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On top of the rock

This rocky point, connected to the mainland by a sand spit, is a geologic formation known as a tombolo. Because of its prominence, Point Sur provided an excellent location for a lighthouse and fog signal to warn ships of the hazardous coastline and act as a navigational aid.

Access up the steep rock posed a problem in 1885 when construction began, so builders hoisted cut stone and lumber up on railcars using a steam engine. When the light station was completed in 1889, residents could only reach it by means of a 395-step staircase.

Vessels called lighthouse tenders brought most of the station's dry good in by sea. Three times a year a tender anchored off the south side of Point Sur, carrying food, coal, kerosene, wicks, and livestock feed. Supplies were lifted from small skiffs in cargo nets to a loading platform at the base of the rock, then hoisted up the cliff on cable-drawn railcars. Another rail system on the rock's east face hoisted goods that came by wagon.

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