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.