movies “East of Eden” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” Woolpert said.

“She’s a movie star,” Woolpert said.

Written for the younger set, the book is intended to tell a story using local and state history.

“Boys and girls will enjoy this book,” Woolpert said.

Woolpert said the book was borne from her 25 years with the company, during which she has amassed thousands of photographs and countless stories.

Those stories, she realized, could be used to help create a narrative of local and state history tangible to young people.

More importantly, it helps tell the largest crushed rock quarry west of the Mississippi, Woolpert said.

“It’s California history,” she said. “It’s really a piece of our local history. We can teach kids that the cities and roads we see weren’t there forever, and the people at Graniterock Co. were a big part of it.”

•••

Rose Ann Woolpert will be at Crossroads at 1935 Main St. Saturday from 1-3 p.m.

“Engine Number 10,” is available in Watsonville at Crossroads Books and Bookshop Santa Cruz at 1520 Pacific Ave. in Santa Cruz. Copies can also be purchased at the Graniterock Co. corporate office at 350 Technology Drive and the Concrete & Building Materials at 540 West Beach St.

Woolpert is also available for school presentations. For information, email rwoolpert@Graniterock.com.

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