Though this custom Santa Cruz OM was completed earlier this year, its story really begins with what would be the last Old West train robbery. On October 11, 1923, three criminally inclined brothers, Hugh, Ray, and Roy DeAutremont, made a disastrous and deadly attempt to rob Southern Pacific Train No. 13 as it made its way through a tunnel in Southern Oregon’s Siskiyou Mountains. The debacle resulted in the murder of four rail employees, and the tunnel was heavily damaged from the explosives used to break into the mail car. All three brothers were captured and imprisoned for their crimes after a four-year manhunt.
The tunnel’s large support beams were removed and tossed down an embankment. Realizing that they were made from old-growth redwood and had a remarkable story behind them, an enterprising luthier named Rob LaCoste salvaged the beams. The wood from these 2,000-year-old virgin-growth trees is exceptionally tight, with a dense and uniform grain, and after seasoning in a dark, temperate tunnel for over a century, the wood resins have polymerized, qualities that stood out to Santa Cruz Guitar Company founder Richard Hoover, who selected the redwood for the top of the guitar featured here. “The Tunnel 13 stuff we used was stiffer and denser and had a better velocity of sound than most of the redwood you could buy,” says Hoover. “You pluck a string, and you get the response quickly.”
This Santa Cruz OM was actually made with several varieties of storied woods, including Tunnel 13 redwood for the top; Brazilian rosewood for the binding, back strip, and rosette; and uniquely figured mahogany sourced from “the Tree”—a legendary, centuries-old source of mahogany discovered in Belize—for the back and sides. (See a feature on “the Tree” in the March 2016 issue.) Hoover says, “These rare woods are not only cool stories, but they’ve become part of SCGC’s story for the last 45 years, using responsibly harvested and salvaged woods. It’s not only the right thing to do, but they sound better and make for a superior guitar.”
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.